CGD in the News

At the UN Sustainable Development Summit, Private Sector Advocates Must Be Heard (Forbes)

June 22, 2012

Senior fellow Charles Kenny was quoted in a Forbes op-ed on Rio+20.

From the article:

Among the development crowd converging on Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, one would be hard pressed to find many cheerleaders for the private sector in attendance. However, there are those of us who will say aloud what many development practitioners will whisper when no one is around to overhear them: the private sector is the only truly sustainable source of economic growth.

A similar gathering in Rio twenty years ago produced a major convention on climate change that – along with many of the UN’s well-intentioned multilateral treaties – simply hasn’t done enough to address our shared global challenges. Rio+20′s fanfare, like the mega-meetings that have come before it, will eventually fade away, leaving behind a trail of unmet pledges by donor nations and unrealistic expectations by aid recipients.

Until now, the development community has remained skeptical of the private sector’s intentions. Many have shouted down attempts by policymakers to place economic growth as the top priority of development spending. That is changing.

The Center for Global Development’s Charles Kenny captured this paradigm shift when he wrote recently that if the graduating class of 2012 really wanted to make the world a better place they should consider an alternative to the traditional NGO route and instead, “go work for a big, bad multinational company.” Kenny’s logic is compelling in today’s landscape, where 87 percent of capital flows in the developing world come from private sources, seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are African, half of U.S. exports are flowing to the developing world.

Today, U.S. companies are the ones betting on Africa. The cellphones, bank branches, and supermarkets that multinational firms are increasingly exporting to Africa and Asia have done more to uplift the poor than many would like to admit. By treating citizens of the developing world as consumers and not aid recipients, the private sector has dramatically lowered the cost of many household goods that we take for granted and promoted business practices that benefit entire societies while enriching local entrepreneurs.

Read it here.