Predicting Aid Mistakes
Posted on September 27, 2010 at 10:10 am
Many of the aid mistakes that have hit the news lately were, unfortunately, completely predictable. So predictable in fact that I’d already written a blog post discussing the topic.
- Bono’s failure at restarting the textile market in Africa = see Problems with Selling Handicrafts Internationally
- Volunteers arrested in Zimbabwe for practicing medicine without a license = see Guideline #4 for Volunteering Overseas
- A group is arrested for trying to “rescue” “orphans” out of Haiti = see If this were your child – Haiti orphans and Does funding orphanages create orphans?
The reason I’ve been able to do this is not because I’m brilliant (although if you want to think of me as brilliant who am I to try and stop you). It’s because they’re either common aid problems or they are easily identified issues once you stop thinking about aid going to “them” and instead begin to think of it as coming to “us”.
Right now I’m predicting that in a few years time we’ll be seeing headlines about all the problems with the new cook stoves lauded by Hillary Clinton at the recent MDG summit. Aside from all of the common problems with introducing new technology – see Mosquito Nets and Recycling – one huge red flag for me is this quote from the vice president for energy and climate at the United Nations Foundation:
“These stoves don’t have a long lifetime,” he said. “To produce low cost and high volume, you’ll have to replace them relatively frequently, perhaps every two, three or five years. You’ll need a supply chain and business model that delivers them, not on a one-time basis, but as a continuing enterprise.”
Would you want a stove that is so shoddily constructed that it has to be replaced every 2 – 5 years. And if you have to completely replace it that quickly think of how often it will have to be fixed, jerryrigged, or is just plain out of commission. How long would you be willing to put up with all of this before you finally just chucked it and went back to your old way of cooking?
On top of the quality issues there are other issues that will be encountered while trying to introduce new cookstoves. For more information on what can go wrong read these three posts:
- Notes on cook-stoves from On my way
- What Hillary’s cookstoves need to succeed from Aid Watch
- Hillary, Stoves Won’t Save the World from How Matters.
With the Secretary of State lauding a project with so many potential problems, I worry that I’ll still be pointing out predictable aid failures for years to come. It’s time to add an Aid Fail Fair onto the end each of MDG summit.