A recent video by Oxfam through an article by Do The Green Thing reminded me of something I wrote last year while in Africa about good intentions gone awry. That situation sadly happens too often in international development and for that reason, it’s up to us to do the research and inform ourselves as best as possible, ask questions, and challenge simplistic answers.
While there are some things we might never have a definite answer for, I re-post what I published earlier to show another perspective and add to the discussion:
“What do you think of international development?”, asked our new friend Joca.
“Do you want the political correct answer or the cynic one?”, retorted Fadi.
The truth is, international development has been heavily criticized in the last couple of decades. And not without reason. Fortunately, I don’t think anybody is so naive anymore to buy into the “Oh, we’ll go and save the world” kind of mentality. As pitfalls and mistakes have been exposed, people and organizations have become more savvy about how to generate positive change around the world.
One clear case of good intentions gone wrong was exposed in the documentary “The T-Shirts Travels.” The film shows how secondhand clothing, given away as charity in the West, ends up in Zambia (Mozambique’s neighbor to the northwest), enriching the middle person and ruining the local clothing industry in the process.
‘Every single clothing factory in Zambia went out of business; we do not have a clothing industry left in the country because the secondhand clothes are coming in.’ Mark O’Donnell, spokesman, Zambian Manufacturers Association
You can see the PBS 50-min documentary here:
Want to know more about the issue? You can read about it here.