Southern Innovator Magazine Is Printed And Readied For Distribution | 31 May 2011

“What a tremendous magazine your team has produced! It’s a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space… Really looking forward to what you produce in issues #2 and #3. This is great, engaging, relevant and topical stuff.” 

Rose Shuman, Founder & CEO, Open Mind and Question Box

I had the pleasure of visiting the printing plant to witness the presses rolling with the first issue of new global magazine, Southern Innovator. The magazine has been in careful development and saw its name evolve from Creative Sparks to Southern Innovator. As Shakespeare noted in his play Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” And it is what Southern Innovator is that counts the most.

This first issue is just the beginning of a process, a back-and-forth dialogue with our readers as we refine and improve the magazine to boost its impact. The first issue’s theme – mobile phones and information technology – was chosen because of the sheer dynamism of this area and some jaw-dropping achievements: the growth of mobile phone usage in Africa represents an unprecedented take-up of a new technology, often in some of the poorest places on the planet. That impresses and it seemed right to share information about the amazing people behind this phenomenon and the lessons they learned along the way. It has also become clear in the research behind the monthly e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions (published since 2006), that significant future development gains will not happen without the aid of mobile phones and information technology, and, important to note, will need these tools to raise living standards for all the world’s people in an environment of increasing competition and pressure for resources.

Used right, mobile phones and information technology allow the efficient use of resources. But, as anyone who has worked with technology knows, this isn’t a given. Vast sums of money and time can be squandered if technology is not used intelligently, or lessons not learned from past failures. It is hoped Southern Innovator‘s first issue can contribute to a better use of resources, and by taking a broad look at what is happening out there, enlighten readers to new ideas, people and concepts.

Southern Innovator is designed in Iceland by Graphic Designer and Illustrator Solveig Rolfsdottir. 

“Question Box was featured in Southern Innovator, a new publication of UNDP that profiles some of the most innovative ideas coming out of the global South. We were pleased to see many friends in the sector profiled as well, such as UshahidiMedic Mobile, and TxtEagle. Take a look at the magazine, as it is a great primer on ICT and mobile innovation from around the globe.”

Question Box News
Southern Innovator Magazine can be found in libraries around the world.

“Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation. Heart is pumping adrenaline and admiration just reading it”

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Trade to Benefit the Poor Up in 2006 and to Grow in 2007

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


The global fair trade market – in which goods and services are traded under the Fairtrade logo, guaranteeing a minimum fair price to producers experienced unprecedented growth in 2006. In the UK alone, 2006 sales totalled £290 million – a jump of 46 percent from 2005. The Fairtrade Foundation predicts sales will reach UK £300 million in 2007.

In 2005 Fairtrade sales were € 1.1 billion in the brand’s main markets of Switzerland, the UK, New Zealand, Australia and the US. At present fair trade works with 5 million farmers in the global South, and it represents an ever-increasing opportunity for Southern entrepreneurs.

A tipping point has been reached in Western awareness of and demand for the Fairtrade brand and concept, and it is now being adopted by major supermarkets. In the UK, 62 percent of consumers know the logo and understand what it means.

The concept of fair trade began in the Netherlands in 1988, when the Max Havelaar Foundation launched the Fairtrade consumer label with coffee from Mexico. Unlike conventional businesses, where the price paid to a producer is what the market dictates, fair trade guarantees the producer a minimum price for their product. This amount is set at a level that ensures the producer can live a life with dignity and meet all the essentials. A portion of the profits is also kept in a communal fund which the producers democratically elect to spend as they wish (many choose to spend it on community projects).

Fair trade has been criticized for a number of reasons. It has been seen as too small and marginal to really make inroads on poverty, and has been accused of privileging a small number of producers while ignoring the rest. It has also been criticized for not focusing enough on innovation and increasing production to really eradicate poverty in the developing world.

For all its faults and shortcomings, it is a fact that the Fairtrade brand is a runaway success and offers a wide range of opportunities for entrepreneurs.

In the UK, fair trade now includes 2,500 products, ranging from footballs, to tea, cotton and honey – up from just 150 in 2003, an astonishing rate of growth. Where fair-trade products were once confined to co-operative and charity shops, they are now widely sold in major supermarkets.

The success of fair trade is not confined to Europe and the US. It is growing in Japan, where, says fair trade retailer Sonoko Iwasa, “the concept of using trade to equalize the world by buying goods from developing countries from Asia and Africa was a notion that had no connection with everyday lives.”

Iwasa’s Rumaba Goods store just outside Tokyo sells organic chocolates from Africa, woollen gloves and hats from Nepal, and elegant clothes from Thailand. Iwasa found that the key in the highly competitive Japanese consumer market was to focus on quality, not fairness. This, she says, has made these products fashionable.

At present, the fair trade market is worth only about US $6 to $7 million a year in Japan and includes 1,500 products. But according to Michiko Ono of Japan’s best-known fair trade label, People Tree, the trend is catching on among the country’s socially aware youth.

To start a fair trade business, entrepreneurs or producers need first to contact the international body that certifies fair trade products and ensure that production meets the ethical standards required.

Published: January 2007


Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

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Archive Blogroll

Innovator Stories and Profiles

Southern Innovator was initially launched in 2011 with the goal of – hopefully – inspiring others (just as we had been so inspired by the innovators we contacted and met). The magazine seeks to profile stories, trends, ideas, innovations and innovators overlooked by other media. The magazine grew from the monthly e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions published by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) since 2006.

Southern Innovator visited South Korea’s Songdo Smart City in 2012.

Editor and Writer, David South. 
Graphic Designer and Illustrator, Solveig Rolfsdottir. 

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Development Challenges, South-South Solutions Newsletter

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

ISSN 2227-3905

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions is the monthly e-newsletter for the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation in UNDP (formerly the United Nations Development Programme’s South-South Cooperation Unit). I research and write all stories (since January 2007). You can view the original website here. The stories are in English, French and Spanish.

The original WordPress website for Development Challenges, South-South Solutions ( It was launched in 2006 and eventually became in 2011. The magazine Southern Innovator was also launched in New York in 2011.

Here is a good background article on the rise of South-South cooperation, how it is altering global trade and power relationships, and what the future holds: South-South Cooperation Defies the North. And here is some historical background from Wikipedia: South-South Cooperation.

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions reaches a global audience of influential decision-makers on the frontlines of international development in the South. More than 2,000 subscribers read the newsletter every month (academic institutions, UN agencies, private sector companies, UNDP Country Offices, financial institutions including the IMF and World Bank, inter-governmental organisations, UNDP knowledge networks around the world, and all South-South focal points in West Africa).

Remember to think of Development Challenges, South-South Solutions when you have a Southern innovation to share with the world. You can read our archive of stories online here:

From Special Unit for South-South Cooperation: 2008 Reflections: “As part of the strategy to foster South‐South cooperation within and across regions, the Division has continued to invigorate and re‐enforce a South‐South cooperation focal point system. These efforts included the publication and distribution of a monthly e‐newsletter, Development Challenges: South-South Solutions, which presents a briefing for South‐South focal points, Southern academics and development professionals on practical solutions to development challenges found throughout the South. Over the course of 2008, twelve e‐newsletters were released via e‐mail and published on the website of the Special Unit.”

What are people saying about Development Challenges, South-South Solutions? Read some comments here.

Contact me by email about the newsletter here:

Contact me by email about the new global magazine Southern Innovator here:

July 2014 issue of Development Challenges, South-South Solutions: The last issue is available online for download. Support the e-newsletter for 2017: we are seeking additional funding so we can improve the reader experience and frequency of the e-newsletter. Since first launching in 2006, we often heard from readers how they valued the stories in the e-newsletter and how it has helped in raising the profile of innovators across the global South (“Congratulations on another great newsletter that’s packed with fascinating information! I really enjoy getting it each month.”). Additional resources would enable us to improve the way readers can access and receive the e-newsletter, enable the e-newsletter’s contributors to travel and report on developments, and allow us to offer daily and weekly updates and a wider range of resources online and on mobile platforms. Additional funds help in maintaining the quality of the e-newsletter, something that has been appreciated by readers (“Great economic and business reporting! Very helpful for us.” Africa Renewal). It will also allow the e-newsletter to spin-off quality resources for innovators, such as the influential magazine Southern Innovator. Contact the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation if you wish to support the e-newsletter for 2017: UNOSSC.

“What a tremendous magazine your team has produced! It’s a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space… This is great, engaging, relevant and topical stuff.” Rose Shuman, Founder & CEO, Open Mind and Question Box, Santa Monica, CA, U.S.A.

“Great economic and business reporting! Very helpful for us.” Africa Renewal, Africa Section, Strategic Communications Division, United Nations Department of Public Information

“The reviewer observed that, although the Policy and UN Coordination Unit had produced all of the reports requested by intergovernmental bodies, especially for the High-level Committee, it had not been able to produce many of the publications (evidence-based analytical reports) that had previously been within its purview. Such publications included Southern Innovator magazine and the monthly e-newsletter “Development Challenges, South-South Solutions”. In the case of Southern Innovator, one issue (No. 5 on waste and recycling) was published during the four-year period of the framework but did not have wide online distribution, and issue No. 6 was awaiting funds for publication. The e-newsletter was last issued in July 2014 even though the reviewer found it a good way to communicate with focal points at the national and inter-agency levels. In fact, the shortage of funds for those knowledge products was the main reason that they had ceased being produced during the evaluation period.”  Final evaluation of the performance of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation  under its strategic framework, 2014-2017, in light of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

Note: Unfortunately, the reason for “the shortage of funds” was down to suspension of funding to the UNOSSC in 2015 and 2016 pending two internal UN audit investigations after arrests made in 2015 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed a bribery and money laundering network targeting the United Nations via various NGOs, including the UN-based news organisation South-South News. The case eventually made its way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Back Issues

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions Newsletter | 2011-2014


Development Challenges, South-South Solutions Newsletter | 2007-2010








“Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation. Heart is pumping adrenaline and admiration just reading it.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


© David South Consulting 2021