There’s a mosquito net maker in Africa. He manufactures around 500 nets every week. He employs ten people, who each have to support upwards of fifteen relatives. However hard they work, they can’t make enough nets to combat the malaria-carrying mosquito.
Enter vociferous Hollywood movie star who rallies the masses, and goads Western governments to collect and send 100,000 mosquito nets to the afflicted region, at a cost of one million dollars. The nets arrive, the nets are distributed, and a ‘good’ deed is done.
With the market flooded with foreign nets, however, our mosquito net maker is promptly put out of business. His ten workers can no longer support their collective 150 dependents (who are not forced to rely on handouts), and one mustn’t forget that in a maximum of five years the majority of the imported nets will be torn, damaged, and of no further use.
This is the micr-macro paradox. A short-term efficacious intervention may have few discernible, sustainable long-term benefits. Worse still, it can unintentionally undermined whatever fragile change for sustainable development may already be in play.