[Question] Does anti-malaria charity destroy the local anti-malaria industry?

The usual ar­gu­ment against for­eign aid to Africa is that ran­domly giv­ing tons of free goods (such as food) ru­ins lo­cal pro­duc­ers; and when at some later mo­ment the char­ity goes out of fash­ion (or de­cides to tar­get a differ­ent part of Africa), the lo­cal situ­a­tion be­comes even worse than be­fore, be­cause the lo­cal pro­duc­ers have gone out of busi­ness. In ad­di­tion, it hurts the lo­cal peo­ple psy­cholog­i­cally to know that any lo­cal busi­ness, no mat­ter how suc­cess­ful it could oth­er­wise have been, can at any mo­ment be de­stroyed by a well-mean­ing for­eign char­ity.

Re­cently I heard the same ar­gu­ment made about anti-malaria nets recom­mended by GiveWell. If I un­der­stand it cor­rectly, the donated nets put lo­cal net pro­duc­ers out of busi­ness (in­creas­ing lo­cal poverty and de­pen­dence on for­eign aid), and the es­ti­mated num­ber of lives saved is mis­lead­ing (be­cause in the al­ter­na­tive sce­nario, the same peo­ple could have been saved by lo­cally pro­duced nets).

I have one spe­cific ques­tion, and one more gen­eral con­cern.

The spe­cific ques­tion… well, I know noth­ing about the anti-malaria in­dus­try in Africa. It ex­ists, I as­sume. But quan­ti­ta­tively—how many nets it pro­duces, how many nets it stops pro­duc­ing be­cause it is pushed out of the mar­ket by GiveWell, whether the nets are of com­pa­rable qual­ity, what is the best es­ti­mate of the sce­nario with no for­eign aid com­pared to the sce­nario with for­eign aid—I have no idea. I sup­posed some of this was already dis­cussed by some effec­tive al­tru­ists, so I would love to hear the sum­mary.

The meta con­cern is the fol­low­ing: I find the ar­gu­ment of for­eign goods dis­rupt­ing lo­cal mar­ket plau­si­ble. But seems to me that the prob­lem is with high var­i­ance (one year a ton of goods, the very next year noth­ing), not with for­eign goods per se. Be­cause, any­time a coun­try par­ti­ci­pates in for­eign trade, the lo­cal pro­duc­ers of the stuff that is be­ing im­ported, are pushed out of busi­ness. But we have the law of com­par­a­tive ad­van­tages say­ing that in global, this is a good thing, for both coun­tries. (Or to put it differ­ently, trade sanc­tions are typ­i­cally used as a pun­ish­ment, not as a re­ward.) I worry that at some mo­ment, the “stop de­stroy­ing Afri­can econ­omy by your dis­rup­tive aid” ar­gu­ment be­comes effec­tively “stop trad­ing with Africa”, and I am not sure where ex­actly to draw that line.