New USAID rule: Buy cheap, not 'American'

    A man stands beside his products of nuts and fruits during the fourth international agricultural fair in Kabul, Afghanistan. The country is home to one of the fastest growing agricultural markets in Central Asia. The U.S. Agency for International Development can now purchase items from recipient countries and other low-income countries. Photo by: Joseph Swafford / isafmedia / CC BY

    Beginning Feb. 6, U.S. aid-recipient countries no longer need to jump through hoops to procure goods and resources outside the United States.

    After a yearlong public consultation, the U.S. Agency for International Development will implement a new rule regarding buying goods it needs in the field: The agency can now purchase items from recipient countries and other low-income countries that offer more competitive prices.

    This new rule, according to Porter McConnell, Oxfam America’s policy and advocacy manager for aid effectiveness, will make a big difference, say, in a small business in Kenya that gets a USAID contract. The business can hire more Kenyans, who then can earn enough to send their kids to schools, without depending on U.S. aid.

    McConnell said buying “American” is not always a good thing. She said if “it’s ten times as expensive and takes months to get there, it’s probably not the best use of taxpayer dollars, especially when delay could cost peoples’ lives.”

    The rule is part of an amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act the U.S. Congress approved in 1993. This, however, is not a step toward the untying of aid, which rests upon Congress.

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    About the author

    • Jenny Lei Ravelo

      Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.