29 March 2012

Africa: Partnership for Growth Gives 'Kick-Start' to Developing Economies

press release

Washington — The Partnership for Growth is pursuing a strategy for international economic growth in which developing nations take more responsibility and identify key objectives on a path to growth. At a forum in Washington March 28, some of the first participants gave the approach positive reviews.

"The Partnership for Growth is a very, very good initiative for us," said Mwanaidi Maajar, Tanzania's ambassador to the United States, during a panel discussion hosted by the Center for Global Development, a nonprofit research and analysis organization.

The Partnership for Growth (PFG) approach puts U.S. and developing country representatives in the same room to figure out the greatest obstacles impeding economic growth. Then, they jointly weigh all the data they can muster on those problems, and develop a consensus plan to tear down the obstacles.

Maajar says Tanzania has identified the need to broaden its electric power grid as a primary objective. "If we can unlock the power problem, we know that it will be one huge step toward trying to kick-start the economic growth that we are looking for," Maajar said.

This focused approach, targeting key problems, is the way for partner nations to get started on a path to "sustainable and inclusive" economic growth, said Gayle Smith, a key strategist of the plan as a special assistant to President Obama and senior director of the National Security Council.

Basing a plan for growth on "a neutral set of facts" is also a game-changing strategy in international development, Smith said. Together, partners "come to a conclusion around facts and evidence," Smith said, without laying blame or recriminations about the problem, whatever it is.

This detailed examination of development obstacles and data analysis points the way to fact-based plans for action. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez worked through that process with El Salvador, with a mutual conclusion that reducing crime could open the door to further development.

When partners go through frank discussions on difficult problems, trust emerges, Fernandez said.

"You need to have that kind of relationship" as a foundation to work on tearing down development obstacles, he said.

El Salvador's ambassador to the United States, Francisco Altschul, said the PFG process "allows us to make the tough decisions" about what actions must take priority. It has also helped bring together the nation's government and its private sector, he said. Both have agreed that reducing crime can create greater security, leading to a better atmosphere for economic activity and expansion of El Salvador's exports.

These planning discussions include representatives from U.S. development agencies, government agencies from the partner country and representatives from key sectors in business and industry. Bringing the private sector into development discussions at an early point in the process gives business investors assurances about how the future will unfold, said the Tanzanian ambassador.

"It is a program that will allow a country like Tanzania," Maajar said, "to come out of a donor-recipient relationship," to develop further partnerships with international business and industry.

In selecting the first partner nations, PFG planners sought out participating nations that could show they were ready to spread the benefits of development widely in the population, not just to a small circle of wealthy elites.

Ghana's ambassador to the United States demonstrated his nation's commitment to that criterion when he described national plans to bring electrical power to more people by investing national profits from recently discovered oil and gas.

"We hope that the majority of our people will have access [to power]," said Ambassador Daniel Ohene Agyekum, "opening many opportunities, many doors to development, so that in a short period of time, we will be able to see that the quality of life of our people has increased."

The panel's audience included representatives from many nongovernmental organizations also engaged in international development. They have seen different approaches to foreign aid come and go through the years, and some questions they pitched to the panelists revealed a degree of polite skepticism.

With the strong emphasis on inclusion and representation from so many sectors, one observer asked, "Who's in charge?" The Ghanaian ambassador responded.

"We own it," Agyekum said. "We think we do, and we are sharing it with the United States."

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