Economic down turn

The G8 summit gets under way in Italy  today and I understand that on top of the agenda is the effect of the credit crunch on folk in the developing world.

Yesterday I wrote about the Millennium Development goals as well as the fact that Italy is one of the countries that has failed to meet the pledge it made to the developing world and has been accused of creative accounting.

Assuming that this assertion is right, can Italy justify its actions?  Stepping into the role of devil’s advocate, parts of Italy are very poor, I can’t forget a Bus ride from Naples airport to the train station! We drove through some of the poorest neighbourhoods I have ever seen in Europe in fact because the windows were down the neighbourhood children threw broken china through the windows for fun!  Should Italy send money to Africa or use that money to tackle problems of poverty in its own back yard?

Does Italy’s “refusal” to meet it’s pledge expose a much wider issue,  one of sustainability perhaps? Can we in the west  sustain sending AID to Africa?

According to economist Dambisa Moyothe answer is no and if there is one thing  the recession can teach us is that if your own needs are not met then it is impossible for you to help others. Could that be the reason that France and Italy have “failed” to meet their pledges? They need the funding for their country’s folk?

One of the issues that is up for discussion at the G 8 Summit is the economic down turn and how that has affected people in the developing world. At this point I turn to another for of AID be it an unreported one, REMITTANCES. This is the money that Africans in the diaspora send home to their relatives and at some point this amounted to between 4-6 billion dollars!

Such was the concern about the dependency this creates that the head of the Ugandan Investment authority pleaded to the Ugandans in the UK to stop sending this money and instead  invest it in meaningful/income generating  ventures. “you are making us dependant” she pleaded, and you don’t realise this is a form of AID” at the time when we are tyring to stand on our two feet  and  develop sustainable investment and  means of income this is near impossible.

 “We need to learn to go out and work and make ends meet but if you give us money week in week out that encourages us to sit back and wait for it and ask for more”

Well I say, with the recession it would appear her  pleas were answered! But the twist in the tale here is that it was reported earlier this year that people in Africa are said to be sending money to the people in the UK who used to send them money!

The point of this, is that the people back in Africa want to sustain their people in the UK and when the economic situation improves that money would start flowing back to Africa. If the people in diaspora return to Africa, that is pretty much the end of the Money!

So there you have it folk, governments that pledged more money for Africans can’t afford it nor can the diaspora. Is it time for a new deal for Africa? Will folk at the G8 summit in Italy come up with new way and sustainable ways to lift the bottom billion of the developing world?

Who knows?

There is always a first time for everything and this year it is our first time at the BBC Gardener’s World Live at the NEC in Birmingham.

It has been a long journey getting here and when I started Ethnic Supplies I never imagined a day when I would be exihibiting at such a prestigious exhibition.

We are in Hall 19 and our stand number is C137. We have had a good start and our Wild Silk Scarves have generated a lot of interest

That aside this week is World Trade Week (8-12 June 2009) and Africa needs trade now more than ever before. Why? Trade is the only sure chance that Africa has at getting itself out of poverty.

However this trade must be equitable and wherever possible value must be added at source. This creates jobs within African and enables African governments to collect  more tax revenue.

Our female producers for instance work with whatever materials they can find in their environment and sometimes recyle materials into usable things and the msot exciting in this category are the paper beads from Uganda. Imagine if you will a woman being able to send her children to school, pay for health care, improve her housing conditions as a result selling those beads or baskets made from raffia, that ladies and gentlemen is the difference between AID and trade.

Will the world take Africa as a serious Trade partner?

Staying with the  “ethics” theme, I wold like to focus on Politicians today.

Since I wrote about the issue of Housing Allowances for UK MPS there have been more revelations about MP’s expenses here in the UK.

We have learned in great detail about how and what they spend our taxes on and in fact that nepotism is rampant amongst our Politicians. This is used to be normal practice in the Uganda I grew up in and may well be the case in a lot of African countries. I was however surprised at how wide spread it is in UK given all the scrutiny committees that there are as well as the availability of the Freedom of information charter!

The other reason I am surprised is the response from some of thsoe politicians that have been caught! Some have justified their behaviour by simply saying “it is in the rules”! And that may well be the case but is it ethical/morary right when so many of us taxt payers are struggling to make ends meet?

In her book DEAD AID recounts several instances of why AID to Africa has failed to lift the continent’s millions out of poverty and one of the reasons is because the money doesn’t get to those that need it and this programme for the BBC offered some insight on what really happens on the ground.

In the light of the expenses scandal here in UK some have argued that MPs are poorly paid and therefore maximise their incomes through the expenses/benefits scheme available to them. I can see parallels of this from stories elsewhere in the world this may not be a perfect example but it is the only one I can lay my hands on at the moment. Should he have accpeted that Merc in the first instance?

This has lead to ask the question “Are Politicians inherently unethical?


Have we lead them down that route by not paying them a fair wage?

What would a fair wage be for a politician to ensure that they don’t abuse the trust of their constituents?

 I don’t necessarily have the answers to my questions all I know is that those tht are dependant on Welfare benefits would not get away with what the MPS have been up to and if caught they would be required to pay back the money and worse could end up in prison!

I would be interested in hearing your views on this

No it is not April fool’s day folk that was yesterday.

The G20 meeting is under way and as I understand it at the top of their agenda is helping economies that are struggling under the current circumstances.

 Notably  no one (at least as far as I am aware) has named who/which/what these economies are. Up until recently struggling economies automatically implied developing or emerging countries and as such a part of our tax would be sent to help them out.

If you listen to Conservatives it would appear that Gordon Brown and his chums have given us all false hope and that things  are so bad here in the UK that calling a large meeting will not achieve much. I have to admit to being an optmist but as my understanding of the world of economic situation is limited I am not sure who to believe. consequently like most folk I am in a panic about what future holds.

For those folk that are specialists in the financial and economic world are things so bad that we here in the UK are about to go to the world bank with a begging bowl?

If so what does that mean for the folk in the developing world?


 Only this morning I heard Prof Sachs being interviewed on Radio. He referred to the mines being closed in the Congo and the prospects those poor folks faced specifically as far as food is concerned.  Rio Tinto is one of the major players in the mining world but they started scaling back their business a while ago, I suppose due to lack of demand for their products.

It is  only fair that people cut back on material goods that they do not need but sadly someone down the line will go hungry.  Is that fair on the people who earn a living digging up precious stones etc? Perhaps not as it is unlikely that such folk knowingly contributed to the current problems in the financial world.

So where do we go from here?


Is Britain about to join the queue for AID?


 Is that unthinkable?


Please join the debate

The economic, social and political rights are being discussed all over the media today

In the article for instance Helen Loveless argues that women are the key to recovery from the economic down turn

As a woman entrepreuner, I agree with some of the issues raised in the article such as the fear of getting into date as well as lasck of confidence. I do wonder hwoever if these issues are unique to women and would be interested in views on this from both men and women.

The best news I have read today is in the Independent on Sunday

You will recall that I wrote about Primark and their unethical practices

I am very encouraged that they have taken steps to right a bad situation. The issue about cheap fashion is that women in the developing world are not paid a fair wage for their efforts. As this is International Women’s day, why not take a stand against un ethical fashion/clothes.  You may argue that you can’t afford to financially, and I would suggest that the way around this is to buy a few decent, ethical pieces as there are likely to last and will always look good. We are all struggling financially and this is definitely not the time to  buy cheaply, as this may mean replacing your wardrobe every 6 weeks!!

Whilst the BBC Political Show spoke to 3 women and Harriet Herman on the rights and wrongs of equal pay amongst other things

Times are currently tough for most and here at Ethnic Supplies Ltd we have felt a little vulnerable since our products can be seen as “little luxuries that we cannot afford” by would be customers. We have certainly heard the words “let me go away and think about it” time and time and again.

On the other hand the uniqueness or our products and work have worked in our favour. We have seen an increase in people looking for that unusual Christmas present/gift for there loved ones. The fact that people want to contribute to good causes but also get something for their hard earned money has worked in our favour.

One of the things we have worked very hard on here at Ethnic Supplies has been increasing our visibility. We believe that this is very important during the current financial times and this is how we have gone about it

Press Releases: We have got to know our local news reporters and shared our story and news with them and in return they gave us free coverage in their columns throughout the summer and the autumn. This coverage was worth thousands of pounds and as a small social enterprise we could not afforded in it without getting into debt.

As a result of we were found by a school in Glasgow that has asked us to supply Fair Trade clothes and fashion accessories for their fair-trade week in March. This is very exciting because the children are designing the clothes themselves and own producers will have the task of reproducing these designs. We have been given a slot to give a presentation about our wok on the day of the show.


Volunteering our time: we have been invited to share the story behind our work with a few local groups, including the Women’s Institute and our Local Business Link, as a consequence of this both these Institutions have become advocates of our work as well as pointed us towards others that may either be interested in what we do or may buy our products.

On Wednesday 29 October 2008 Business Link Surrey hosted a Prowess UK Women’s Enterprise Study Visit.

The aim of this study visit was for the working party to see the type and range of business support offered to UK women entrepreneurs and to meet real business women telling their story on the trails and tribulations of starting and growing a successful business. Ida was invited a speaker at this event.


At the event a delegate from Turkey was so impressed by our business idea that she expressed an interest in inviting us to Turkey to see what they can learn from us. Erika Watson Chief Executive of Prowess had an interesting idea that we could develop, we have since bee in touch with her and talks are under way as to the way forward.

The delegates from the US have since ordered some of our products, following the event.

On 18 Nov 2008 we were back volunteering our time at the Business Link Surrey’s road shows called WHAT IS STOPPING YOU these aimed at women wanting to get into business; again I was a panellist sharing the ups and downs in setting up Ethnic Supplies and the support that was available.

We were given a an exhibition stand worth £500 to show case our products and we picked two new  customers who are in the process of setting up shops and were looking for unique items to stock their shop.

Sales Events: we have taken full advantage of these and this time of the year there are so many to choose from and due to the nature of our business, this is the most important time of the year from a business point of view. As people get ready from Christmas and are looking for presents for their loved ones, we have made sure that we are best placed to meet this need, by participating in as many sales events as possible.


Networking with like minded people: there is no doubt that if not managed properly networking is time consuming but we have discovered that it is a priceless tool in growing any sort of business, as it has given us access to information and people who we would otherwise not have had access to. This has led to increased sales for our company.

All times are hard, there are still opportunities and if you increase your visibility through Press releases, sharing what you know with others and networking with like minded people, you will find out about these opportunities.