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Southern Art Hubs Grab Attention for Creative Economy

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Regeneration – of poor neighbourhoods, districts, even whole countries after a conflict – is both a challenge and a key to transforming lives. One approach that has a track record is turning to artists and creative people to re-imagine a neighbourhood or country’s culture, and restore pride and vitality to places beaten down by life’s hardships.

The tool to do this is the creative economy. The “interface between creativity, culture, economics and technology in a contemporary world dominated by images, sounds, texts and symbols” (UNCTAD) is seen as away for emerging economies to leapfrog into high-growth areas in the world economy.

Two approaches offer inspiring examples: a Brazilian art gallery owner is single-handedly remaking the Brazilian market for contemporary art. And in Cambodia, a new wave of young artists are creating a stir in the global art scene.

Galeria Leme (http://www.galerialeme.com/home.php?lang=ing) is located in a graffiti-strewn, down-at-heel neighbourhood in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Brazil has seen impressive economic growth in the past decade. The country is Latin America’s biggest economy and had reached growth of 5.1 percent in 2008 before being hit by the global recession.

The gallery pursues several goals at once: its mission is to draw attention to socially and politically engaging contemporary Brazilian art, but it also aims to increase awareness of the art market in Brazil and help in the revitalization of the gallery’s neighbourhood.

The gallery is a concrete box designed by Paulo Mendes da Rocha (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paulo_Mendes_da_Rocha), an award-winning Brazilian architect. Founded in 2004 by former banker Eduardo Leme, the gallery has fashioned itself into being the leading authority on contemporary art in Brazil. Leme used to work in the financial sector before moving into running a gallery, and has applied his understanding of markets and how to create demand.

This in turn has grabbed international attention, and had the global art world beating a path to this neighbourhood. In short, it creates a buzz that soon feeds on itself and draws in more people to the scene.

It’s a formula that has worked well in many other places, where a successful gallery fosters a scene and draws in audiences, buyers and new businesses. Soon, a creative economy comes alive and that means serious money. Both New York and London have shown how this can work. In New York City, the creative economy employs over 278,000 people (2002).

Sao Paulo is the commercial hub of Brazil’s contemporary art market. But previously, buyers had to search all over the city to find the works they wanted to buy.

“I think it is a really good moment for Brazilian art,” Leme said.”Brazilian art is fantastic. Due to our miscellaneous (sic) of culture and people and all these kind of things. Brazil is almost a continent. You have art made of wood, made of metal, made of plastic films, all the materials. More and more, I am seeing Brazilians moving onto the international markets, the prices are moving up. The number of fellows from museums that are coming down here to see what’s going on, it’s fantastic.

“To run this business you not just to have good stuff: you need to understand to whom you should sell also,” Leme told the magazine Monocle. “I mean also not just Sao Paulo is a rich and big city that you have a lot of collectors. There is a lot of social stuff you have to understand to be in this specific business.

“My challenge is to increase the Brazilian market. I have this kind of ambition. More partners, more people talking about art, if more people talking about art I am going to receive more feedback and I am going to grow the terms. Not just as a business but also as a man I will have more things on my mind, more information. And the financial market, the more money you make the richest you are. Here, it is not just that: my point of view is that the more challenge is the thing, the more goals I make I am going to be richer in this business.”

Another scene has taken off in formerly war-ravaged Cambodia in Southeast Asia. The country was notorious for the horrors of the Killing Fields in the 1970s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Killing_Fields), where the extremist Khmer Rouge government executed people and Cambodian artists suffered greatly. As a result, the art community was devastated for many years.

Thirty years on, a new generation of artists has emerged from the recent years of peace. This new wave is getting attention across Asia for its innovation.

Artist Pich Sopheap is one of the pioneers. By founding the Cambodian contemporary art association saklapel.org with Linda Saphan, he has focused the Cambodian art scene through group exhibitions and promotion. Another tool he uses to build the scene up has been the Visual Art Open(VAO), an annual event since 2005 featuring work by Cambodian artists.

This has had the effect of building a strong community of artists within the country who can support each other. It also makes it easier for outside art buyers to discover who is working in the country’s art scene.

Sopheap works in a variety of media including oil painting, photography and sculpture. He manipulates bamboo and rattan to shape his sculptures.

“I think for me sculpture with this material is just because it is cheap. It’s easy to use, it is very relevant. The subject matter is in the work already. For me it is discovering new forms that resonant with the atmosphere, with the conditions of this country,” Sopheap told the BBC.

Sopheap’s family fled from the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. He spent his early life in the United States, where he trained in art. When he returned to Cambodia a few years ago, he found the art scene very small and weak.

“Cambodia is a young country when it comes to modern art. It takes a while for new blood to come back and actually make something that concerns the present time,” believes Sopheap. “And we are very young, in our early 30s. Before that there was almost none that was known. We are making our own way – it is all up to us. We show in different cafes, we show in bars, we show in gift shops. And when we do those kind of exhibitions it is kind of exciting, it is not really a gallery, a cold place, people go by and it exposes to a lot of foreigners.”

A Cambodian-trained artist, Leang Seckon (http://saklapel.org/vao/artists/leang_seckon/), takes these approaches further, using sewing, painting, metalwork and collage in ways that reference Cambodian traditions, from apsara ballet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apsara_Dance) to fortune-telling, while subtly commenting on modern culture, society and politics. Seckon now has shows in Britain, Japan and Norway, and has become one of the country’s most successful artistic exports.

“To begin with I was not a professional artist and I didn’t realize I could jump from low to high level so fast. Things have changed so quickly for me. If I do one style of art it makes me feel so bored. But if I mix it up with other techniques like sewing and collage, it makes it more interesting for me. I don’t know if you can call that real Cambodian art but I didn’t copy or learn it from anyone: I created it myself.”

“This is a very important point for me: I can show all my work to the international community. In the countries I go to, I tell them the same thing. Cambodia has new, young artists – we haven’t disappeared: the young ones have been growing up.”

His approach is to stay away from cliched Cambodian art.

“I just think we work really hard,” says Sopheap on the group’s success to date. “I just think we work really hard and get together and organize exhibitions ourselves for the most part. It is just artists working hard and they are hungry and they are fearless and when that energy is happening, people from the outside start to actually pronounce our name correctly and afterward they come to town and just by accident they find this little scene, and they are very interested in it because it is raw.”

Published: December 2009

Resources

  • Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009: The summit is about the successful and emerging creative technologies and initiatives that are driving economic growth locally, nationally and internationally. Website: http://www.gcecs2009.com/
  • Creative Economy Report 2008. An economic and statistical assessment of creative industries world-wide as well as an overview of how developing countries can benefit from trade in creative products and services produced by UNCTAD and the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation in UNDP. Website: http://www.unctad.org/en/docs/ditc20082cer_en.pdf
  • An article about artists in the Caribbean and how they are using online networks to connect and earn income. Website: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/07/23/trinidad-and-tobago-online-art-networks/

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.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Africa

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

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Mapping to Protect Kenya’s Environment: the eMazingira Solution Development Challenges:Powerful new grassroots crowd-mapping tools have sprung up in the past few years across the global South, from Brazil’s Wikicrimes (www.wikicrimes.org) real-time crime mapping technology to the now famous Ushahidi (http://ushahidi.com) – a non-profit company making the free and open source Ushahidi software for information collection, visualization and interactive mapping – from its base in Kenya. They share some common features. All draw on the widespread use of mobile phones in the global South combined with growing access to the Internet, either through 3G mobile phone services, WiFi wireless connections, Internet centres or increasingly available broadband Internet services.

Building an Interactive Radio Network for Farmers in Nigeria Development Challenges:As solar power technology has improved, new pioneers have emerged to exploit this innovation. Several decades ago, solar power was seen as too expensive for wide-scale roll out in poor countries and communities. But today, an army of solar technology pioneers has fanned out across the world to show the new wave of innovations and how they make solar power affordable.

African Manufacturing Pioneers Proving it is Possible to Thrive Development Challenges: Africa’s paradox is that it is home to the greatest share of the world’s unexploited resources, yet has some of the world’s lowest per capita incomes. History has shown that exploiting the continent’s resources alone for export markets does little to improve incomes and living conditions in Africa, which in turn does nothing to improve human development. The key to resolving this paradox is made-in-Africa jobs, in particular high-value jobs that make products.

New African Film Proving Power of Creative Economy Development Challenges:A new movie is generating excitement around life in the war-torn, chaotic and impoverished Democratic Republic of the Congo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo) – the central African nation – and proving how versatile and resilient a creative economy can be in a crisis.

Ghana: Oil-rich City Sparks Entrepreneurs and Debate Development Challenges: Commodity booms can seem like the answer to a poor nation’s prayers, a way to fulfil all their development dreams and goals. The reality, however, is far more complex. More often than not, the discovery of resources sparks a mad scramble for profits and patronage, as politicians and politically connected elites carve out their slice of the new resource boom before anyone else.

Turning African Youth on to Technology Development Challenges: An African NGO believes the Internet is the single biggest key to rapid development in Africa – and it is working to connect youth, women and rural populations to the web, and in turn, switch them on to the vast resources stored across the world’s Internet sites.

Bringing the Invention and Innovation Mindset to Young Kenyans Development Challenges: A highly innovative new way to teach the basics of electronics, computing and technological innovation is being pioneered in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Driven by the desire to counter perceptions of apathy among young people, NGO Kuweni Serious is running a training course for girls aged over 8 years in some of the poorest parts of the city to turn on a new generation to the power of technology to make change.

African Youth Want to do Business in Fast-growing Economy Development Challenges: Africa’s growing economy is meeting head-on an optimistic young population keen to start businesses. At least that is what a new poll of African youth says, finding that one in five Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 without a current business wants to start one in the next 12 months.

Kenyan Safari Begins Minutes from Airport Development Challenges: Many people find the prospect of staying in airport hotels dreary at best. They tend to be located in industrial parts of cities or far from city centres. They can be surrounded by roads and highways and are built to move lots of people, not to look nice. The surrounding areas can be very common to all nations – warehouses, office parks, nondescript restaurants and hotels – and give few clues to where you are apart from the weather and the languages on the sign boards.

African Botanicals to be used to Boost Fight against Parasites Development Challenges: More than 1 billion people in the developing world currently suffer from tropical diseases, which leave a trail of disfigurement, disability and even death. Yet only 16 out of 1,393 – 0.01 percent – of new medicines marketed between 1975 and 1999 targeted tropical diseases (International Journal of Public Health).

Solar Sisters Doing it for Themselves: Tackling African Light Famine Development Challenges: A social enterprise is seeking to capture the power of the sun to bring light and economic opportunity to women in Africa. Using a direct-marketing distribution system, it sells solar lamps and lanterns to some of Africa’s remotest communities. Solar Sister (www.solarsister.org), launched in Uganda in 2010, is hoping to do for power generation what mobile phones have done for communication in Africa: make a technological leap to a model of grassroots power generation, rather than waiting for large-scale power schemes to eventually reach the poor and rural.

South Africa Innovates Healthcare with Prepay Phone Vouchers Development Challenges: Pioneers in Africa are experimenting with new ways to fund the delivery of healthcare that is affordable and sustainable and not dependent on foreign aid and donations. A South African company is prototyping the selling of pre-payment healthcare services through mobile phones with a range of vouchers that can be bought and downloaded at the tap of a keypad.

Ghana’s Funeral Economy Innovates and Exports Development Challenges: The West African nation of Ghana’s funeral economy is attracting innovation and grabbing attention outside the country. The nation’s elaborate – but expensive – funeral rituals provide craftsmen with a good income. And new products are being introduced to handle the financial consequences of this unavoidable fact of life.

Happy Nigeria: West African Nation Has Good Attitude Development Challenges: In the last 10 years, an increasing amount of attention has been paid to the concept of national happiness. The notion was first developed in the tiny Asian Kingdom of Bhutan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhutan), whose advocacy of ‘gross national happiness’ (http://www.grossnationalhappiness.com/) as a measure of national achievement just as important as Gross National Product (GNP), has been met with equal parts ridicule, respect and research.

Africa’s Consumer Market in Spotlight for 2011 Development Challenges:While other parts of the world will spend 2011 worrying about their debt levels and how to spur economic growth, many factors are pointing to Africa potentially following a different story. A frenzy of activity has been building around Africa’s market opportunities and its growing middle class consumer population.

Ugandan Fish Sausages Transform Female Fortunes Development Challenges: What to do when your food production enterprise is just not making much money? It is a common problem in the global South, where farmers and fishers often struggle to survive and can face the threat of bankruptcy and destitution when trying to provide essential food for their communities.

African Supercomputers to Power Next Phase of Development Development Challenges: Information technology developments in Africa have long lagged behind those in other parts of the world. But the transformation being brought about by the widespread adoption and use of mobile phones – each one a mini-computer – and the expansion of undersea fibre optic cable connections to Africa are creating the conditions for an exciting new phase of computing growth on the continent.

Africa to Get Own Internet Domain Development Challenges:  Africa is in the midst of an Internet revolution that is set only to accelerate. The continent is one of the last places to experience the information technology revolution that has swept the world in the past two decades.

Profile of African Innovators Continues to Rise Development Challenges: A mix of developments is proving that African innovators no longer need to see themselves as lone operators working in isolation.

The Water-Free South African Bathing Solution Development Challenges: As the world’s population grows from its current 7 billion to a projected 9 billion in 2050 (UN), competition for access to the Earth’s resources will become fiercer. The most essential resource for life on the planet – and an increasingly precious resource – is water. Water is necessary for the very survival of humans, animals and plants, and is also used in vast quantities by industries and farms.

Mobile Phone Shopping to Create Efficient Markets across Borders Development Challenges: An anticipated game-changing revolution in African trading set for 2013 is getting one innovative business very excited.

Egyptian Youth Turns Plastic Waste into Fuel Development Challenges: The challenge of finding alternate fuel sources is capturing the imagination of innovators across the global South. As the world’s population increases – it recently reached 7 billion (UN) – and the number of people seeking a better life grows in turn, the energy demands on the planet are pushing up competition for existing conventional fuel sources.

Shopping and Flying in Africa’s Boom Towns Development Challenges: As economies across Africa grow, the continent still has a long way to go to create infrastructure to match people’s rising expectations of what a modern, prosperous life looks like.

Teenager Uses Technology to Protect Livestock from Lions Development Challenges: In Kenya, a teenage Maasai (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maasai_people) inventor has developed a way to chase lions away from livestock that doesn’t harm the lions. It is a common practice to kill lions when they threaten or kill livestock, and this has led to a precipitous drop in the local lion population at Nairobi National Park (http://www.kws.org/parks/parks_reserves/NANP.html/), near the country’s capital, Nairobi. Lions are a significant tourist attraction for Kenya and the population decline is a threat to the future of the tourist industry.

African Innovation Eco-system Taking Shape Development Challenges: How to increase the rate of innovation in Africa? And specifically, innovation that actually improves people’s lives and reduces poverty. It is a hard  question to answer, but some are putting in place the building blocks of a 21st century innovation culture by riding the information technology revolution as it rolls across Africa.

African Fuel Pioneer Uses Crisis to Innovate Development Challenges: Crisis, as the old saying goes, is also a window of opportunity. And there is one African entrepreneur who knows this better than most. Daniel Mugenga has been on a journey of innovation that has led him to become a pioneer in the emerging new field of algae technologies. The story of how he got there is a testament to the power of using business to both solve problems and make profits.

Turning Human Waste to Fertilizer: An African Solution Development Challenges: While South Africa has been free of the racist Apartheid regime since the mid-1990s, the expected boost to living standards for the majority black population has not been as widespread and as quick as many had expected.

East Africa to get its First Dedicated Technology City Development Challenges: An ambitious scheme is underway to create a vast technology city on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya.

Mauritanian Music Shop Shares Songs and Friendship Development Challenges: Around the world, traditional music stores selling vinyl records, tapes and CDs (compact discs) are closing down. Digital downloads distributed over the Internet and mobile phones make it unnecessary to build a music collection in these hard formats.

New Journal Celebrates Vibrancy of Modern Africa Development Challenges: Africa has seen huge changes to its communications and media in the past five years. The rise and rise of mobile phones, the expansion of the Internet and the explosion in African blogging and social media, on top of flourishing print and broadcast media, all bring an increasing range of options for telling African stories and increasing dialogue.

An Innovator’s ‘Big Chicken Agenda’ for Africa Development Challenges: Increasing the quantity and quality of food in Africa will be critical to improving the continent’s human development. And a key element in giving Africa a more secure food supply will be boosting science and knowledge on the continent and making sure it is focused on Africa’s needs and situation.

Kenya Turns to Geothermal Energy for Electricity and Growth Development Challenges: In an effort to diversify its power supply and meet growing electricity demand, Kenya is looking to increase its use of geothermal energy sources (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_electricity). Tapping the abundant heat and steam that lurks underground to drive electric power plants offers a sustainable and long-term source of low-cost energy.

African Afro Beats Leads New Music Wave to Europe Development Challenges: A surge in interest in African music in Britain is creating new economic opportunities for the continent’s musicians. The new sound heating up the U.K. music scene is “Afro Beats” – a high energy hybrid that mixes Western rap influences with Ghanaian and Nigerian popular music.

Venture Capital Surge in Africa to Help Businesses Development Challenges: Africa’s potential economic powerhouse lies in its small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Foreign direct investment (FDI) into Africa ebbs and flows based on the state of the global economy – and most of it is directed towards large enterprises and multinational companies.

Africa’s Tourism Sector Can Learn from Asian Experience Development Challenges: Africa continues to be seen as new territory for global tourism, yet it still is not even close to meeting its potential, according to a report by a South African think tank. In fact, many resorts and tourist areas are failing to fill up with visitors. This contrasts with the booming world tourism industry, which broke records in arrivals in 2011 (UNWTO).

African Farming Wisdom Now Scientifically Proven Development Challenges: Increasing the agricultural productivity of Africa is critical for the continent’s future development, and the world’s. Two-thirds of Africans derive their main income from agriculture, but the continent has the largest quantity of unproductive – or unused – potential agricultural land in the world.

Lagos Traffic Crunch Gets a New Solution Development Challenges: Around the world, traffic congestion is often accepted as the price paid for rapid development and a dynamic economy. But as anyone who lives in a large city knows, there comes a tipping point where the congestion begins to harm economic activity by wasting people’s time in lengthy and aggravating commuting, and leaving commuters frazzled and burned out by the whole experience.

New Kenyan Services to Innovate Mobile Health and Farming Development Challenges: Kenya is home to a vibrant innovation culture centred around mobile phones. While not all the services launched will be successful, the flurry of start-ups shows the country has the right combination of technical skills, bright ideas and cash to make a go of new services.

Baker Cookstoves – Designing for the African Customer Development Challenges: An innovative social enterprise is using design to create an energy-efficient cookstove for Kenya. By turning to an experienced Swedish architecture and design firm, the people behind the Baker cookstove wanted to make sure the stove’s design was as efficient as possible and relevant to the customers’ needs, while also making sure it is visually appealing and something a person would proudly want in their home.

Texting for Cheaper Marketplace Food with SokoText Development Challenges: An international group of graduate-social entrepreneurs from the London School of Economics (LSE) is pioneering a way to reduce food prices in Kenya using mobile phones.

Ethiopia and Djibouti Join Push to Tap Geothermal Sources for Green Energy Development Challenges: Ethiopia and Djibouti are the latest global South countries to make a significant commitment to developing geothermal energy – a green energy source that draws on the heat below the earth’s surface (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_energy) – to meet future development goals.

Ghana Wants to Tap Global Trendy Party Scene Development Challenges: Tourism is big business – and one of the most resilient parts of the global economy. Despite the international economic crisis that has wreaked havoc and increased unemployment and poverty in many countries since 2007, tourism is still going strong.

US $450 Million Pledged for Green Economy Investments at Kenyan Expo Development Challenges: Innovators working in the global green economy could benefit from over US $450 million in investment recently pledged at the UN’s Global South-South Development Expo held in Nairobi, Kenya.

African Fashion’s Growing Global Marketplace Profile Development Challenges: Tales of African global fashion successes have multiplied in the last few years. African fashion is seeing its profile rise as more and more shows and festivals boost awareness of the continent’s designs, designers and models. In turn, African fashion and design is being taken more seriously as an income and job generator, and as a sector able to weather the ups and downs of the global economy: people always need to wear clothes.

Pioneering African Airlines Help to Expand Routes Development Challenges: The last decade has seen a revolution in African air travel. The number of air routes has grown and this has paralleled the economic growth across the continent. As demand has been strong for Africa’s resources, it has also fueled a consumer boom that is benefiting an increasing number of people.

Solar-Powered Mobile Clinics to Boost Rural Healthcare in Africa Development Challenges: Around the world, innovative thinking is finding new ways of using solar power technology to bring electricity to underserved areas of the global South. Innovators are experimenting with new technologies, new business models and new ways to finance getting solar power into the hands of the poor.

More Futuristic African Cities in the Works Development Challenges: It has been well documented that China is undergoing the largest migration in human history from rural areas to cities. But this urbanization trend is occurring across the global South, including in Africa, as well. According to the UN, more than half the world’s population already lives in cities, and 70 per cent will live in urban areas by 2050. Most of the world’s population growth is concentrated in urban areas in the global South.

African Infrastructure Dreams Back on Agenda Development Challenges: Africa’s patchy infrastructure is not keeping pace with the continent’s economic growth. Satellite photos of Africa at night show a place where light is concentrated overwhelmingly in the South – primarily South Africa – and in the North, with a sprinkling of lights on the west and east coasts (http://geology.com/articles/satellite-photo-earth-at-night.shtml).

Burgeoning African E-commerce Industry Full of Opportunity Development Challenges: Africa has seen huge change since 2000 in the way people access information and do business electronically. The most championed accomplishment has been the widespread take-up of mobile phones. This has given birth to countless entrepreneurs and innovators who are using  phones to help people, do business and sell goods and services.

African Innovators Celebrated in Prize Development Challenges: Innovation is increasingly being recognized as the key to tackling long-standing development problems in Africa, as well as across the developing and developed world. While it is easy to draw up a list of challenges facing the global South, it takes a special person to see not problems but solutions.

New Beer Helping to Protect Elephants Development Challenges: How to match the often conflicting goals of protecting animal habitats and supporting local economies? One clever solution may draw amusement but is actually a sharp marketing strategy to get attention for a product that is helping to preserve the elephants of Thailand’s Golden Triangle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Triangle_(Southeast_Asia).

Solar Solution to Lack of Electricity in Africa Development Challenges: Electricity is critical to improving human development and living standards. Yet, for many in the global South, electricity is either non-existent or its provision is patchy, erratic, unreliable or expensive.

US $1 Trillion Opportunity for Africa’s Agribusinesses Says Report Development Challenges: As the world’s population continues to grow – surpassing 9 billion people by 2050, the United Nations estimates – and more and more people move to urban areas, producing enough food to feed this population will be one of the biggest economic challenges and opportunities in the global South.

Kenya Reaches Mobile Phone Banking Landmark Development Challenges: Financial transactions and banking with mobile phones have been a Kenyan success story.

Online Education Could Boost African Development 
Development Challenges: Education is recognized as a major catalyst for human development. During a high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/mdgoverview.html) in 2010, UNESCO – the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – pointed out the necessity of making rapid gains in education if all the MDGs are to be achieved. The goals deadline is 2015 – just two years away.

African Digital Laser Breakthrough Promises Future Innovation Development Challenges:
 
For decades many African countries have experienced low investment in research and development (R&D) and scientific innovation. One of the few nations to benefit from a sophisticated university network and research and development sector was South Africa. It still ranks top on the continent for funding R&D and its high number of scientific journals.

Preserving Beekeeping Livelihoods in Morocco Development Challenges: The clever combining of tourism and long-standing beekeeping skills has revived a local craft and is also helping to preserve the ecology of Morocco. Beekeeping, or apiculture (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beekeeping), has two clear benefits. Bee products, including honey, beeswax, propolis, pollen and royal jelly can be a valuable source of income. The other benefit is the critical role bees play in the ecology by pollinating flowers and plants as they go about their daily business.

A New African Beer Helps Smallholder Farmers Development Challenges: Africa’s growth in the past decade has held steady despite the trauma of the global economic crisis and the tumult of the “Arab Spring” in several countries of North Africa. African economies are growing because of a number of resilient trends. These include growing regional trade links, greater investment in infrastructure and the remarkable rise of China to become Africa’s number one trade partner, pushing the United States to second place (Technology + Policy). This has given birth to a growing consumer marketplace and consumer class – some 300 million people earning about US $200 a month (Africa Rising).

Made-in-Africa Fashion Brand Pioneers Aim for Global Success Development Challenges: African fashion brands have not always been the first place fashionistas turned to when shopping for new clothes or shoes in developed economies. While Africa has long been a source of inspiration in contemporary and traditional fashion, the continent has had a weak reputation for manufacturing and selling mass market global fashion brands.

Kenyan Book Company Brings Online Sales to East Africa Development Challenges: The Internet has revolutionized retail sales in many developed countries – and nowhere more so than for booksellers. The ability to offer an almost unlimited supply of books through a website is revolutionizing the way people shop and giving life to books long out of print or by unknown authors.

African Innovation Helps Make Banking Transactions Safer Development Challenges: As economies grow in Africa, more and more people are conducting their financial transactions electronically. This can be either through mobile phones and digital devices, or through the hole-in-the-wall of the automatic teller machine, or ATM.

New Apps Make Driving and Travelling in Egypt Easier, Safer Development Challenges: Mobile phones are ubiquitous across the global South. They have spawned whole new business opportunities and changed the way people solve problems and find solutions.

Angolan Film Grabs Attention at Film Festival
 
Development Challenges: The power of the creative economy to transform lives, livelihoods – and perceptions – should never be underestimated. Creativity can transform the image of places and situations often seen in a negative light. A film from Angola is shining a light on the country’s music scene and showing the vitality of the nation in the wake of a long-running civil war.

Old Boats Become New Furniture in Senegal Development Challenges: Every country has its fair share of waste and the remnants of past economic activity. Old cars nobody wants, discarded tins of food, old plastic bags, spare copper wire, cast-off clothing – all can have a new life in the right hands.

3D Printing Gives Boy a New Arm in Sudan Development Challenges: 3D printing is rapidly going mainstream and is now starting to make a big impact in health care. One innovative solution is using the technology to manufacture artificial arms for amputees harmed by war in Africa.

African Hotel Boom Bringing in New Investment and Creating Jobs Development Challenges: Africa is experiencing a boom not seen for decades. The IMF forecasts economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa of 6 per cent in 2014, compared to global growth of 3.6 per cent.

The BRCK: Kenyan-Developed Solution to Boost Internet Access Development Challenges: Using the Internet in Africa has its challenges, as anyone who has worked there knows. Issues can include weak Wi-Fi signals, slow Internet service providers, electricity outages and power surges that can damage or destroy sensitive electronic devices.

Women Empowered by Fair Trade Manufacturer Development Challenges: There is sometimes a great deal of negativity surrounding the issue of manufacturing in Africa. Some claim the risks of doing business are too high or that the workers are not motivated enough. But one garment manufacturer is out to prove the skeptics wrong. It pays decent wages and gives its mostly female workforce a stake in the business in a bid to drive motivation and make it worthwhile to work hard.

Global South Trade Boosted with Increasing China-Africa Trade in 2013 Development Challenges: It was announced in January 2014 that China has surpassed the United States to become the world’s number one trading nation, as measured by the total value of exports and imports. This new economic behemoth also continued to grow its trade relationships with Africa.

“Pocket-Friendly” Solution to Help Farmers Go Organic Development Challenges: Interest in organic food and farming is high, and organics have become a growing global industry. The worldwide market for organic food grew by more than 25 per cent between 2008 and 2011, to US $63 billion, according to pro-organic group the Soil Association. That is an impressive accomplishment given the backdrop of the global economic crisis, and evidence that people value quality food, even in tough times.

Cheap Farming Kit Hopes to Help More Become Farmers Development Challenges: Food security is key to economic growth and human development. A secure and affordable food supply means people can meet their nutrition needs and direct their resources to improving other aspects of their lives, such as housing, clothing, health services or education.

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African Trade Hub in China Brings Mutual Profits

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

South-South trade is the great economic success story of the past decade. World Trade Organization (WTO) (www.wto.org) figures show South-South trade accounted for 16.4 percent of the US $14 trillion in total world exports in 2007, up from 11.5 percent of the total in 2000. While the global economic crisis has slowed things down, the overall trend is firmly established.

Trade between China and Africa has surged over the past decade since China joined the WTO in 2001, from around US $10 billion in 2000 to US $73.3 billion in 2007, registering a year-on-year increase of 32.2 percent. In 2008, it soared by 44.1 percent to reach a record high of US $106.84 billion, registering a year-on-year increase of 45.1 percent, according to Zhang Yongpeng of the Institute for West Asian and African Studies (IWAAS).

In the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guangzhou) , a trading hub nicknamed “Africa Town” has emerged since 1998. A conglomeration of buildings around the Xiaobei road in Yuexiu district of the city, it has been equated to the famous Chungking Mansions of Hong Kong (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chungking_Mansions) . There are officially 20,000 African traders and entrepreneurs in the city of 18 million, but unofficial estimates put the number at more than 100,000. This African trading hub has emerged to the benefit of both the Chinese and Africans. It is a coming together of small traders matching Africa’s strong demand for consumer goods with China’s manufacturing powerhouse.

The traders export generators, toys, mopeds, construction equipment and other products back to Africa. The traders act as go-betweens, bringing their local knowledge of African market demands to the Chinese manufacturers.

Citizens from over 19 African countries are represented, the majority from Nigeria.

“Almost 90 per cent of goods in African markets come from China, Thailand and Indonesia,” Sultane Barry, president of Guangzhou’s Guinean community, told the Globe and Mail newspaper.

Barry has an entire floor for business in a 35-storey building packed with shops, offices, freight-forwarding companies, African restaurants, hairdressers and furnished apartments for rent by the week.

“We’re not here for fun,” said Ibrahim Kader Traore, an entrepreneur from Ivory Coast. “We work hard and do well. In Abidjan, people still swear by France, where you might be able to save US $13,000 over 25 years; in China, you can have US $130,000 in just five years.”

A trading success story, the hub has run into problems over visas and the upcoming November Asian Games in Guangzhou, which is increasing identity checks.

“I sell more than 50 per cent of the output of my brother-in-law’s TV factory to Africans,” one saleswoman told the Globe and Mail. “We need them and I’m worried there are going to be fewer of them.”

Brought together by trade and mutual interest, both communities still have much to learn about each other. Relations have had their ups and downs and Africans can face discrimination.

But the trading relationship is teaching both sides important lessons. “The arrival of the Africans taught the Chinese how to look for business opportunities,” said Barry. “The secretaries we had here didn’t speak a word of English. Our presence started a craze for learning languages: English and French. The Chinese didn’t know the basic rules of international trade. They knew nothing about documentary credit. They paid for everything cash in hand.

“The Chinese people will soon realize that it’s better for business to deal directly with ordinary Africans.”

And the pressure is on to see who will keep trading relations with Africa positive. “The door to the Chinese market has only opened a crack, mostly because visa requirements are so tough,” said Zango, a trader from Mali.

Published: July 2010

Resources

1) A Financial Times report on Africa-China trade in 2010. Website: http://www.ft.com/reports/africa-china-trade-2010

2) An article about “Africa Town” from the official Guangzhou website. Website: http://www.lifeofguangzhou.com

3) Trade Winds: Guangzhou’s African Community by Graeme Nicol is a photo book about the community. Website: http://graemenicol.com/?page_id=115

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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India 2.0: Can the Country Make the Move to the Next Level?

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

With the global economic crisis threatening to cause turmoil in the emerging markets of the global South, it is becoming clear that what worked for the past two decades may not work for the next two.

For India, the legacy issues of poverty still need to be addressed, and the country’s impressive information technology (IT) industry – which has driven so much of India’s growth – will face stiff competition from other countries in the global South. Some argue that if the IT industry hopes to keep growing and contributing to India’s wealth, things will need to change.

Unlike China, where heavy investment in infrastructure and a strong link between government and the private sector has driven the impressive manufacturing boom in the country, in India the government has de-regulated and taken a back seat, leaving the private sector and entrepreneurs to drive the change and do the innovation.

Many believe various areas need urgent attention if India is to continue to enjoy good growth rates in the coming years. Areas in need of attention include infrastructure, healthcare and education (thesmartceo.in), in particular the knowledge to work in the information technology industry of the 21st century.

One of the founders of Indian outsourcing success Infosys (infosys.com), executive co-chairman Senapathy Gopalakrishnan, told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, “So many people’s lives have been changed by IT in India.

“People from the middle class and lower middle class have become global employees and have the opportunity to work with some of the best companies in the world. But the challenge for India is that this industry can only create so many jobs. IT is not going to solve the unemployment problem in India.”

But the coming next wave of change in information technology is an opportunity to be seized to reduce unemployment if enough people are educated to handle it.

According to Gopalakrishnan: “I strongly believe, and it’s backed up by data, that there is a shortage of computer professionals everywhere in the world, including India. The application of computers is growing dramatically and will continue to grow dramatically over the next 20 to 30 years. We have to train and create the workforce necessary to grow this industry.”

Various media stories have called this next phase India 2.0. If India 1.0 was the highly successful information technology outsourcing industry developed in the late 1980s, through the 1990s and 2000s, then India 2.0 is the next wave of IT innovation being driven by Big Data, automation, robotics, smart technologies and the so-called “Internet of things.”

Big Data is defined as the large amounts of digital data continually generated by the global population. The speed and frequency with which data is produced and collected – by an increasing number of sources – is responsible for today’s data deluge (UN Global Pulse). It is estimated that available digital data will increase by 40 per cent every year. Just think of all those mobile phones people have, constantly gathering data.

Processing this data and finding innovative ways to use it will create many of the new IT jobs of the future.

“We are living in a world which is boundary-less when it comes to information, and where there is nowhere to hide,” continues Gopalakrishnan, “If you have a cellphone, somebody can find out exactly where you are. Through social networks you’re sharing everything about yourself. You are leaving trails every single moment of your life. Theoretically, in the future you’ll only have to walk through the door at Infosys and we’ll know who you are and everything about you.”

Unlike in the late 1980s, when India was the pioneer in IT outsourcing for large multinational companies and governments, competition is fierce across the global South. The mobile-phone revolution and the spread of the Internet have exponentially increased the number of well-educated people in the global South who could potentially work in IT. China, the Philippines, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana are just some of the countries heavily involved in this area.

If India fails to meet the India 2.0 challenge, it risks seeing its successful companies and entrepreneurs leaving to work their magic elsewhere in Asia and the new frontiers of Africa, just as many of its best and brightest of the recent past became pioneers and innovators in California’s Silicon Valley.

India’s IT sector contributed 1.2 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 1998; by 2012, this was 7.5 per cent (Telegraph). The IT industry employs 2.5 million people in India, and a further 6.5 million people indirectly. IT makes up 20 per cent of India’s exports and, according to the National Association of Software and Services Companies (nasscom.in), the industry has revenue of US $100 billion.

India is now the IT and outsourcing hub for more than 120 of the Fortune 500 companies in the United States.

Out of India’s 3.5 million graduates every year, 500,000 are in engineering – a large pool of educated potential IT workers. India produces the world’s third largest group of engineers and scientists, and the second largest group of doctors.

IT has become a route that catapults bright Indian youth into 21st-century businesses and science parks and to the corporations of the world.

One visible example of the prosperity brought by IT services in India is the booming technology sector based in the city of Bangalore (also called Bengaluru) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bangalore).

Reflective of the contradictions of India, Bangalore has 10 per cent of its workforce now working in IT, but also 20 per cent of its population living in urban slums.

The nearby Electronics City (elcia.in) is considered “India’s own silicon valley and home to some of the best known global companies.”

To date, aspects of India 2.0 are already taking shape.

One company is called Crayon Data (crayondata.com). It uses Big Data and analytics to help companies better understand their customers and increase sales and deliver more personal choices.
Edubridge (http://acumen.org/investment/edubridge/) is helping to bridge the gap for rural youth with varied education backgrounds and long-term jobs. Edubridge trains youth for the real needs of employers to increase the chances they will get a job. This includes jobs in the IT business process outsourcing sector and banking and financial services.

Infosys is working on innovations for the so-called “Internet of things,” in which smart technologies connect everyday items to the grid and allow for intelligent management of resources and energy use. Infosys is developing sophisticated software using something called semantic analytics – which analyses web content (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_analytics) – to sort through social media and the Internet to track customer responses to products.

Elsewhere, former Infosys Chief Executive Nanden Nilekani is involved in a Big Data innovation to address the problem of social and economic exclusion of India’s poor. Called Aadhaar (http://uidai.gov.in/), the government-run scheme is gathering biometric data on every Indian to build the world’s largest biometric database. After being enrolled and having fingerprints and iris scans taken, each individual is given a 12-digit identification number. So far 340 million people have been registered with the scheme, and it is hoped 600 million will be registered by the end of 2014.

The idea is to use a combination of access to mobile phones and these unique ID numbers to widen access to all sorts of products and services to poor Indians, including bank accounts for the millions who do not have one. Many people, lacking any identity or official acknowledgment they exist, were prevented from engaging with the formal economy and formal institutions. Being able to save money is a crucial first step for getting out of poverty and it is hoped information technology will play an important role in achieving this.

Published: March 2014

Resources

1) India 2.0 by Mick Brown. Website: http://s.telegraph.co.uk/graphics/india2.0/part-one#top

2) Electronic City Bangalore: Regional information portal for Electronic City, an industrial technology hub located in Bangalore South, India. This portal is becoming the most favourite haunt of ECitizens living and/or working in Electronic City. Website: http://www.electronic-city.in/

3) Electronics City Industries Association: Welcome to the Electronics City, India’s own silicon valley and home to some of the best known global companies. Located in Bangalore, the Electronics City was conceived way back in the mid-1970?s as an Industrial Estate exclusively for Electronics Industries. Today the industrial estate boasts is an oasis of large, medium and small industries spanning software services, hardware; high end telecommunications; manufacture of indigenous components; electronic musical instruments, just  to name a few. Website: elcia.in

4) Godrej E-City: Situated in Electronic city and connected through NICE road and the elevated expressway, Godrej E-City brings your workplace and other major conveniences within your immediate reach. Your travel times become shorter and hassle-free. You have more time for your family and yourself. It’s time to move closer to happiness. Website: https://www.godrejproperties.com/godrejecity/overview

5) Infosys: Infosys is a global leader in consulting, technology and outsourcing solutions. As a proven partner focused on building tomorrow’s enterprise, Infosys enables clients in more than 30 countries to outperform the competition and stay ahead of the innovation curve. Website: http://www.infosys.com/pages/index.aspx

6) Tech Hub Bangalore: partnering with the UK India Business Council to establish TechHub in Bangalore.TechHub is a community and workspace for technology entrepreneurs with 1000’s of members, building the most exciting startups in Europe. We have physical community spaces in London, Manchester, Bucharest, Swansea and Riga and have members from over 50 countries.The Bangalore site will be part of a wider scheme in partnership with other British firms such as Rolls Royce, ADS, Bangalore Cambridge Innovation Network, BAe and PA Consulting with the aim of forging stronger links between the UK and India. Website: http://www.techhub.com/blog/techhub-expands-to-bangalore/

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.  

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022