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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.

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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

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Securing Land Rights for the Poor Now Reaping Rewards

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The hotly debated issue of land rights for the poor has never been more relevant. There is mounting evidence that access to land rights can catapult the poor out of poverty and spur growth for the economy. Experience in India and China is now showing the economic power unleashed when the poor gain full legal rights over their land. But it can be a thornier issue in Africa, where much land is still held under customary law, with people either holding it through their clan or tribe, or being considered as owners of where they live, without formal documents. Many countries are now adapting their laws to switch to a system of formal titles, but the process is very uneven and some question whether western-style property titles are appropriate in an African context.

While there are many schemes to alleviate or eliminate poverty through micro-credit, grants or aid, some believe the secret is in creating a sound framework of property rights, giving poor people important collateral to raise money against the value of the land on which they live. The Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, has calculated that the total value of informal urban dwellings and rural land owned under customary law is around three times greater than Africa’s entire gross domestic product and 100 times greater than its foreign direct investment.

But the urgency of this problem can be seen in the numbers of rural poor – many of whom will migrate to the world’s fast-growing cities. In China there are 800 million, in India the rural poor number 270 million and 70 percent of Africa’s 888 million (2005,UN) are rural poor.

The Rural Development Institute (www.rdiland.org), an NGO based in Seattle, Washington, USA – and with offices and projects in India, China, Indonesia, Russia, Africa – uses lawyers to advocate and fight for land rights for the rural poor. To date, RDI has helped provide land rights to more than 100 million poor families worldwide. Their approach is called micro-owning whereby the poor are helped to acquire land assets. These are often small plots of land – sometimes 1/10th acre – that can provide the nutritional needs for a family and help them on the road to the virtuous cycle of long-term, sustainable and generational poverty alleviation.

“Micro-ownership transforms the lives of the rural poor,” according to Radha Friedman, Associate Director, Development and Communication, just back from visiting RDI’s Indian projects. “Outside Bangalore in the state of Karnataka one woman who was landless worked two shifts a day in the hot sun. She was barely able to feed her children. She was making 8 to 10 rupees a day – when a bottle of water costs 10 rupees. We helped her secure a plot of land to grow jasmine flowers which she sells in the market. She now makes between 85 to 200 rupees a day. She can eat three times a day and her kids can afford to go to school. She said she had not thought about how far she had come, but it clearly showed she had such pride in what she had achieved. A number of Indian states have adopted this program, enabling people to purchase micro-gardens and micro-plots of land. It has been such a success that other Indian states are now showing interest.”

“All of this didn’t happen overnight,” said Lincoln Miller, Chief Operations Officer at RDI. “We conducted lots of research and surveyed the rural poor. We analyzed how the laws were affecting them. It took a long time to change government attitudes. We hopefully find a voice in the government who will listen to us. They need to recognize that land rights are one of the best routes out of poverty. In Africa we are primarily working in Burundi, Rwanda and Angola. In addition to working with government to change national policy and laws, we also conduct awareness-raising and education at the grassroots level, especially targeting women. Land rights are a political issue. The majority of the world’s poor is rural. By giving them land rights this process can help mitigate migration to the city.”

The benefits of owning land include improved family status, pride and hope, reduced hunger and improved family nutrition from crops produced on land , increased income from sale of excess production, improved rural health, including reduction in infant mortality and reduction in death from disease or infection due to malnutrition, labor-intensive and productivity-enhancing, investments in land motivated by secure land rights, increased family savings as a result of ability to invest in land improvements, ability of poor to benefit from any market increases in land values, enhanced capacity to conduct micro-enterprise activities, empowerment of women, and decreased pressure to migrate to already crowded urban areas.

However in South Africa, land rights have been further complicated by the legacy of apartheid. In 1994, 80 percent of farmland was in white hands. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) want to see 30 percent of that transferred to black ownership by 2015. Blacks are also able to claim ownership for land as long as they live on it.

The strong reaction against past experiments in collectivizing land can be understood in the experience of Zambia. Under President Kenneth Kaunda, everything was nationalized, from copper mines to corner shops. Average annual incomes almost halved in 40 years despite the country receiving more aid per head of population than virtually any other in the world.

Any organizations or individuals seeking land rights need only to contact the RDI by email to get the legal ball rolling.

Published: February 2007

Resources

  • The Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions tracks forcible evictions from land. In its latest global survey of forced evictions from 2003-2006 reveals that nearly 2 million people in Africa and over 2.1 million people in Asia and the Pacific have been forcibly evicted from their homes since 2003. http://www.cohre.org/
  • Based in Cape Town, South Africa, the Shack/Slum Dwellers International targets the plight of people living in semi-urban and urban areas: http://www.sdinet.org/
  • The Cities Alliance: Cities without Slums links together a global coalition of cities and their development partners committed to scaling up successful approaches to poverty reduction: http://www.citiesalliance.org/index.html
  • Rural Development Institute: Email: info@rdiland.org Website: http://www.rdiland.org

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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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

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Web 2.0: Networking to Eradicate Poverty

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The internet phenomenon of Web 2.0 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0) – the name given to the wave of internet businesses and websites such as YouTube (www.youtube.com), Facebook and MySpace transforming the way people interact with the ‘Net – has also given birth to two new development-themed social networking websites.

This powerful tool to bring people together is galvanizing the resources of entrepreneurs and those who want to help the poor like never before. The sites are becoming a new weapon in the fight to eradicate poverty.

Social networking websites use various tools and applications (or ‘apps’ for short) to enhance the ability of users to connect and get things done. By bringing together a community of like-minded people, they are able to shorten the time it takes to organize and kick-start events. Web 2.0 can be used to build communities and social and business networks. By being able to store vast quantities of information online, it becomes faster to work and reduces the painful delays brought on by slow connections.

All these new tools are making it easier and easier for entrepreneurs to work from home, in internet centres, or anywhere there is a wireless connection – and it is slashing the costs of managing a business. All the applications are online so there is no need to be hidebound by one operating system or hardware capability.

Two newly launched social networking sites are targetting the poverty-eradication community.

One is named after the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) concept as conceived by C.K. Prahalad. The BOP is the 4 billion people at the base of the global economic pyramid. As Prahalad sees it, they represent a vast market of unmet needs for entrepreneurs to tackle.

New social networking website BOP Source hopes to make the money meet the market. Started by Jenara Nerenberg, BOP Source wants to put social networking tools into the hands of the world’s poor. It is a place to post business ideas and collaborate with others to make them happen. It is also a tool to educate businesses about the BOP and what the poor need done. And it hopes to help NGOs broaden their relationships with their constituencies and companies.

While marketers can learn about the needs of the BOP, individuals can directly express their needs on the website and seek out the right people to solve problems.

Another social networking website is Business Fights Poverty. Already at 1,000 members, it is a multimedia offering, with podcasts, videos, interviews and discussions about the role of business in addressing development goals.

Published: November 2008

Resources

  • BOP Source is a platform for companies and individuals at the BOP to directly communicate, ultimately fostering close working relationships, and for NGOs and companies to dialogue and form mutually valuable public-private partnerships that serve the BOP. Website: http://bopsource.ning.com/
  • Business Fights Poverty: Business Fights Poverty is the free-to-join, fast-growing, international network for professionals passionate about fighting world poverty through good business. Website: http://businessfightspoverty.ning.com/
  • Afriville is a Web 2.0 service and an African Caribbean social network. Afriville is a community website along the lines of the famous MySpace. Users are free to message and post profiles. The difference is that the user is able to choose how closed or open the networks are. The site features a state of the art music management system which allows African and Caribbean artists to get straight in touch with their fans.
  • Both Yahoo! And Google offer extensive free online tools for entrepreneurs and businesses that integrate seamlessly with their email services.
  • Kabissa: Space for Change in Africa: An online African web community promoting and supporting the transition to Web 2.0 services in Africa. Offers lots of opportunities to meet people throughout Africa and learn more.
  • Global Voices: An initiative from the Reuters news agency to aggregate the global conversation online from countries outside the US and Western Europe.
  • Information, Knowledge and Communication: Web 2.0 in Development Cooperation Bonn, Germany, 27-28 November 2008, Gustav Heinemann Haus. Website: http://www.eadi.org/index.php?id=994
  • 3rd IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD2009). Website: http://www.ictd2009.org

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. 

Southern Innovator’s online archive portal was launched in New York City, U.S.A. (home to the UN’s headquarters) in 2011 (southerninnovator.org).
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Cash Machines for the Poor

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Access to basic banking services for the poor is weak at the best of times. Many are openly discriminated against as a ‘bad risk’ by banks, and denied the sort of banking services middle and higher income people take for granted. Yet it is a myth that the poor do not have money or do not wish to save and invest for their future or for business.

The so-called Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) – the four billion people around the world who live on less than US $2 a day – are being targeted by a wide range of businesses. Indian business consultant and professor CK Prahalad, the man who coined the term BOP, has gone so far as to claim this is a market potentially worth US $13 trillion, while the World Resources Institute puts it at US $5 trillion in its report, The Next 4 Billion.

And contrary to popular perception, the poor do have buying power, as has been documented by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professors Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo in their paper “The Economic Lives of the Poor”. Surveying 13 countries, they found those living on less than a dollar a day, the very poor, actually spent 1/3 of their household income on things other than food, including tobacco, alcohol, weddings, funerals, religious festivals, radios and TVs. The researchers also found that the poor increasingly used their spending power to seek out private sector options when the public sector failed to provide adequate services.

India, where 63 percent of the BoP market is rural and 304.11 million people are illiterate (Human Development Report), makes for a particularly tricky market to reach with bank machines: the average transaction is just 100 rupees (£1.25).

But a Madras-based company has come up with the Gramateller – a low-cost, blue-and-white bank machine custom-designed for the poor and illiterate. Vortex received funding of 2 million rupees (US $48,000) from an investment company, Aavishkar, that specializes in micro-venture capital — small sums for new business ideas. The advantage of micro-venture capital funding is its longer payback time: a young company does not get driven out of business by having to pay back the cash before the idea has been realized. Normally, venture capital helps a business to grow quickly but the venture capitalist wants to see an immediate profit on the investment.

Vortex’s chief executive officer, V.Vijay Babu, said: “The idea was conceived by Prof. Jhunjhunwala of IITM (Indian Institute of Technology Madras) in the course of an exploratory project focused on using ICT to deliver modern banking services to rural India.”

“It was found that branch-based banking is too expensive to be extended to remote rural locations where the volume and size of transactions are small. Using conventional ATMs (automatic teller machines) as a channel posed many difficulties because these ATMs were not built to operate in [illiterate] environments. Hence the need for developing an ATM specific to this context.”

Costing just a 10th as much to build as an ordinary cash machine, Gramateller has a fingerprint scanner for the illiterate, and is able to accept dirty and crumpled bank notes. Vortex came up with an ingenious solution to do this, said Babu: “Vortex developed a beltless dispenser design that in many ways mimics the way a human teller would pick and count notes.”

Vortex hopes to massively expand access to cash machines: at present, India has just 30,000 machines, or one for every 43,000 people (the US has a machine for every 1,000 people). These machines are being piloted with India’s biggest private bank, ICICI, and they have garnered interest from Indonesian banks as well.

“We are running pilots for two leading banks with about 10 ATMs,” said Babu. “Though it is still early, the initial response has been very encouraging – rural users find fingerprint authentication intuitive and simple and the ATM convenient and easy to use. A few users also gave feedback that our ATMs look less intimidating, maybe because it is placed in a non-air conditioned room with easy access and also is different in shape from a typical ATM.”

Furthermore the cash machines have taken a beating to see if they are robust enough for rural India: “The ATMs were tested for extended operating cycles under the harshest of environments that would prevail in the rural context — using soiled currencies, operating in non-air conditioned and dusty environments, subjecting the machine to typical fluctuations in line voltages and power outages. User-acceptance was tested by enlisting the participation of rural and semi-urban people to carry out test transactions.”

As for thieves getting their hands on the cash before the poor, Vortex maintains the machines will not become the victim of thieves: each machine will only carry a fifth of the money of city-dwelling bank machines.

Elsewhere in the South, a South African research and analysis company BMI-TechKnowledge (http://www.bmi-t.co.za/) in its latest report identifies a boom in banking services across Africa. In particular, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Mauritius, Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco – all have seen surges in profit and services as a result of improving banking regulations and political conditions. Maybe future markets for the Gramateller to reach Africa’s poor lie ahead?

Published: August 2008

Resources

  • Unleashing India’s Innovation: Toward Sustainable and Inclusive Growth, a report by the World Bank.
    Website: web.worldbank.org
  • xigi.net (pronounced ‘ziggy’ as in zeitgeist) is a space for making connections and gathering intelligence within the capital market that invests in good. It’s a social network, tool provider, and online platform for tracking the nature and amount of investment activity in this emerging market also referred to as blended value investing. xigi’s goal is to help this international emerging market to grow through market formation activities that guide and educate a growing wave of new money, while connecting it to the emergent entrepreneurs and deals on the internet.
    Website: http://www.xigi.net/
  • The new report Global Savings, Assets and Financial Inclusion by the Citi Foundation is packed with innovative approaches that are allowing the BoP (bottom of the pyramid) to use their income to build assets and more sustainable livelihoods.
    Website: http://www.newamerica.net
  • NextBillion.net: Hosted by the World Resources Institute, it identifies sustainable business models that address the needs of the world’s poorest citizens.
    Websites: http://www.nextbillion.net/ and World Resources Insitute

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