This project examined the potential for trade of manufactured cosmetics, specifically Avon products, to alleviate poverty and foster empowerment among women in South Africa. Trading partnerships in which consumer goods made by multinational corporations are distributed through women's informal exchange networks have gained a footing in several developing countries, creating new opportunities to economically empower poor women. Yet while there is a growing interest in engaging the private sector in development, there have been no empirical studies of how these door-to-door distribution networks might contribute to development goals. This study was conducted to determine whether Avon direct sales arrangements produce achievable, sustainable incomes and improved welfare for black South Africa representatives and their families. It assessed the sustainability of the income Avon representatives earned, as well as the level of financial and social risk they had to assume to be in the system. The study examined the way this selling system affects the communities into which it is introduced, in order to determine whether the Avon scheme generates new wealth for impoverished communities or whether it simply redistributes scarce resources among the poor. Also studied was the communications between Avon Corporation and its local sales force, attending to issues of race and gender issues as reflected in both product offerings and marketing materials. Finally, the organizational structure was examined to determine whether it could be adapted as a vehicle to realise development goals.
Scott, Linda et al, (2010) ,Avon in Africa: Reducing Poverty Through Global Exchange, ESRC End of Award Report, RES-167-25-0321. ESRC, Swindon, UK.