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Trends and Opportunities in Public-Private Partnerships

Trends and Opportunities in Public-Private Partnerships

On April 10, 2014, the Center for Strategic and International Studies hosted a discussion on “Food, Jobs, and Technology: Public-Private Partnerships and the post-2015 Development Agenda “. The event included companies, experts, and development organizations.

Social, Environmental and Private Interests are Converging

When United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon convened a high-level panel to forge a new global post-2015 Development Agenda, the centerpiece of the group’s final report called for “eradicating extreme poverty from the face of the earth by 2030.” Reaching this goal will require an all-hands-on-deck approach from all the players involved in international development. Notably, the private sector—from small and medium-sized enterprises to major global corporations—must play an expanded role if this vision is to be realized. Luckily, as the world grows smaller and more interdependent, companies will be increasingly incentivized to enter sustainable public-private partnerships.

Ricardo Michel, USAID, spoke about their goal to help 200 million people over the next 5 years and the vital role private partnerships will have to achieve it. Since developing the Global Development Alliance model in 2001, USAID has built over 1,500 public-private partnerships involving more than 3,500 unique partner organizations, with an estimated value of more than $20 billion in public and private funds. These partnerships leverage approximately $3.20 in both cash and in-kind contributions from partner organizations for each $1.00 USAID invests.

Entrepreneurship and a Demand for Clear Guidelines

The current lack of widespread involvement in development from small and medium-sized firms may be due to the often high costs of engagement. Ricardo
Michel, USAID, highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship to ensure more jobs for the poor and food for the 1 billion more people in 2030.

Sara Akbar, Oracle, opined that there is still no clear definition of “Public-Private Partnerships”. This can lead to misunderstandings of whether a partnership is characterized by a financial transaction or more technical / professional collaboration. Often development organizations are primarily interested in financial aid and that creates situations where companies do not fully pass on the skills they had expected to share. It is essential that the development organization and the private partner have a clear agreement of what the partnership should bring about.