Over 12 countries have banned imports of textiles in order to protect their own national industries. It’s not hard to see why: In 2011, over 13,000 tonnes of textiles were imported to the Ivory Coast, which is miniscule compared to the nearly 80,000 tonnes to Ghana.
A significant reason why countries like Uganda, Nigeria and Haiti lag behind developed countries is because of a combination of a lack of infrastructure, corruption and the difficulty in creating formal employment opportunities. A thriving textile industry that produces cotton in Africa contributes to the economy in many ways: It creates a formal workforce (thereby creating economic stability), it pays taxes which can then be invested in infrastructure and education, and it moves countries away from a state of dependence on aid.
While the Gathimba Edwards foundation would love to clothe all our children with donated clothes, we have to ask ourselves, should we buy clothes from local industries instead of shipping them from a developed country; if adults are paid decent wages, they can send their kids to school and break the “cycle of poverty.” Buying locally produced and marketed goods also won’t deflate prices of local goods; competition is hard when home-grown businesses cannot even begin to compete with the artificially cheap, imported clothing.
Aid and development are deeply complex and there are no easy answers, we have learned a huge amount in the short time which we have been a charity.
What we can say with certainty is that the physical donations of goods, be it food or clothes, can often have negative impacts on the local economy. It would be far better for the Gathimba Edwards Foundation to buy products locally.
The children we deliver these clothes to often cherish them more than the donor will ever know, but it’s also important to remember than we never want to give a child clothes that the donor wouldn’t wear themselves or allow a child in the UK to wear.
If you want to provide underwear for women, school supplies for kids, toys for kids?, the best and more economically viable way to do this is to make a small donation to the Gathimba Edwards Foundation which will allow us to buy these products locally, Kenya is crowded with independent market vendors selling pencils and notebooks.
Aid shouldn’t be about making the donor comfortable with a culture of mass consumption and waste. It has to be actually making the lives of people in the recipient country better. There is nothing to be gained by being interconnected if we don’t really pay attention to each other, and to what the other is saying; to what the other needs or aspires to.
We’re not going to change the world only by contributing what makes us feels good. Nor will the world improve if we only give away what we no longer want or need. We’ll only change the world through hard work, practicality and listening.
Thank you for your incredible support towards our kids.