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Recent Blog Posts, Discussions and Debates on PSD


This page lists some of the most interesting recent blog posts, online discussions and debates on Private Sector Development and related issues. It gets updated regularly and aims to show the insightful things people are talking about right now.

Let us know if you have any suggestions on what should be included, or any comments on the blogs. Click here to contact the DCED Secretariat

How international NGOs choose corporate partners, Devex Impact blog post by Adva Saldinger, April 2015: This blog post provides a fresh, insightful perspective on how NGOs are tackling organisational, procedural, and cultural challenges for partnering with businesses – for example by creating new roles, cross-departmental teams and hiring specialised staff; developing new processes for due diligence assessments; developing and sharing guidelines with field staff; and moving towards strategic engagement rather than transactional partnerships with businesses.

Added: 21 April 2015

The risky business of large-scale public-private partnerships in African Agriculture
is the focus on the Oxfam blog and a recent Oxfam briefing paper on 'mega' agricultural PPPs. The paper cautions that for many emerging large-scale PPPs, such as the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, GROW Africa, and numerous growth corridor initiatives, there is very little robust evidence on their benefits, while risks for the poor are frequently overseen.These risks include expropriation; rising inequality through a focus on commercial, large-scale farming; and rising political and economic influence of large, multinational companies at the expense of local business. The report makes various policy recommendations, including a renewed focus on smallholder agriculture as well as changes in the governance arrangements of existing mega-PPPs.
Added: 20 October 2014

On the IIED blog you can find an overview of seven recent papers by IIED, ODI and IDS that address agricultural and rural development debates in sub-Saharan Africa. For example, T.S. Jayne, Ferdinand Meyer and Lulama Ndibongo Traub investigate 'megatrends' such as rising food and energy prices, climate change, urbanisation and demographic transitions in Africa; they argue that agriculture will still remain an important source of income in the decades to come as growth in non-farm sectors will not grow fast enough to absorb surplus labour. However, agricultural policies should be increasingly complemented by urban planning, industrial policies and measures to improve the foundations of economic growth, such as infrastructure and education. Other papers explore how to better interlink rural and urban development programming through market linkages (e.g. Felicity Proctor) and how donors can use 'politically smart', entrepreneurial approaches to achieve better results in agricultural development programmes (e.g. David Booth). 

Added: 20 October 2014

A speech by Owen Barder and blog post by Duncan Green highlight the results of two new papers which find that the autonomy of local staff is positively related to project performance.

The first paper, a study of the evaluations of 10,000 aid projects over the last ten years, finds that this is particularly true in fragile or complex environments: the more likely it is that things will change in unexpected ways, the more important it is to have power and decision-making sit with the people who can see that change coming and respond to it.

The second, which uses a dataset of 4,700 public sector projects in Nigeria, further finds that performance monitoring from above has a negative effect on results. Yet the authors also show that there is a correlation between incentives and autonomy; one interpretation of this is that where organisations are able to measure results they are more likely to be willing or able to grant autonomy to implementing agents.

This resonates with feedback from practitioners at our Global Seminar on Results Measurement in March 2014. Field staff valued the DCED Standard because “setting up results chains at the very start of an intervention helps to keep track of changes and update the programme logic, rather than being caught by surprise”. In addition it was frequently mentioned that adhering to the Standard, and in particular having an audit, was “very helpful for bringing recognition from donors, governments, and other organizations for being seriously involved in results measurement and quality work” – with the potential to lead to greater autonomy and better performance.

Added: 22 May 2014
Should the future of Africa's development and job creation efforts focus on urban areas? Based on a World Bank survey of 24,000 rural households in six African countries, as well as urban household data, two blog posts by Paula Nagler and Wim Naudé suggest that rural development initiatives may not be able to bring about the desired economic benefits. Instead, urbanization and promotion of good urban management may have better returns in terms of job creation. Read more in 'Time to rethink business in rural Africa' and 'Rural non-farm businesses in Africa: where are the jobs'?
Added: 4 April 2014

Three Myths about African Industry, by John Page, Senior Fellow, Africa Growth Initiative: This 3-page article highlights three common perceptions about industry in Africa:
  • African firms are uncompetitive;
  • Deregulation is the 'magic bullet'; and
  • Small Firms are Africa's job creators.
Are these true? Click here to read more about current insights and evidence, and what should be done about it.
Added: 2 April 2014

Do challenge funds work – or is the Emperor really naked?, is the catchy title of a post by Jonathan Mitchell and Amanda Jupp onThe Practitioner Hub for Inclusive Business. The authors summarise why we don’t know much (yet) about challenge fund performance but also argues that donors are beginning to ask the right questions on their effectiveness. The authors highlight the value of the DCED’s results measurement work in this context.

Added: 13 March 2014

Should the UK government promote UK businesses in developing countries? asks Alberto Lemma on the ODI blog. He discusses whether the UK government should promote Business Partnership Programmes between British companies and innovative enterprises in developing countries, taking into account other donors’ experiences with similar programmes, including Norway, Germany, the US, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Added: 12 March 2014

How can you tell whether a multi-stakeholder initiative is a total waste of time? May Miller-Dawkins scrutinises the value of multi-stakeholder initiatives on the Oxfam from Poverty to Power Blog. She istinguishes between different types of multi-stakeholder initiatives, in particular their models of participation and decision-making, to help guide organisations’ decisions about forming or joining such initiatives

Added: 12 March 2014

Simon White posts Do business environment reforms encourage informal firms to formalise? Simon introduces the 2014 Doing Business report, noting in particular a large increase in reforms in Africa. He focuses, though, on the link between business regulation reforms and the informal economy, with the report associating a larger informal economy with higher minimum capital requirements, overly complicated tax systems and inefficient contract enforcement. However he notes that it is an oversimplification to suggest that bad business environments are the only cause of informality; though there is a clear link, there are other drivers of informality, and as such, different reform programmes need different starting points and priorities.

Added: 29 January 2014

Diana Good, lead Commissioner for the forthcoming Independent Commission for Aid Impact report on DFID’s private sector development work, posts on meeting smallholder farmers in Tanzania. She notes DFID’s aim to encourage the development of small businesses at local level, more accessible markets for the poor and further inward foreign investment, and outlines some of the challenges Tanzania faces to its economic development. The review in Tanzania involved meeting a number of senior government, private sector and development agency representatives, but Diana notes the most lasting impression was made on her by smallholder farmers in Mtwara, close to the border with Mozambique. Several groups of farmers had received help with irrigation and farming techniques and had seen significant improvements. However improvements in market access were felt to be even more significant, with farmers increasingly able to sell directly to purchasers and cut out corrupt middlemen.

Added: 27 January 2014

Adam Kessler posts on the DevPolicy blog five suggestions for measuring results in challenge funds. Increased funding and interest in challenge funds has not been matched by a growth in the evidence base regarding their impact, and Adam notes, to this end, new guidance from the DCED on measuring results in challenge funds using the DCED Standard. Challenge funds need to understand the logic of their programme and be clear on how the poor are expected to benefit. The business and fund managers should clearly divide responsibilities, and results measurement be made useful for the business. Fund managers should take a portfolio approach and with limited resources, prioritise monitoring of more expensive, successful or innovative business projects. Market wide changes should be looked out for. Grantees can be valuable sources of information, as long as interview questions are concrete and hold back on development jargon.
Added: 11 December 2013
Nadia Weigh, from the Business Engagement Hub of DFID, posts Seeding jobs and growth in Somalia. She notes that though the majority of DFID’s priority countries are classed as fragile and that such contexts raise serious challenges for PSD programmes, beyond the work of the DCED and ODI there is little guidance on best practice for PSD in fragile and conflict affected state. She notes the innovate ways that DFID is operating in these contexts, and outlines the Sustainable Employment and Economic Development (SEED) programme in Somalia, which aims to both develop specific markets and support an improved investment climate. Already in its second phase, it has generated over 154,000 jobs,demonstrating that it is possible to run PSD programmes in fragile states. The DCED has also recently published case studies on results measurement in the SEED programme and the BMZ-funded Employment Promotion Programme in Sierra Leone, and guidelines on measuring results of PSD in conflict-affected environments.

Added: 10 September 2013

Check out the blog of the SDC Employment and Income Network's third face-to-face meeting, 13 – 16 May 2013, which serves as the reporting platform for the meeting and lets readers add their comments as well.  The event focused on three themes: fragility, systems change and results measurement, and the presentations and further content is available on the blog, including a presentation by Jim Tanburn, DCED Coordinator, on Qualitative aspects of results measurement in conflict-affected environments.

Added: 23 May 2013

Leo Horn-Phathanothai of the World Resources Institute posts: The Private Sector and International Development: A Love Affair, or Cold Feet? In it, he highlights a recent round-table with representatives from donor agencies and the private sector on their collaboration, co-organized by WRI and the IIED. He notes the key meeting message of increasing intersection of business and aid, and though the pressure for donors is to do more with the private sector, the real challenge is to do better. Though examples of private public partnership were given, participants identified major hurdles to further collaboration. To overcome these and scale up collaboration, participants suggested the need for more structured dialogue, better evidence, more standardized metrics and space and resources for innovation, risk-taking, and experimentation.

Added: 12 April 2013

Image credits: Renjith Krishnan,