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Abuja, Nigeria: Ijeoma, Government Leader Who Can't Help Feeling Like a Beggar

After graduating top of her class at Princeton, Ijeoma had a distinguished career on Wall Street and followed by a stint in academia. Two years ago, Ijeoma agreed to serve in the government of her native state in Nigeria. Ijeoma knew she made the right decision when she visited her village and saw that people were living in worse conditions than those she experienced growing up there in the 1970s.

Ijeoma's house was flooded by relatives begging for money to send their children to school, get medical treatments, and bury loved ones. While she understands that handouts are not the solution, she can't just let her relatives fend for themselves.

As Minister of Finance and Economy in her state, Ijeoma is at a loss about what to do. As an economist, she believes her state needs a "big push" that would see billions of dollars invested in infrastructure, education, and private sector development.

For a variety of reasons, internal resources make up only 30 percent of her budget. Ijeoma is now reduced to begging from the central government, development partners, or anyone who will listen to get money.

Yet, Ijeoma feels stuck. She espouses the view that aid will not get African nations out of poverty. But she must alleviate the suffering of millions of her fellow citizens. From where she sits, aid seems the only pragmatic, and often possible, solution. As she sits on the plane for her ninth trip to Washington, DC, Ijeoma feels sick to her stomach. Unless she can find a solution out of her life as a beggar, she knows her personal sacrifice will have been in vain.

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