The aim of the Challenges Worldwide ICS (International Citizen Service) programme is to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa to expand, in turn improving developing countries’ economies and alleviating poverty. I believe this is the best approach to tackle poverty as teaching people to help themselves will have a sustainable benefit as opposed to giving free handouts, which countries come to rely on.
During my time in Zambia, I have experienced how friendly the people are, enjoyed the slower pace of life and have seen some amazing things, however, I have also seen the extremely negative impact of free handouts given. For example, foreign developed countries send millions of mosquito nets to Africa every year. However, most communities do not actually use mosquito nets to protect themselves from malaria because they do not see malaria as a big deal. Most Zambians I have spoken to compare malaria to having flu. In 2006 every 1 in 250 people that had malaria actually died. The mosquito nets sent are instead used to catch fish, make wedding dresses and for chicken run fencing. Because there are chemicals on the mosquito nets, using them for fishing is contaminating the natural waters and fish having an extremely adverse effect on the environment and possibly the people consuming the fish. If the mosquito nets are not being used for their purpose, we need to find a new way of preventing malaria.
Another main issue caused by countries sending free items, such as clothes, shoes and food, is that it is making it impossible for businesses in the country to thrive. There is no need to manufacture these items and, if businesses did, they would never be able to compete with the provision of free products. This is because if businesses were to produce these goods they would obviously incur manufacturing cost. Therefore, would need to price the products accordingly to make a profit in order to keep their businesses operating.
I am not implying that more developed countries should not help less developed countries. People just need to take more care and time to research and analyse what would be the best way to help a country experiencing poverty in the long term. For example, as the mosquito nets being sent are used for fishing, why don’t we create a fish farming programme and pay a business in the country to provide fishery equipment? The programme would not only inject funds into the business providing the equipment but more importantly help entrepreneurial farmers to establish fish businesses and feed their communities. This would be really useful since there is currently a 50,000 mt annual deficit of fish in Zambia alone.
I believe that the main problem is that no one seems to be following up on the use and affect of the free supplies sent, which appears to be a crucial step missing in these foreign charitable deeds.
It would have a hugely positive impact on supporting the further development of the economy if charities thoroughly investigated each countries issues and worked in a coordinated way to develop a coherent strategy based on the evidential information acquired to provide aid where needed that supports sustained economic growth in the medium and long term.