World Vision: What are you seeing?
There are several reasons why donating unwanted T-shirts to developing countries is not smart aid. But it all boils down to the fact that it distorts the local economy by killing competition. Why would anyone buy a T-shirt in Zambia or Nicaragua when they can just get one for free? The local T-shirt manufacturer and seller is now out of business, at least temporarily, and in a developing economy it is imperative that money is kept circulating with the buying and selling of basic goods.
Donating unwanted goods may seem appealing to many. But how many are informed about how donated goods dilute a local market place and hurt the economy? Still, we see these incidents keep popping up constantly (sending shoes, sending bikes, sending books). Tales from the Hood, a blogger, and our friends at Aid Watch have given these types of efforts the title “Stuff We Don’t Want” (aid to be) – along with this spiffy tagline: “SWEDOW – ‘cause good aid is just too complicated.” (There’s an awesome chart to boot.)
Smart aid is complicated. But one no-brainer is that an aid organization’s end goal is to cease being needed in that country. Sending unwanted goods to be sold for free actually creates a dependence on those free goods. Here at PDT central, we see this creation of dependence a lot: aid organizations come into a country, donate goods or services there while spending hundreds of thousands of dollars outside of the recipient nation – paying international consulting and security firms, bringing in their own people and getting needed supplies shipped in from outside the country. This system is inefficient and focuses too much on donor priorities instead of in-country first procurement. In other words, it’s important to make sure that aid money spent on a country is also spent in that country.
It’s a simple concept, one that is endorsed by the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. This concept has worked well in Afghanistan with NATO’s “Afghan First Policy.” So instead of dumping T-shirts into a local market, lets help people realize their “full potential,” which I see is World Vision’s mantra.