Gone are the days when a government agency –- like the United States Agency for International Development -- could only assist the developing world by sending material assistance like food and medicine; or by providing expertise in the form of doctors and teachers.
In recent years, three quiet revolutions have taken place which reshape how we approach development, said USAID Administrator Mark Green at the 2019 Concordia Annual Summit in New York.
The first is the technological revolution. For example, with mobile phones now widely available, USAID uses them to provide access to microfinance, track and treat diseases, help with election monitoring, and even boost crop production.
The second revolution, he said, is no less dramatic. “When USAID first began, about three out of every four dollars that went from America to the developing world was government money…These days, that number is less than 1 out of every 10 dollars. And it’s not because government has backed off or backed down,” Mr. Green noted. “It’s because private resources have raced ahead. Philanthropy, remittances, but more than anything else, commerce and investment.”
The third revolution is the most exciting in terms of the potential for long-term sustainable development, declared Administrator Green. Agencies like USAID are co-financing, co-designing and co-creating with private enterprise -- the engine that generates real and lasting opportunities, particularly for young people around the world.
He pointed to the example of USAID’s collaboration with UBS Optimus Foundation to try to establish 400 health centers in the state of Rajasthan, India, to meet the highest quality standards. The investment bank UBS fronts the capital and USAID works with partners to provide the training and expertise to meet the standards. When and if the centers succeed in meeting them, USAID repays the initial investors.
Administrator Green described the venture as one of several that provide “public benefit, enterprise-powered results.”
“There are so many ways in which the interests of private enterprise, which seeks to create sustainable markets, lines up very well with our mission of lifting lives, of tackling poverty, and creating stability and prosperity,” Mr. Green said. “So we work together to try to design, using the best capacities of each to produce those outcomes.”
USAID Administrator Green stressed that when new technology, private enterprise-embracing-emerging markets, and a government agency interested in real collaboration are put together, “The future is enterprise-driven. And the sky’s the limit.”