11 March 2014

Africa: Failure of Governments and Development Agencies to Work More Effectively With Business Could Leave Millions Living in Poverty


Business leaders, international charities and development agencies will be urged tomorrow at the launch of a new Business and Development research centre to explore new ways to work together to fight global poverty. Analysis from the Institute of Development Studies suggests that existing approaches are piecemeal and small-scale, and there is little understanding around what is effective and what will have a genuine and positive impact on the world's poorest communities.

Leading development experts, senior members of the business community and international NGOs will be gathering in London to discuss a more systematic approach for collaboration, at the launch a new Business and Development Centre based at the

Institute of Development Studies (IDS). IDS has partnered for the launch with Business Fights Poverty, a worldwide network of experts and practitioners from businesses, government agencies and civil society organisations.

In 2015 the international community will be agreeing on a new set of Sustainable Development Goals, as the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) draw to a close. World leaders have already indicated the central role of the private sector in tackling global poverty and promoting equitable growth. However, due to the lack of understanding of where business and societal interests can be better aligned over issues like climate change, food security and health pandemics, the role of businesses in the post-2015 development framework is far from clear.

Director of the new Business and Development Centre, Professor John Humphrey said: "It is becoming widely accepted that economic growth does not automatically lift people out of poverty. But generic approaches to engaging with businesses around development do not work. We need to understand where business can support solutions to development challenges around specific sectoral issues. Likewise, businesses can learn much from our knowledge of the reality on the ground in developing countries. This Centre will provide new evidence on what works and how business, government and development agencies can work much more coherently together to achieve real changes to people's lives."

Founder of Business Fights Poverty, Zahid Torres-Rahman said: "There has been a rapid growth in interest in harnessing business for social impact - from across business, government and civil society: companies developing new business models that combine commercial success and development impact, governments encouraging enterprise solutions to social issues, and civil society organisations partnering with companies to deliver economic, social and environment benefits. Yet we need to do more to strengthen the knowledge and connectivity of those seeking to harness business to fight poverty. The new Business and Development Centre will make an important contribution to deepening our understanding of how to most effectively harness the potential of business. The Centre will put us collectively in a stronger position to have an impact at scale."

The new Centre will initially focus on three sectors - agriculture, food and nutrition, health, and green growth - and build on IDS' track record on producing cutting edge research on industrial policy, finance and investment, markets and regulation, service delivery and value chains. Alongside its director Professor John Humphrey, nine IDS researchers and a range of global institutions will be associated with the work of the Centre, which, as well conducting and publishing new research, and will bring businesses, politicians and researchers together to discuss ways forward.

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