We all know that Emergency Services departments and communities across the Global South struggle to get the equipment they need. Budgets are tight, procurements can be slow and inefficient, and the process for getting donated equipment can take years. At the same time, the process for donating departments can be costly and time consuming. But there is great opportunity to change that dynamic at scale if we can link suppliers, consultants, donor departments and recipients online.
As our flagship project for 2022, GESA is developing our new Equipment Exchange – an online platform that will work to efficiently link batches of donated, recycled and new Emergency Services equipment with under-resourced departments in the Global South, and help build a more sustainable, global pipeline of sales and service.
The idea for the platform grew from conversations with GESA’s Board and our Global South Advisory Council (AC) – sector leaders from more than a dozen countries. Both suppliers and local experts described the need to combine appropriate equipment with templates and tools for donors, to better make the connection so recycled/retired/new gear in the North can meet growing demand in the South.
To really understand the situation, we spent 2021 doing the hard research – unpacking the challenges faced by people in the field and at the factory, and trying to understand how we could make a real difference and significant improvements. We interviewed manufacturers, firefighters, trainers, department leaders, consultants and more. Additionally, we distributed a survey in four languages to sector leaders worldwide. We have received feedback from 15 countries so far: Austria, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Great Britain, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Moldova, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Switzerland, United States of America and Zambia
Across the supply chain, we found remarkably similar assessments of the challenge, as well as a desire to work more closely and learn from each other – with an end goal of creating a much more robust, dynamic supply chain between North and South. Here are five key learnings from our research in 2021.
1. There is significant, untapped opportunity in emerging markets.
a. ‘The Global South is a whole different world of scenarios. Emergency Services leaders in the North need to better understand us … And if they do, the opportunities are enormous.’ – Goldy Rivas, Volunteer Firefighter & ES Communications Expert, Ecuador.
b. ‘Manufacturers are a major source of information on new technologies for Global South departments. And we want to be customers for quality companies … Manufacturers who have engaged with us, especially those who have visited us occasionally, those are the ones who win bids.’ – Francis Ndeleva, Chief Fire Services Officer of All Airports, Kenya.
2. Donations are a part of the solution but are not the whole solution.
a. 76% of survey respondents said that the process to get donations lasted one year or more – indicating how much drag the current system can have on a department.
b. ‘In 2015, the US President visited Kenya and we received a donation of two suits from Air Force One firefighters. Today, all of our airports are equipped with that brand of suit – new suits that started from that one donation. The world needs to know countries like Kenya are interested in long-term partnerships.’ – Itote Waruhiu, Airport Fire Chief & EMS Instructor, Kenya.
c. ‘Projects involving goodwill gestures or donations create opportunities to positively promote brand image, while at the same time considerably helping recipients with clean and quality used equipment. This is a powerful form of marketing that can produce sales in existing or new markets.’ – Chris Martorana, Director of LATAM Sales at LION, United States of America.
3. Donations – and all equipment going to the Global South – need to be right for the recipient department and in quality condition.
a. An estimated 30% of donated equipment is completely unusable by recipient departments. Survey respondents shared the primary reasons why equipment cannot be useful: not the right size, condition is not fit for duty and gear is incomplete (i.e. only turnout coats, but no pants).
b. Sometimes, used equipment sent to departments in emerging markets can be in a condition that Global North departments would not consider safe for use. ‘We need to create a system in which all equipment supplied to the Global South is fit for purpose and comes with a useable lifespan.’ – Chris Gannon, Fire Service Review Specialist, United States of America.
c. 88% of survey respondents said that donated gear would be more impactful if it came with training. Currently, however, training services can be just as challenging to match to Global South demand as equipment. ‘Consultants are always looking at the pipeline for our next assignment. We spend a lot of time searching for opportunities, so a repository like the Equipment Exchange would draw in Emergency Services experts who have a lot to offer the sector globally.’ – Joe Leitmann, International Resilience Consultant, United States of America.
4. Ultimately, departments and companies see improved donations and procurements as the way forward for sustainable business.
a. ‘Guayaquil FD has had a lot of American influence due to successful donations and training we have received from fire departments in the US. Now that we have greater purchasing power, we choose to source equipment and vehicles directly from both European and American manufacturers, because those are the brands we have learned and saved lives with the most.’ – Jesse Hunter, Head Technical Coordinator & Volunteer Firefighter, Ecuador.
b. ‘The Equipment Exchange will be a steppingstone for future business. It will open the door for Global South departments to build relationships, gain experience, and purchase more from manufacturers and distributors.’ – Alfons Held, DuPont Global Emergency Response Marketing Manager, Switzerland.
5. And there is clearly demand for a new system.
a. 94% of survey respondents said that they would consult a source like the Equipment Exchange regularly.
We at GESA see a tremendous opportunity to bring North and South together, providing more opportunity and putting more quality equipment, sustainably, in the hands of departments that need them. As we move to build our platform, we want to learn from you!
Please take our brief, five-minute survey at https://bit.ly/GESAsurvey (available in English, Spanish, French, and German), to help us understand your biggest challenges in the current supplier-donor-recipient process, and the kinds of problems you would like the Exchange to focus on. Let’s get the right equipment where it is needed most and open new market opportunities through the GESA Equipment Exchange. Thank you for your help!
For more information, go to www.gesaction.org