South-South cooperation - a definitive tool for development in the 21st century

21st July 2016

Our guest Blog on South-South cooperation is from Sushant Anand at IPE Global.

A developing country when treated with the requisite interventions or programmes is expected to deliver results which may or may not prove to be the most plausible solution, but is able to contextualise the problem(s). Most developing nations emulate best practices and modify solutions as per local circumstances. These international partnerships for development cooperation has proved to be a viable mode to address issues in developing countries lately.

India as an example is at the fulcrum of development, and is able to offer numerous innovative solutions to most African and South Asian nations considering similar socio-economic conditions (population, health, education), climatic conditions, type and quality of governance/ leadership and upkeep of natural resource capital.

Emulation of best practices to other regions is a lengthy process as it requires a methodical buy-in of the treatment country. To start with, a solution has to demonstrate a positive impact post treatment that needs to be well documented with empirical validation using effective quantitative techniques. Once the original country has evidence, it needs to put it out in the public domain for other countries with similar context to access. A successful initiative may also eventually bring policy change based on the evidence of success.

As already stated, most developing countries exhibit similarities in terms of context. The research and policy think-tanks further refer to these case studies/ project reports to carve out similarities for the subject country governments to emulate. This knowledge exchange is critical in bringing about the desired policy shift to augment the existing standards of living.

While the ‘scale up’ requires a series of stakeholder dialogues and policy deliberations, it is often required to trigger successful knowledge transfer by means of a pilot initiative in the subject regions. The success of the project thus feeds in to convince the local stakeholder communities and the government to regulate policies accordingly.

For instance, Malawi is dealing with one of the highest rates of urbanisation (5.5%) resulting in a high demand of housing construction materials, mainly bricks. The traditional methods of brick production use firewood, causing a threat of complete deforestation estimated by 2030. A prominent Indian think tank suggested the use of Virtual Shaft Brick Kiln (VSBK) technology that fired powdered coal instead of firewood owing to the surplus reserves of coal in the country. The implementing agency further commissioned a pilot VSBK facility to gauge the feasibility of such an intervention. The bricks thus formed were stronger, bigger in size with a more definite form factor. While these bricks were 5-7 times as expensive, they used less mortar reducing the total cost of construction by 30%. The pilot initiative further provided more employment (especially women) fetching thrice as much salary due to higher margins. As the government eased entry for interested entrepreneurs for investment, they stimulated markets by discussing policy formulations to incentivise interested players, by providing 80% government orders for construction of public spaces/buildings. The government eventually plans to phase out traditional kilns and mainstream this VSBK technology in Malawi.

Evidence of development forged by such pilot initiatives often builds patience for stakeholders seeking constructive policy change that may result in cross-cutting benefits to improve the overall standard of living. Policymakers for any such developing nation expect well rooted foundations for established shifts in policy in order to define their trajectory for growth. It is therefore imperative to focus on sustainability of such initiatives hedged with constant dialogues with allies and experts along with executives of other developing nations for graduating policy support. The research think tanks further play an essential role by facilitating such discussions to bridge policy deliberations and provide the requisite techno-feasibility support.

Popularising such international development dialogues, especially between developing nations with similar socio-economic context is fundamental for a more organic nature of growth, without much dependency of aid or development funding. Developing countries are capable of developing their own human capital by means of such knowledge partnerships and formulate robust mechanisms for augmenting national income to be used for development.

A knowledge partnership initiative managed by IPE Global Limited, an international development consulting firm based out of India was a successful stepping stone towards facilitating certain important policy deliberations. The dialogues were backed by strenuous in-house and delegated policy research to build evidence in order to influence policy in other developing nations. The programme exhaustively enveloped across four work streams, namely, Trade, Health, Gender along with Food Security, Resource Scarcity & Climate Change reaching out to a mammoth 39 countries through the course of three years.

While the realisation of benefits and impact in treatment countries will take its due course of time, it opens opportunities for other potential donors to build focus on knowledge partnerships based on south-south cooperation rather than direct aid or technical support.

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Sushant Anand

Sushant Anand is currently working as a Senior Research Associate with IPE Global.