To Help Third World, Send Cash, Not Stuff

Developing world doesn't need our cast-offs: Charles Kenny
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2011 2:49 PM CDT
Haitians fight to get a box of food that was thrown from the back of a container filled with food aid in the north-eastern town of Gonaives, Haiti 23 September 2004.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – The common practice of sending hand-me-downs or excess merchandise to developing countries seems like a good idea—after all, if the NFL can’t sell all those “Pittsburgh Steelers: Super Bowl XLV Champions” shirts, what’s wrong with sending them to Zambia? The problem is, Zambians don’t need our old shirts, even if they're free, writes Charles Kenny in Foreign Policy. Even if they needed shirts, sending them ours only serves to hurt the local economy. “Want to really help a Zambian? Give him a shirt made in Zambia.”

But more often, the stuff they need is not the same as the stuff we want to offload on them. (“Stuff We Don’t Want,” by the way, has its own Twitter hashtag: #SWEDOW.) Even food aid, which helps agricultural conglomerates more than it helps developing countries, is misguided and can actually hurt local farmers in areas where it’s sent. “Bottom line: Donations of cash are nearly always more effective,” Kenny writes. If food or shirts are truly needed, cash can purchase local food or shirts—and do so cheaper and faster. “Much better to stop giving them the stuff we don't want—and start giving them the money they do.”

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