Students will only have to walk a few feet from campus to buy authentic crafts and foods – potentially with Colonial Cash – from countries in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America once a new store created by a division of the World Bank opens next month.
The store, created with the help of GW interns, will be run by the locally headquartered International Finance Corporation, which is trying to promote its international work on sustainable development and fair trade. The store, which is set to open in mid-May, will feature crafts made by artisans in developing countries across the world.
The store, which has been in development for two-and-a-half years, will carry merchandise including handbags from Indonesia, note cards from Brazil and honey made in Kenya. A caf? that sells Fair Trade coffee and other food products from developing countries will also be opened.
Named PANGEA, after the ancient giant landmass scientists believe was on Earth before it split into continents, the store will be located right next to the IFC headquarters at 21st Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. The retailers are also in discussion with GW officials to put the store on the GWorld card system, said Harold Rosen, the IFC’s director of grassroots business initiatives.
Rosen said the store was created – with the help of GW students – to display the IFC’s work in providing and developing markets and to improve the external image of the IFC and its membership head, the World Bank.
“We feature small crafts and NGOs working in tough markets,” said Rosen, referring to the type of business that takes place in the developing regions of the world that the IFC deals with. “The World Bank gets sometimes deserved criticism, but not everything we do is bad. It’d be good if some people saw something positive.”
GW seniors Lucas Keene and Rafi Menachem – both majoring in international affairs – have each put in 25- to 40-hour weeks to help put the finishing touches on PANGEA. The students said their duties include everything from Web design to making contacts with grassroots business organizations.
“You really only hear about the negative things,” Keene said. “This project helps people who don’t get international attention and takes them to another stage.”
“These people are making things only in their markets and we want to bring them to our markets,” Menachem added.
Rosen said part of the deal for having their merchandise sold in PANGEA is that the regional programs the store will showcase have to pledge to use good business ethics in their production processes. This includes creating economic opportunities for disadvantaged producers, paying a fair price and offering pre-financing to producers, promoting gender equity, and providing safe and healthy working conditions.
There will be an educational component of the store as well, Rosen said, including kiosks to give consumers background information on the crafts and a possible amphitheater that will host speakers on the topics of sustainable development and fair trade.
While some of the profits made from purchases will go back to the producers in foreign countries, Rosen said the store will retain part of the money that is made.
Rosen said the store would not be able to survive and grow if all of the profits made were returned to the producers. He added that even a small increase in the income of a producer because of the crafts being sold at the store can make a significant difference in their livelihood.
“Everybody likes to see everything go back to the producers, but that’s not sustainable,” he said. “We are making sure that local producers are getting a fair share, but we want to make this sustainable and not a small burst of income.”
The Grassroots Business Initiative, which is developing the store, envisions that Foggy Bottom residents will be a part of the clientele and has reached out to GW professors and administrators for input and promotional purposes.