The U.S. Agency for International Development and Wal-Mart signed on Monday a memorandum of understanding expected to integrate the world’s largest retailer’s supply chains with the Feed the Future program.
While it remains unclear whether the MoU establishes any binding commitments for either party, the partnership is expected to focus on President Barack Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative taking advantage of Wal-Mart’s resources to better distribute food around the world.
“We want to bring Wal-Mart’s core capabilities in philanthropy and business to every part of the world to transform the face of hunger and poverty,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah told students and faculty at the University of Arkansas after signing the document. “We want to look at USAID’s energy distribution centers, and rely on Wal-Mart’s ingenuity and knowledge of faster, safer distribution of food.”
The partnership is likely to come under intense scrutiny in light of concerns over Wal-Mart’s failure to pay decent wages in Latin America or retailers sourcing from a garment factory in Bangladesh where 112 people died in a fire in Nov. 2012.
Both partners will have to make a case that the agreement amounts to more than a public relations stunt for a multinational corporation looking to combat anti-poor allegations.
According to Shah, the MoU has less to do with image and more about a changing development landscape.
“As the world has grown more interconnected, this is the face of development,” explained the USAID chief. “To end poverty, childhood deaths and hunger, we need to bring together businesses with supply chains for partnership to reach the farthest corners of the globe.”
Michael Igoe is a Global Development Reporter for Devex. Based in Washington, he covers US foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.