UNDP discovers the private sector

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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) just launched its growing inclusive markets initiative, part of its work to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (Hat tip: NextBillion.net). I have to say that this is a welcome, although perhaps overdue, development. The UNDP has released a report called Creating Value for All along with a series of case studies and (although not yet up on their website) heat maps that provide data on basic infrastructure and services among the poor. (One of the heat maps from the report is pictured below. It shows the share of poor households in South Africa with access to a cell phone.)


While the main thrust of the Creating Value for All report is the need to extend the benefits of markets to the poor, the report also sounded some cautionary notes. In the foreword to the report, Kemal Dervis, the head of UNDP, had this to say:

The State must also be able to ensure fair competition as well as redistribution of income—market outcomes are not always politically or socially acceptable...Business and markets alone are no panacea for tackling poverty...[Those poor] with virtually no assets are ill-equipped for the marketplace. They need targeted support to help them build sustainable livelihoods and benefit from market interactions.

These comments reminded me of a debate that's taking place in a very different part of cyberspace. Over at Creative Capitalism, a bunch of economists are debating whether businesses have any responsbility beyond generating a profit. The whole debate was set off by a speech that Bill Gates gave in January at the World Economic Forum. Gates seems to fall on the side of the argument advocating a greater responsibility than just profit, but you can judge for yourself by reading a transcript of his speech. Perhaps it would be useful to connect these two dialogues?


Ryan Hahn

Operations Officer

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