Aid didn’t work. After african independence, aid’s net effect is a situation where african economies are further behind the rest of the world than they otherwise would have been. This is pretty widely accepted now and visible across the continent. Good reads on the topic (well written as well as informative) are by William Easterly, Paul Collier and Dambisa Moyo.
Governments will be bound by their reputation, the constant need for popularity and the re-vote and to say that africans are disillusioned with their intentions is an understatement. So what about the large multinationals investing in the extractive industries… well the less said about that the better. So, how can someone aim to make a genuine improvement for people in regions where childhood and maternal death are all too prevalent, where locals are told what job they must do in ancient top down fashion, where foreign companies come in and expect their local employees to work for a minimal wage with little to no career progression of real substance so that the rich get richer and the bottom billion global earners remain there…
So it’s not easy to establish something new but it is possible! There are lots of trailblazers out there who have proven it possible to go against a status quo and succeed. So that’s what we are doing. It has worked on the small scale and now we look to grow: Grow the brand, grow the turnover and grow the IMPACT.
To summarise the story thus far. Origin was set up as a purpose led social business. We trade with local Africans to source materials for authentic products to sell in the UK. We made profit in the first year of operations. The profit was invested to set up locally run humanitarian businesses in the regions where the artisanal fabrics came from. The projects are social impact businesses. They are not aid or concessional loans or tied. They are a leg up to local social business entrepreneurs who want to make a sustainable economically viable solution to a real life problem that keeps locals in a state of poverty and deprives them of the very freedoms that we enjoy as part of daily life in the UK.
If your community receives designated funds from international donors, you are duty-bound to spend the money on that goal or you funnel it elsewhere (questionable but we all know it happens). If you receive funds at irregular intervals without purpose without respect for the community and its economic environment or recent developments, the power of incoming funds may undermine great processes already happening in that place. For example, the malaria net maker who is putting them together and selling them at a profit loses his entire business and investment when a foreign donor comes in with 300,000 nets to be handed out by the latest winner of X Factor. This, without respect to the community or clear prior communication of what is happening, ruins that entrepreneur’s efforts and perhaps his inspiration to come up with suitable development solutions for real world local problems in the future.
These social businesses are possible and they are going to happen. We can say that because Origin remains a ‘profit’-making organisation i.e. the funds are being generated for the investments. They are meticulously designed with the help of expert advisors in each relevant field. Plus, their funds for investment come from the sustainable fashion sector! In Africa, it hinges on finding inspiring partners. Our partners are in place, inspired, motivated and determined. The Ethiopian project has begun and we are weeks to months away from the Gambian and Malian projects.