The Role of Business and Partnership in Meeting Africa’s Development Challenges: The Partnering Frontier and an Agenda for Action
More and more, people recognise that development in Africa will not happen without the private sector – providing goods and services people need, and offering jobs and opportunities for producers and small businesses. At the same time, they know that development challenges are systemic, and that business-driven solutions must often be catalysed and even implemented in partnership.
We are seeing partnerships for Africa’s development evolving in scope, with a wider range of partners tackling more complex, interdependent issues using increasingly innovative approaches that would not have been possible for any single actor working alone. Partnership’s potential to redraw the boundaries of what is possible – for business and for development – is fuelling great momentum in this space. For example:
In September, representatives of more than 40 governments and 11 bilateral donors issued statements recognising the importance of the private sector in achieving the MDGs, a message reinforced in the Seoul Consensus for Shared Growth issued by the G20 in November. The Bilateral Donors’ Statement in Support of Private Sector Partnerships for Development committed to support companies by sharing risk through financing, providing targeted technical assistance, working with developing country governments to strengthen the enabling environment, and other measures.
More than 10 public and private donors, financial institutions, and investor networks including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Omidyar Network, USAID, and the International Finance Corporation have supported a year-long study by the Monitor Group of more than 400 market-based solutions to development, identifying opportunities for partnership to catalyse and bring such business models to scale.
Companies, governments, public and private donors, international financial institutions, and NGOs are coming together in complex coalitions to address interrelated infrastructure, capacity, policy, governance, and financing constraints, with the support of systemic change initiatives as divers e as trade corridor initiatives, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, the Investment Climate Facility, The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and the many programmes catalysed by the World Economic Forum.
Business-to-business partnerships are also proliferating, with companies sharing insight and distribution channels to offer innovative new services in underserved markets – particularly in the mobile telecommunications sector, where payments, savings, crop insurance, health care, and agricultural information are all being offered via mobile phone.
capacity-building for low-income consumers and producers, MSMEs, green ventures, local business associations, market intermediaries, government agencies, and others who may need greater awareness and skills to participate effectively in corporate value chains and wider market ecosystems.
shared risk-taking through innovative, hybrid financing mechanisms targeting new inclusive and environmentally sustainable business models, infrastructure projects, credit facilities for low-income producers and consumers, and other promising but unfamiliar and unproven projects.
market research and r&d exploring the needs, habits, and aspirations of low- income consumers, producers, and entrepreneurs; developing clean, low-cost technologies; breeding climate-resistant, high-productivity crops; and experimenting with more efficient production practices in agriculture and other sectors.
public policy innovation that encourages and enables business to act with greater creativity and impact – for instance, legally empowering the poor; making it easier for MSMEs to do business; supporting inclusive and environmentally sustainable business models; and facilitating the development of new forms of social enterprise and impact investment.
To fully capture these and other opportunities for partnership to unlock Africa’s development potential, practitioners in business, the donor community, government, and civil society must learn from efforts already underway– capturing lessons from those that aren’t working and taking action to improve, build upon, replicate, and scale up those that are. The diagram on the page opposite captures a glimpse of the partnering frontier.