There’s a nice article on The Guardian’s Global Development blog about Advance Aid, an initiative that is trying to help Africa manufacture its own humanitarian supplies. The way it normally works is that when there’s a natural or man-made disaster in Africa, supplies like tarps, tents, or mosquito nets are shipped in from China. The intention here is a good one: An African country is in a crisis situation and needs products, China manufactures these supplies cheaply. But this is a short-term solution. In the long-term, wouldn’t it better to develop Africa’s own industry, keep $$$ in the region, and have emergency supplies get to a crisis-stricken country faster?
And this is where Advance Aid comes in. They’re working to develop local industry and connect the local manufactures with the humanitarian organizations who sweep in following an emergency. Marc Tran writes,
Advance Aid made a breakthrough last year by supplying World Vision and Catholic Relief Services with non-food items. Advance Aid said it was the first time that African-produced emergency relief goods had been provided for African emergencies. The goods are bought in Kenya and more than 80% of their value will be manufactured domestically, pumping $1.5m into the economy, said Advance Aid, adding that, directly and indirectly, it had brought orders to 12 Kenyan manufacturers.
I’m excited to see where this organization is headed. What others are like them out there (working to strengthen local economies versus sending in goods)?
Great chart of the day from The Economist shows how pervasive mobile banking is in Africa. As The Economist points out, “For the most part, mobile phones are a substitute for traditional banks, enabling people who live miles from a branch or ATM to use financial services.” In Kenya, however, where mobile banking penetration rates are the highest, mobile banking is growing along with traditional (paper-based) banking. It’d be interesting to see the demographic breakdown of these figures. Do more women than men use mobile banking services? Is mobile banking more common in rural areas?
In my experience studying international development, there has been a common assumption that we (scholars, Westerners, practitioners) know what’s best for the developing world. Of course, we’ve moved beyond blatant colonialism. But what remains is a reliance on the expertise of Western universities, scholars, and organizations. The findings of a large study done by an Ivy League institution, the conclusion from a book written by a famous academic, or a statement from a respected multilateral organization all carry a tremendous amount of weight - as they should. When the World Bank finds that African farmers need better access to technology, we listen. We know and (probably) respect the World Bank, so we can assume the study is accurate without having to do our own vetting. But, all too often, this reliance on information that we can pre-label as trustworthy leads us to neglect the opinions and priorities of people from the developing world.
That’s why this study and workshop, from researchers at Oxford (there’s some brand name trustworthiness), is so interesting. The researchers ASKED Kenyan farmers what their problems, priorities, and challenges are - and how they could be empowered to address them. Then, instead of burying the Kenyans’ responses in a dense study, the researchers made the Kenyans’ opinions the centerpiece of a great photo essay. And, I’m a sucker for photo essays. Check out the photos and find out what Kenyan farmers’ priorities are at The Guardian’s Global Development blog.