Dear Mr. Setter, I just finished reading your article ‘A Gadget, that’s all you need’, and believe me, it’s just the kind of measures we desperately need. I’ll explain: we are a company based in Tanzania and as you must know, the quality of a Tanzanian hide is one of the worst in the world, much of it owing to the unmethodical flaying.

Hides here have an average 9-10 holes per piece, which has severe negative effects. For example, in the past two years, three of the biggest tanneries in Tanzania (who sourced all their raw material from the local raw hides market), have closed down. The reason the wet-blue that they make out these hides is of such bad quality is that it does not have a market.

Millions of dollars of investment gone bust. That’s how it is. We are taking serious initiatives to improve conditions around us as much as we can. And we are seriously concerned about the long-term impact of this grave negligence by authorities and unconcerned investors here.

So your idea seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. We would very much appreciate if you can also forward us a copy of the drawing for the construction of the gadget. I think it should be made standard here in every abattoir. We will do our best to forward this cause.

Thank you in advance.

WOW! And this is only one letter of many. Reactions to the Gadget Limeblast have been overwhelming, and it seems we really hit the nail on the head. I could probably have made a small fortune producing the gadget and selling it on the market.

Letters have arrived not only from developing countries but also from places such as Australia, the US, South Africa and south America, countries I thought would have a superior production in the take-off of hides, even in the smaller abattoirs, but it appears that not all industrialised countries are as developed as we imagined.

What I am actually happy about is that at long last, it seems we are getting some constructive reaction, some movement in this complacent industry from people who have been quick to recognise something useful.

The response shows that at the roots, this industry indeed needs simple cheap equipment, and not the sophisticated expensive traps that are mainly offered to the developing world, behind which of course there is only one reason: money!

Most letters came from merchants, who I am sure saw the enormous potential of the gadget to improve the quality of hides in the bush, independently if that bush is in Australia, Africa or North America.

With all due respect, however, the merchants would also be the category that could potentially profit from the distribution of the gadget as a commodity.

Since the sale of the gadget was never an option for me, I want to be sure that the drawings of the gadget arrive at the end-user, the butcher, totally free of charge and, therefore, I have decided to put the drawings and ‘blue-prints’ of the gadget on-line at [], where it is available to everybody who cares to connect.

Let’s go back to the letter with which I started. I’d like to take up what I consider the most important part, namely the statement that the three biggest tanneries in the country have been closed and that millions of dollars have been wasted. The sad thing is that these three tanneries in Tanzania are not the only casualties of misplaced investment, and they will not be the last. On the contrary, they are just the beginning.

Setting up industries in the developing world is a huge money making opportunity for western industry and for the organisations involved in the planning, financing and supporting of such projects.

Sponsors behind these developing projects, whether direct industrial developments or fairs, tend to be western industrial associations that have a vested interest in developing countries getting as many big projects realised as possible.

If a machine manufacturers’ association from country ‘X’ sponsors a fair in developing country ‘Y’, I cannot imagine the sponsoring association promoting the sale of machines from competing country ‘Z’, or even accepting proper representation of country ‘Z’ in the environment created by country ‘X’.

In this case, the association simply invests by sponsoring a fair to obtain profitable contracts for the supply of the machines produced by its members.

At the outside there are, of course, no visible links but, rest assured, the manufacturers’ association is in direct contact with developing banks and aid organisations, and together they form a smooth running set of machinery, each looking after its own interests.

My idea of setting up small basic low-cost production units that must grow by themselves, step by step, into larger factories doesn’t need study groups, doesn’t need endless meetings, think-tanks or brain-storming sessions.

Such small units need little money, not the millions, probably public money, as wasted in the three Tanzanian tanneries. Such units would be totally useless for the people sitting behind their desks in Europe and America; useless for the machine industry, useless for the scores of consultants. Their only use is for the people in the developing countries, but who cares…

Let’s return to the gadget, which I must admit did provoke the reaction of one of the UN agencies somewhere in the world.

Against their inquiry, I assured them that the gadget works, that it is cheap, and now I am curious if I will ever hear from the particular agency again and if the gadget will ever be adopted by them for widespread distribution.

If it will, I am sure it will take years of debates and discussions, testing and who knows what else, before it is delivered to the end-user. Many (paid) consultants will probably make ‘improvements’ and when it is finally distributed, its cost will have doubled or trebled.

Some factory will probably earn a contract for the mass production of the gadget, instead of giving the job to a local artisan, who could make it fast and cheap and make some money from it too.

On the other hand, nothing may happen either as adopting and distributing the gadget will make nobody rich, whereas not distributing it will keep many people poor.

I didn’t hear from the organisers of Meet in Africa either. I know for sure that they have read the gadget article, but probably they have not recognised that Meet in Africa 2002 would make an excellent platform to bring the gadget to the attention of visitors in Tunis.

I sincerely hope that I have been able to reach at least some of those poor as they are the ones who count and that they have been able meanwhile to get some gadgets built and running, improving their hides, improving their income.

Sam Setter