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The Power of the Word: African Blogging and Books

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

“Culture is not a luxury … Culture is the spiritual backbone of society”: with these words Jan Kees van de Werk, the Dutch poet and long-standing advocate of African literature, summed up the importance of culture to Africa’s development. Two trends could significantly alter the prospects for African writers in 2007: the new wave of African bloggers and websites that are now emerging, and the increasing awareness of African literature. More traditional writing is now being joined in 2007 by a surge in African blogging. As internet access has increased, and awareness of free blogging websites like WordPress has also shot up, Africans are jumping online to express themselves (see also Development Challenges, March issue).

African literature is gaining an ever-greater audience through high-profile prize-winning. From veteran Nigerian writer and UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador Chinua Achebe winning this year’s Man Booker International Prize, to best-selling French language authors like Ivorian Ahmadou Kourouma (Allah is not Obliged) and Albert Memmi, winner of the French Academy’s Grand Prix de la Francophonie. They are joined by many others gaining international acclaim, including Uganda’s Monica Arac de Nyeko – winner of the prestigious Caine Prize for African Writing – Nigeria’s Chris Abani (Graceland), Cameroon’s Calixthe Beyala (Lost Honor), Congolese writer Daiel Biyaoula (Alley Without Exit) and Mauritius’s Carl de Souza. The Salon International du Livre et de la Presse de Geneva has established the Ahmadou Kourouma Prize, and the new Book Show for African Literature, Press and Culture is scheduled for 2008.

Increasingly, the creative industries are gaining respect as a key part of a vibrant economy. The power of a successful author or musician to generate awareness and excitement about a country and its products, has gained the respect of many governments. And they are also learning to respect the wealth that can be generated. For example, in Britain the creative industries earn almost as much as the powerful financial sector (Work Foundation). The World Bank’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation, has singled out Africa’s creative sector for its future investment.

Blogger Titilayo Soremi in Abuja, Nigeria, is typical of the new wave. A business development officer for an NGO, her blog is a vivid snapshot of life in her country. Obed Sarpongin Accra, Ghana is a budding poet and does not shy away from thorny issues. In his current blog, he tackles domestic politics and writes about the on-again, off-again electricity supply. The secretive Kenyan banker known by the name Bankelele is a lover of new ideas judging by his blog. The content is a mix of financial tip-offs and upcoming business investment opportunities in the region, all stirred up with some rather frank thoughts on politics. He has also gone the extra mile and acquired sponsors for his blog (that banking experience is not going to waste).

The Internet age has also given birth to a new phenomenon: the so-called ”long tail” This is best explained by Kelvin Smith in his paper ‘African Publishers and Writers in British and International Markets’: “What now emerges is that more than half the revenue of Amazon is in the ‘bottom’ two million books on the list.

“So, the ‘Long Tail’ principle goes, we are now looking at a technology that can service the needs not of dozens of markets of millions, but millions of markets of dozens. This has great significance for the small publisher, whether that publisher is in a large publishing nation or in a country where publishing is a smaller scale activity.”

It looks as if getting creative is not only fun, it can be the next goldmine for Africa’s entrepreneurs.

Resources

Published: August 2007

Creative Commons License

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

Update: There is no better proof of concept than impact.

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

The story Nollywood: Booming Nigerian Film Industry, from UNDP e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions, cited in Innovation Africa: Emerging Hubs of Excellence edited by Olugbenga Adesida, Geci Karuri-Sebina, Joao Resende-Santos (Emerald Group Publishing, 2016).

Southern Innovator was published from 2011 to 2015 by the United Nations.

Team | Southern Innovator Phase 1 Development (2010 – 2015)

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

© David South Consulting 2021

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‘Jacked! | The Taking of the American Order

“We will be asking: is bribery business as usual at the UN?”, US Attorney Preet Bharara, October 2015

“If proven, today’s charges will confirm that the cancer of corruption that plagues too many local and state governments infects the United Nations as well.”, US Attorney Preet Bharara, October 2015

“Corruption at any level of government undermines the rule of law and cannot be tolerated. But corruption is especially corrosive when it occurs at an international body like the United Nations. By paying bribes to two U.N. ambassadors to advance his interest in obtaining formal support for the Macau conference center project, Ng Lap Seng tried to manipulate the functions of the United Nations. The sentence handed down today demonstrates that those who engage in corruption will pay a heavy price and serves as a reminder that no one stands above the law.”, Acting Assistant General John P. Cronan, May 2018

“It is important to send a message, to the people at the UN itself and to other institutions in this country, that perverting the decision-making or attempting to pervert the decision-making through bribes will not be tolerated.”, US District Judge Vernon Broderick, May 2018

It first came to light in 2015. Arrests by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) in New York – steps away from the headquarters of the United Nations – began a journey of discovery that led to a remarkable story of global order and power upended. Since World War II one country alone reigned supreme over the global economy and the rules and norms that underpinned it: the United States.

In this brief taster, I will flesh out what I have learned to date, framing it in the context of the post-WWII global order.

“We lead double lives. We deal in sex and beautiful women,” Burke’s Law, ‘Who Killed Alex Debbs?’, Episode aired 25 October 1963

Chapter One

The Strange Saga of ‘South-South News’ https://davidsouthconsulting.org/the-strange-saga-of-south-south-news/

It is a story that has it all: the gambling sin-bin of Macau, human and sex trafficking, bribery, corruption, money laundering, spies, and, if they are to be believed, naive UN officials hiding behind their laissez-passer passports who knew nothing about all of this but were happy to take the money for a five-star conference and a trip to China (and a free iPad). How the UN ended up in this quagmire leaves many puzzled and perplexed. Then there is a so-called “21st century” media service that really is a “conduit” for bribery and money laundering (and possibly fake news), and who to this day is still reporting from the United Nations.

May 2018 saw the ending of one chapter in the ongoing corruption saga surrounding the executives of South-South News and their alleged bribery and money laundering conduit targeting the United Nations (UN). On 11 May 2018 Ng Lap Seng was sentenced to 4 years in prison for being the ring leader of an elaborate, multi-year, multinational scheme to bribe UN officials and launder money into the United States.

On 28 February 2018 Jeff Yin received a seven-month prison sentence related to the corruption scandal that first erupted in September 2015, with the arrests in New York (home of the UN’s global headquarters) of his boss, Macau casino owner and businessman Ng Lap Seng and assistant, Yin, by the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). Foreign Policy called the case one of “The Worst Corruption Scandals of 2015”. Read the US Justice Department Docket here: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/fcpa/cases/ng-lap-seng-and-jeff-c-yin.

The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York at the time, Preet Bharara, released a flowchart showing how the alleged bribery scheme targeting the United Nations worked. A series of court trials followed for the various co-conspirators, including senior executives and board members for South-South News, culminating in the 27 July 2017 conviction of the alleged ring leader of the scheme, Macau casino billionaire Ng Lap Seng, on six counts “for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo“. He used the news service South-South News as a “conduit for bribery and money laundering” at the United Nations, according to the FBI, something admitted to by various co-conspirators in court and under oath.

“South-South staff found him to be ‘humble, very happy to host a meeting and become closer to the U.N.,’ said Inyang Ebong-Harstrup, deputy director of the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, a division of the U.N., who met Mr. Ng in August when she traveled to Macau.” The Wall Street Journal (9 October 2015)

Foreign Policy called the case one of “The Worst Corruption Scandals of 2015”.

In March 2015 UNOSSC Director Yiping Zhou (left) signed a cooperation agreement with the Sun Kian Ip Group of Macau to “set up a multi-partner trust fund to promote the cause of South-South Cooperation” (https://usanewsonline.com/2015/03/07/south-south-cooperation-and-chinese-sun-kian-ip-group-signs-cooperation-agreement/). In April 2015 UNOSSC Deputy Director Inyang Ebong-Harstrup (middle) met with the Chairman of the Sun Kian Ip Group, Ng Lap Seng, in Macau (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-n-team-had-cleared-group-at-center-of-bribery-case-1444432560). “Adam Rogers (right), an assistant director at the UN Office for South-South Cooperation [UNOSSC], said Ng made hosting that UN event possible.” (http://www.uniindia.com/us-charges-expected-in-un-corruption-probe-involving-macau-developer-source/international/news/225908.html). Sources: Statement Concerning the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, UNDP (May 5, 2016); United Nations Audit Raises Red Flag: Graft. Complimentary travel and free iPads. And moving project goalposts., Macau Business Daily, April 25, 2016.

Subsequent Roles

Yiping Zhou: Special Envoy of Director General of the World Women Organization/Chief Advisor of the WWO

Inyang Ebong-Harstrup: Chief of Partnerships, ID 2020

Adam Rogers: Board Member, ConnectAID

UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigation (OAI) recently published an Audit of UNOSSC which rated the Office ‘unsatisfactory’. The Audit makes 16 recommendations with the objective of improving UNOSSC’s effectiveness in the areas of: governance; programme and project activities; and operations.

US District Judge Vernon Broderick: “there was substantial damage done to the UN itself and the image of the UN”.

Read more from Canada’s CBC News: UN internal audit uncovers lapses tied to bribery scandal | Report highlights the need for greater transparency within the United Nations, officials say

“The United Nations’ internal investigations office has uncovered serious lapses and due-diligence failures in the world body’s interaction with organizations tied to an alleged bribery scheme involving a former UN General Assembly president.

The 21-page confidential report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services’ (OIOS), reviewed by Reuters, outlines the results of an audit ordered by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in response to charges against John Ashe, General Assembly president in 2013-2014, and six other people. …

It noted “important deficiencies” in the way United Nations and its staff interacted with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and oversees UN employees.

It is the biggest financial corruption crisis to rock the United Nations since the Oil-for-Food scandal hit the world body during the tenure of Ban’s predecessor Kofi Annan.” 

Chapter Two: Sustainable Bribery Goals

Chapter Three: Mr Rogers’ ‘Neighborhood’

The Networks

Network 1

Source: The Age, NOVEMBER 11, 2018.

Network 2

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 23, 2018. “Bribery Trial Spotlights China’s ‘Belt and Road’: Justice Department prosecutes pitchman for company key to Beijing’s global program”.

Network 3

Network More?

(Sources: Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Supreme Court of the United States)

Chapter Four: I Spy with My Little Eye

Chapter Nine: Pax Chaotica

Pax Chaotica: A Re-evaluation of Post-WWII Economic and Political Order

Chapter Ten: War, Peace & Development

War, Peace And Development | May 2018

Many books now chronicle the multiple facets of the bribery and money laundering network targeting the United Nations from 2010 via South-South News and other entities.

Further Reading

Books

From Baksheesh to Bribery: Understanding the Global Fight Against Corruption and Graft Edited by T. Markus Funk and Andrew S. Boutros, Oxford University Press, 30 May 2019

Chinese Spies: From Chairman Mao to Xi Jinping by Roger Faligot, Hurst, 2019

Historical Dictionary of Chinese Intelligence by I. C. SmithNigel West, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 5 February 2021

ONU: la grande imposture by Pauline Liétar, Albin Michel, 4 October 2017

Organized Crime and Corruption Across Borders: Exploring the Belt and Road Initiative Edited ByT. Wing Lo,Dina SiegelSharon Kwok, Routledge, 1 April 2021

Media Reports by Month and Year

The Strange Saga of ‘South-South News’ https://davidsouthconsulting.org/the-strange-saga-of-south-south-news/

In the Headlines

Legal Documents

What is the FCPA? “The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, as amended, 15 U.S.C. §§ 78dd-1, et seq. (“FCPA”), was enacted for the purpose of making it unlawful for certain classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business. Specifically, the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA prohibit the willful use of the mails or any means of instrumentality of interstate commerce corruptly in furtherance of any offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of money or anything of value to any person, while knowing that all or a portion of such money or thing of value will be offered, given or promised, directly or indirectly, to a foreign official to influence the foreign official in his or her official capacity, induce the foreign official to do or omit to do an act in violation of his or her lawful duty, or to secure any improper advantage in order to assist in obtaining or retaining business for or with, or directing business to, any person.”

The Docket

“As to §666, the Second Circuit
held that the statutory term “organization” covers not
only private organizations, but also quasi-sovereign
public international bodies like the UN
…”

Navigating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: The Increasing Cost of Overseas Bribery

“… corrupt payments to officers and employees of public international organizations are prohibited by the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. Public international organizations covered by the FCPA include, among others: the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, African Development Bank, Asian Development Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development,Inter-American Development Bank,International Maritime Organizations, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Finance Corporation, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Organization,Organization for African Unity,and the Organization of American States.” (Navigating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act: The Increasing Cost of Overseas Bribery by Robert C. Blume and J. Taylor McConkie)

FCPA Professor: Bribery Involving The United Nations (December 28, 2017)

“The United Nations has a number of anti-corruption initiatives. For starters, there is the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, it hosts the Conference of the States Parties (COSP) (the main policy-making body of the Convention), and the U.N.’s Global Compact states that “businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.”

Instead of looking outward, perhaps the United Nations should look more inward as several Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions … have involved U.N. officials or U.N. programs.”

JDSupra: Court to World: Yes, FCPA Is Still Sweeping

“Compliance officers may have seen news of a recent federal appeals court decision that upheld an expansive view of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement

One said the ruling might be “the tip of the iceberg” that heralds more individuals challenging FCPA enforcement. 

We rarely get appellate court rulings on the scope of the FCPA, so the case spurred numerous headlines. One said the ruling might be “the tip of the iceberg” that heralds more individuals challenging FCPA enforcement. 

For corporate compliance officers running entire programs, however, the case is just more of the same blizzard you’ve been enduring for years – trying to find a steady path forward. 

The case itself, U.S. v. Ng Lap Seng, is straightforward. A Chinese national, David Ng, was a wealthy real estate developer in Macau. In the early 2010s he bribed two United Nations officials by giving them sham consulting contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, in exchange for them trying to convince other U.N. officials to declare one of Ng’s convention centers the permanent home for a lucrative annual development conference. 

Eventually the scheme unraveled, and in 2017 a jury convicted Ng in federal district court of violating the FCPA. 

Ng appealed. He argued that any bribery prosecution must meet the high standards of an “official act” as spelled out in McDonnell v. U.S. — a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from 2016 that addresses cases of domestic bribery of U.S. government officials. Ng wanted that same standard to apply to FCPA cases involving bribery of foreign government officials.

Um, no. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Ng on Aug. 9, noting that the text of the FCPA defines the quid pro quo of bribery much more expansively than other parts of U.S. law that address domestic bribery. Therefore, the narrow standards of McDonnell don’t apply for FCPA prosecution.”

How to Report Corruption and Bribery at UNDP (United Nations Development Programme)

The Office of Audit and Investigations (OAI) “provides UNDP with effective independent and objective internal oversight that is designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of UNDP’s operations in achieving its development goals and objectives through the provision of internal audit and related advisory services, and investigation services.”  

They can be directly emailed here: reportmisconduct@undp.org

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2009: Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

2009

ISSN 2227-3905

December

Southern Art Hubs Grab Attention for Creative EconomyDevelopment Challenges: 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.

Afropolitan: African Fashion Scene Bursting with EnergyDevelopment Challenges: In the face of Congo’s civil strife, a group of very fashionable gentlemen bring colour and style to the country while also pioneering a way to make money and improve standards of dress in the country. Members of “La sape,” or La Societe des Ambianceurs et Personnes Elegantes (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Société_des_ambianceurs_et_des_personnes_élégantes) — the society of tastemakers and elegant people — wear designer fashions either bought in Europe, or handmade in Congo.

Brewing Prosperity Creates Good Jobs Development Challenges: In the Democratic Republic of Congo – home to the world’s largest United Nations peacekeeping mission and decades of bloody civil war – a brewery has not only survived, it has thrived to become a popular brand throughout central Africa. By being a success, the Brasimba brewery has brought prosperity and high-quality jobs to Congo’s second largest city, Lubumbashi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lubumbashi), and proven that a modern business can do well there despite the obstacles.

Digital Mapping to put Slums on the Map Development Challenges: People are now turning to the growing penetration of digital technologies into slums and poor areas to find solutions. With mobile phones available across much of the global South, and plans underway to expand access to broadband internet even in poorly served Africa, it is becoming possible to develop a digital picture of a slum area and map its needs and population.

November

Innovation Villages Tackling MDGs Development Challenges: The global economic crisis that began to roll across the world in September 2008 is threatening gains made against poverty and hunger all over the South. As Kevin Watkins from UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report told the Financial Times, “With the slowdown in growth in 2009, we estimate that the average income of the 391 million Africans living on less than US $1.25 a day will take a 20 percent hit.”

New Appetite for Nutritious Traditional VegetablesDevelopment Challenges: Throughout the history of farming, around 7,000 species of plants have been domesticated. Yet everyday diets only draw on 30 percent of these plants and even this number has been going down as more people consume mass-market foods (FAO).

African Countries Re-branding for New Economic RoleDevelopment Challenges: Africa’s diverse countries have been subject to years of negative stories in the media. The effect on global audiences has left many to cast the whole continent in a bad light and to know little about the individual countries and cultures. This has damaged business confidence over the years. Just like products and people, nations need to have a strong and positive brand to do well in the global economy.

Tiny Homes to Meet Global Housing Crisis Development Challenges: More than 1 billion people around the world lack decent shelter. Of these, the majority live in urban areas, usually in slums and informal settlements (UN-HABITAT). The world’s megacities – like Mumbai, India, where more than 22 million live in the metropolitan region – have to find a way to provide housing that is both affordable and does the minimum possible amount of harm to the environment.

Original Development Challenges newsletter, November 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/November-2009.268.0.html

October

Ending Gang Violence While Cleaning the Streets in HaitiDevelopment Challenges: The Caribbean nation of Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, with 80 percent of the population living below the poverty line (CIA World Factbook). The country had been enjoying some positive economic growth since 2005 after decades of economic and political turmoil.

Growing a Southern Brand to Global Success: The Olam Story Development Challenges: Most people haven’t heard of Olam International, but they know the brands they work for and they more than likely eat their produce. The story of Olam (www.olamonline.com) – a global food supply company in ‘agri-products’ that got its start in Nigeria – shows how a Southern brand can grow and go global, and overcome the difficulties of cross-border trade.

September

Making the World a Better Place for Southern ProjectsDevelopment Challenges: An exciting new initiative based in Germany, but already featuring hundreds of projects from across the South, is using the power of the internet to directly connect projects and donors.

Bamboo Becomes Transport Option for the SouthDevelopment Challenges: The sturdy bamboo plant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo) is enjoying a revival around the world as a building material. A strong, fast-growing and highly renewable woody plant, it is becoming increasingly popular as people seek out less environmentally wasteful alternatives to steel and other materials.

Kenyan Mobile Phone Innovations Development Challenges: A couple of enterprising Kenyan engineering students are showing how mobile phones are an inventor’s dream. Their two inventions – one a way to re-charge phones while bicycling, the other an aid for catching fish – show the potential for adapting this technology to the needs of the poor.

Info Ladies and Question Boxes: Reaching Out to the PoorDevelopment Challenges: Quick access to accurate and useful information is crucial for development. With the remarkable spread of information around the world via the Internet – one of the greatest achievements of the 21st century – more than 1.5 billion people now use the Web to boost their incomes and opportunities (Internet World Stats).

Original Development Challenges newsletter, September 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/September-2009.262.0.html

August

Avoiding Wasting Food and Human Potential with ICTsDevelopment Challenges: Creative use of information technology in the South is helping to address two very different kinds of waste – of food and of human and community potential.

Toilet Malls Make Going Better Development Challenges: Across the global South, clever entrepreneurs are transforming services that were bare-bones, grim and out-of-date into modern facilities packed with features that help to pay for their operation. In Kenya, an entrepreneur has used this approach to transform the poor quality of public toilets.

African Ingenuity Attracting Interest Development Challenges: At this August’s Maker Faire Africa gathering (http://makerfaireafrica.com/) in Accra, Ghana, African pioneers in grassroots innovation offered inspiring inventions.

July

Crowdsourcing Mobile Phones to Make the Poor MoneyDevelopment Challenges The proliferation of mobile phones across the global South, reaching even the poorest places on the planet, has given birth to whole new ways of making money. A phenomenon called ‘crowdsourcing’ – in which the power of individuals is harvested to achieve a goal – is now being used to create networks of people earning extra income.

Tourist Passion for Quirky Holidays Helps SouthDevelopment Challenges:Conventional thinking holds that any country with a poor or non-existent reputation in the international media will not attract tourists. But this conventional thinking is wrong: The hottest tourist trend for 2009 is directly benefiting the South’s more out-of-the-way and under-appreciated countries. So says a travel expert who specializes in overlooked travel destinations.

Protecting Threatened Fruits and Nuts in Central AsiaDevelopment Challenges: Between 94,000 and 144,000 plant species — a quarter to a half of the world’s total — could die out in the coming years, according to an estimate by Scientific American (2002). Among them are vital food crops, threatened by a world in which climate change is causing more weather turbulence and diseases and viruses can spread rapidly and destroy crops.

African Theatre Becomes European Success Development Challenges: In Britain, the country that gave the world the plays of William Shakespeare (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Shakespeare), a new creative force has taken stages by storm: African theatre. And it is proving how economically rewarding Southern culture can be.

Southern Drink Challenges Corporate DominanceDevelopment ChallengesAcross the global South, its thirsty people have long been a target market for Northern drinks companies. The ubiquity of the American soft drink Coca Cola, or even its rival Pepsi Cola, is testimony to that. Even the most remote village on the impoverished island of Haiti can offer an ice-cold Coke.

Original Development Challenges newsletter, July 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/July-2009.261.0.html

June

Kenyan Eco-Village Being Built by Slum-DwellersDevelopment Challenges: A Kenyan eco-village is helping slum dwellers to start new lives and increase their wealth. The community, Kaputei, is being built by former slum residents – some of whom used to beg to survive – and is providing new homes with electricity, running water and services like schools and parks. By building their own homes, with the help of affordable mortgage loans, the residents are able to make a big upgrade to their quality of life while acquiring real wealth.

Taxis Promote African Music Beats Development Challenges: South Africa’s township music is pounding its way into the global music charts. How has music made in the impoverished townships that are a hangover from decades of apartheid – the country’s former racial separation laws, which trapped millions of black South Africans in disenfranchisement and poverty – travelled around the world? By hitching a ride with the country’s ubiquitous taxi drivers.

Successful Fuel-Efficient Cookers Show the WayDevelopment Challenges: Kenyan entrepreneur has cooked up a fuel-efficient stove and oven that uses less of a precious national resource: wood from trees. Most African households using fuel-burning stoves either cannot afford clean-burning fuels like natural gas or electric stoves, or do not have access to them. They are stuck having to burn wood or other materials like animal dung – collectively called biomass – on open fires.

A New Mobile Phone Aimed at the Poor Development Challenges: A low-cost Venezuelan mobile phone aimed at the South’s poor is proving that South-South technological cooperation works. Packed with features and costing no more than US $15 – making it one of the cheapest mobile handsets in the world – the phone is aimed at the fast-growing mobile market across the global South.

Original Development Challenges newsletter, June 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/June-2009.260.0.html

May

African Online Supermarket Set to Boost TradeDevelopment Challenges: African Online Supermarket Set to Boost Trade Online retailing and marketing strategies are revolutionizing how people around the world buy products and services – but so far they have not benefited most of Africa’s small businesses and traders. On a continent where trading for survival is the norm, very few people are reaping the benefits of selling on the Internet.

Rebuilding After Chinese Earthquake: Beautiful Bamboo Homes Development Challenges: It has been a year since the May 12, 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China that killed more than 70,000 people. Getting Sichuan back to normal is critical for not only the province’s people, but for all of China. Sichuan is China’s rice bowl, growing more food than any other province. But despite the abundance of food, Sichuan remains poor and has seen its working age population move away for work. If it is to have a viable future then its communities need to get back to normal as fast as possible – and its farming economy back to full production.

SOS Shops Keep Food Affordable for Poor, UnemployedDevelopment Challenges: As the global downturn bears down on country after country, governments around the world are introducing austerity measures to try to keep their economies going. Many countries are now facing financial crisis and the need for loans and support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Formerly comfortable people are going from regular employment to unemployment or erratic employment, and growing numbers of people are finding it hard even to afford basics such as food.

Cleaner Stoves To Reduce Global Warming Development Challenges: The use of polluting fuel-burning stoves by half the world’s population – including 80 percent of rural households – is a documented contributor to a host of health problems. Poor households not only have to contend with the ill health effects of dirty water and poor sanitation, the fumes from burning dung, wood, coal or crop leftovers lead to the deaths of more than 1.6 million people a year from breathing toxic indoor air (WHO).

Original Development Challenges newsletter, May 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/May-2009.256.0.html

April

Solar Powered Village Kick-Starts Development GoalsDevelopment Challenges: More than 1.7 billion people around the world have no domestic electricity supply, of whom more than 500 million live in sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank). Without electricity, many development goals remain dreams that will never be achieved. But in a first for India, a village is now entirely powered by solar energy, kick-starting its development and reversing the decline common to many villages.

Rainforest Gum Gets Global Market Development Challenges: Mexico is home to the second largest rainforest in the Americas after the Amazon jungle. But the country’s forests face serious threats from logging, cattle ranching and agriculture. As much as 80 percent of Mexico’s original forests have already been lost. A group of Mexican farmers is now using sophisticated product marketing to preserve their income, and the 1.3 million hectares of rainforest as well.

Disabled Congolese Musicians Become World HitDevelopment Challenges: A group of Congolese musicians is using music to overcome obstacles – both economic and social – that come with being disabled in a poor country. Called Staff Benda Bilili, they are on course to be a global sensation and are looking forward to their first European tour. A remarkable achievement for anyone from a war-torn country, let alone for musicians who live as paraplegics in the slums of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinshasa).

Camel Ice Cream Delivering Desert Dessert Development Challenges: The global food crisis is forcing people around the world to think differently about how food is produced and what new products can boost the incomes of farmers. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for food production to increase 50 percent by 2030 just to meet rising demand – and right now there are 862 million people worldwide who are undernourished (FAO). The world’s over 19.4 million camels (FAO, 2003) are now being tapped for their highly nutritious, healing and tasty milk.

Original Development Challenges newsletter, April 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/April-2009.257.0.html

March

Finding Fortune in Traditional Medicine Development Challenges:Traditional medicines and treatments could help provide the next wave of affordable drugs and medicines for the world. But a phenomenon known as ‘bio-prospecting’ – in which global companies grab a stake in these once-free medicines – has been placing traditional medicines out of reach of Southern entrepreneurs.

Accessing Global Markets Via Design SolutionsDevelopment Challenges:The power of design to improve products and the way they are manufactured is increasingly being seen as a critical component of successful economic development.

Berber Hip Hop Helps Re-ignite Culture and EconomyDevelopment Challenges: Music is being used to revive the ancient language of the original North African desert dwellers, the Berbers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_people). And in the process, it is spawning a whole new generation of entrepreneurs and generating income.

Cashing in on Music in Brazil Development Challenges:Brazilian musicians have found a way to prosper and exploit the realities of music distribution in the modern age. The biggest problem for most artists – both beginners and those who are more established – is how to earn an income from their work. In the digital age, it is next to impossible to stop people freely copying your work and passing it on.

Original Development Challenges newsletter, March 2009:http://ssc.undp.org/March-2009.233.0.html

February

Cuba’s Hurricane Recovery Solution Development Challenges: The frequency of extreme weather in the past decade has been attributed to global warming (http://tinyurl.com/5peel). Many scientists believe the future will bring even more turbulent weather events and disasters. The devastation and hardship brought by natural disasters can eradicate development gains, and destroy livelihoods and health. It is critical countries help people to get back to their normal lives as fast as possible.

Afghanistan’s Juicy Solution to Drug Trade Development Challenges:Afghanistan is the world’s largest source of the illegal drugs opium and heroin (International Narcotics Control Board), both of which are derived from the bright-red flower, the poppy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poppy).The country produced 8,200 tons of heroin in 2007, up 34 percent from the previous year.The negative consequences of the flourishing drug trade are numerous: it is destabilizing Afghanistan’s neighbours and undermining political and legal institutions, addiction rates are soaring, and addicts are spreading HIV/AIDS.

DIY Solution Charges Mobile Phones with BatteriesDevelopment Challenges: There are now more than 3.5 billion mobile phones in use around the world. In the past five years, their use and distribution has exploded across the global South, including in once hard-to-reach places in Africa. In fact, Africa is the world’s fastest growing mobile phone market. Over the past five years the continent’s mobile phone usage has increased at an annual rate of 65 percent – twice the rate of Asia.

African Bus to Tackle African Roads Development Challenges: Roads in many parts of Africa are rough at best, and hostile to vehicles designed with smooth, flat highways in mind. Even in countries like South Africa, where modern highways are common, a quick turn off the smooth highway to visit many communities will mean tackling makeshift dirt roads. In these conditions, buses imported from Western Europe are at a disadvantage when they hit the bone-jarring reality of potholed roads.

January

Debt-free Homes For the Poor Development Challenges:As the population around the world’s cities grows, and slums grow larger and more prevalent, the urgent need for affordable and decent housing becomes more pressing. The world’s megacities – like Buenos Aires, Argentina, where more than 13 million live in the metropolitan region – have to find a way to provide housing that is both cheap and does the minimum possible amount of harm to the environment.

Rickshaw Drivers Prosper with New ServicesDevelopment Challenges:The rickshaw is the world’s oldest form of wheeled transportation and forms a significant part of India’s transport infrastructure. In large cities across Asia, 1 million three-wheeled auto-rickshaws form an important means of daily transportation and a vital source of income for their drivers. There are 8 million cycle rickshaws on the streets of India, the government says. They perform many tasks: as taxis, as couriers, as goods movers. And the Indian government promotes cycle rickshaws as a non-polluting alternative.

Venezuela’s Currencies Promote Cooperation Not Competition Development Challenges: The global economic crisis has spread around the world and is bringing many problems in its wake. As global currency markets gyrate wildly, and people find they can go from having wealth to being poor almost overnight, the question is being asked: “is there another way?”

Kenyan Bank Helps the Poor and Gets Rich Development Challenges: Good quality banking services are a basic building block to rising incomes. Yet the poor across the South are often overlooked and denied access to savings accounts and loans. Many low-income people are openly discriminated against as ‘bad risks’ 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.

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Development Challenges, South-South Solutions Newsletter

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.

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: http://ssc.undp.org/index.php?id=66

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: developmentchallenges@googlemail.com.

Contact me by email about the new global magazine Southern Innovator here: southerninnovator@yahoo.co.uk

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.

“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.

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

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

© David South Consulting 2021