Growth, The Private Sector And The Path To Ending Poverty
Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development, set a fresh, bold direction for the UK’s aid agency, the Department for International Development, on Monday. In a speech at an event co-hosted by Business Action for Africa and the Overseas Development Institute, he pointed out that economic growth has accounted for 80% of poverty reduction around the world since 1980, helping as many as half a billion people to lift themselves out of poverty.
He also recognised the important role that the private sector has to play in helping developing countries grow and fight poverty – investing, creating jobs and increasing poor people’s access to affordable goods and services:
“The private sector, as an engine of growth, can bring both global and local opportunities – which the Department for International Development will of course support. Globally, through helping major businesses to strengthen their links with developing countries, we can help to increase investment and to create jobs within these marketplaces. That is why I will join business leaders from around the world at an event in May to discuss how the private sector can use its expertise to support growth and help developing countries to accelerate their progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Locally, we will support developing countries to develop more competitive markets and improve access to economic opportunities for the poor within these countries.”
The event marks another milestone in the vast journey that DFID has travelled in the last few years (see my previous blog). The UK has recognised that accelerating growth, with the private sector as the driving force, must be at the heart of any meaningful and sustainable strategy to make poverty history. The Secretary of State used the event to announce that DFID will invest at least £37 million over the next three years to establish a new International Growth Centre, a virtual network of experts that will provide practical and tailored advice to stimulate economic growth in the world’s poorest countries.
“Economic growth is a hugely powerful weapon in the fight against poverty. It has a huge impact on improving the lives of people in developing countries and is at the heart of the UK’s efforts towards reducing poverty worldwide. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to stimulating economic growth and it is important to recognize that each country faces different obstacles and barriers to growth. The new growth centre will give Governments in developing countries access to world-class advice tailored to their country’s needs.”
The words are a breadth of fresh air, and the task now is to ensure that they are reflected right across DFID – its priorities, programmes and structures – as well as across the development community as a whole.