I get asked this questions a lot. How do you ship books to Africa. Most people are probably unaware of the size of Africa. If you look at the info-graphic below you will be amazed that Africa is roughly equal to the United States, China, India, and most of Europe combined.
Therefore when referring to Africa there are many different countries and each has their own unique set of challenges. Without getting into too much detail I will explain a few of the challenges that will come up and suggest a few different solutions to getting your shipments to Africa. This article is mostly geared towards those trying to get donated items to Africa. If you are trying to import/export into Africa there are probably a different set of challenges.
Challenge #1 Corruption:
I’m not sure if this is across the board in every country. I’m sure there are some countries that are better than others. The challenge is to make sure that the goods that are being donated reach their intended recipients. Most of the time the goods are taken by people that will either sell the goods themselves or use them for their own benefit. One of our partners HSRI was sending cots for a day care center in a village outside of Accra. Unfortunately some of the cots were taken by some of the adults in the village and used as beds. I”m sure there are hundreds of stories documenting this corruption. An organization that sends clothing to Africa notes in their FAQ.
Many of the existing humanitarian efforts that were being undertaken there were plagued by corruption. I have resolved that I will be physically present during every step of the humanitarian projects Footsteps For Africa undertakes to make sure our aid reaches people in need”
For most people following the goods all the way to their intended recipients isn’t possible. If it is a small supply of goods that can be brought in suitcases and other packages then it may be beneficial to bring them yourself. Our partner HSRI brings tens of suitcases and packages filled with clothing, shoes, and gifts. They are also the ones to distribute to the children in need. There is still a risk that families will confiscate the good from the children, but there isn’t much that can be done about this.
The other option is to work with an organization that has inroads on the ground in the intended country. It is very challenging to decipher which organizations are legitimate without having any first hand experience. There are some established organizations in America and you can go on a site like Charitynavigator to look into their operations. We chose the African Library Project to help us deliver our books because they had an already established base of organizations on the ground, they have an application process for becoming a recipient, and they have visited those organizations. They are also a team of highly dedicated volunteers.