Wrong aid destroys jobs - February, 2003

We’re supposed to help, not hurt those we serve. But inappropriate humanitarian product can see factories closed and unemployment increased.

There is a certain folklore among some aid practitioners who dismiss gifts-in-kind. They tell stories about GIK shipments that brought harm, rather than help, to those who received the goods.

“Did you hear about Mozambique? Clothing aid was repeatedly sent into one particular region and the local garment industry couldn’t compete! Their quality couldn’t match that of the foreign goods. Nor could they persuade buyers to part with money, however minimal, for their clothes, when free items were flooding the scene.” It was, without doubt, a tragic story. Manufacture was impacted. Factories closed. Jobs were lost.

At the Global Hand Consultation in Oxford, in January 2002, inappropriate aid was also discussed from the point of view of Micro Enterprise Development/Small to Medium Enterprise. Delegates were warned, for example, about sending sewing machines into certain areas of India where fledgling Micro Enterprise projects could be jeopardised, if not speared, as a result. The delegates committed to addressing this issue by using the Global Hand network as an environment in which to define high quality aid.

GIK operators: Cowboys or craftsmen?

In some aid quarters, GIK operators have been seen as cowboys, let loose with insufficient restraints to ensure wise choices in product consignments.

That has to be an overstatement. Yet, as all at the Oxford Consultation acknowledged, it is time to ensure standards are set in place which can stand up internationally to give us ways of guiding and assessing our craft. We are serious about taking this forward but, in the area of economic impact, have had difficulty finding any documentation about this topic. We continue searching for relevant data, websites, anecdotal info, etc. that will help establish guidelines in these matters. If you have input, please let us know.

Micro Enterprise networks

Global Hand has been conversing with job creation networks, and is continuing to do so as we set out to establish guidelines on economic issues. We have posted a list of these groups, along with others our research has uncovered. Perhaps a first step in investigating the effects of whether certain goods will have a negative effect would be to contact some of these groups that operate in your area?