Deep Pockets – about the sense and nonsense of development cooperation

The tenth book by writer and journalist Karin Anema (1955) has just been published. Like the majority of her oeuvre, this book can also be captured within the theme of ‘adventure travel’. This time, however, it is not non-fiction, but a novel. ,,But based on her own experiences,” she says. “It takes place in Tanzania and Kenya, is mainly about sense and nonsense of development cooperation and, I hope, gives readers something to think about.”

It has been a trend since the beginning of this century: ‘charity foundations’ that organize spectacular sporting sponsor events in order to raise as much money as possible. Think of conquering the Alpe d’Huez, the Mont Ventoux or the Kilimanjaro or an infernal multi-day bike ride of hundreds of kilometers through Kenya, for example.

“Deep Pockets – about the sense and nonsense of development cooperation”

Interview Dick van Rietschoten

‘Do you have experience with such a trip yourself?’
“Yes, a few years ago I did a bicycle safari in Kenya. It was a trip that raised money for boarding schools for orphaned girls,” she says. ,,It was a journey full of trials, which inspired me to write the book Deep Pockets, for which I of course also thoroughly immersed myself in the current world of charities. With the title I refer to the fact that many charitable organizations rely on sponsors who are willing to dig deep into their pockets.”

Kenya Bike Safari

Do it yourself

In the book, Karin describes a 700 kilometer sponsored bike ride through Tanzania and Kenya. Through the characters of several characters, who each have their own problems, and the Kenyan guide who accompanies the group, all kinds of aspects of contemporary development cooperation are discussed.

‘One of the key questions that arises is: Are the projects that Westerners are carrying out in Africa in line with what the local population really wants?’

Karin: “At the end of the last century, doubts arose about the practices of the large well-known development organizations: too cumbersome, too little insight for the donors on the results achieved and too much money that was left hanging on the bow. As a result, hundreds of ‘do-it-yourself foundations’ were set up in African, Asian and Latin American countries that started working on small ‘feel-good projects’: a school, a well, an orphanage. Some did and are doing very well, in consultation with the local population and local authorities, but other projects quickly faded because a good foundation was not laid and the local culture was often not taken into account.” The guide Ashura says halfway the journey: ‘Good intentions do not automatically lead to good results. Sometimes it seems that benefactors do it more to feel good about themselves.’

Kenya school


“Africans, on the one hand, often regard Westerners as ex-colonizers whom they are suspicious of, and on the other, Westerners are almost always seen as Sinterklaas. So you have to be able to deal with that well when you start a project”, says Karin. “And in the meantime, something else has played a role in the last fifteen years: the advancing of China in Africa, the Chinafication. The Chinese are the new colonizers: they build roads, railways and bridges everywhere and provide billions in loans to make the countries dependent on them.”

Karin showed her manuscript to Jan Pronk, former Minister of Development Cooperation. He responded with a pithy comment that is now printed on the book cover: A ruthless account of the sense and nonsense of chasing charitable causes in developing countries. Jan Pronk (81) was also present at the official presentation of Diepe Zakken on Tuesday, October 19 at 7 p.m. at the Paagman bookshop, where he held a passionate speech about Karin’s oeuvre, Africa and development cooperation.

Deep Pockets – Karin Anema, publisher Scriptum, € 16.95
Also for sale via

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Karin Anema presents her tenth book Deep Pockets - a ruthless story about the sense and nonsense of chasing charitable causes in developing countries

book launch

Book launch Deep pockets

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