2011 Trends for the South

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


The world has been through a dramatic and fascinating period since the global economic crisis erupted in 2008. While the wealthy, developed nations of the North have been pitched into one crisis after another, the countries of the global South (many of whom are well accustomed to crises) have been part of a powerful new economic phenomenon: the rapid growth of South-South trade, investment and exchange. Its effects include stronger ties between Asia and South America and between China and Africa.

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

South-South trade made up 20 percent of global exports by 2010, and foreign direct investment to developing economies rose by 10 percent in 2010 due to a rapid economic recovery and increasing South-South flows.

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

The surge is remarkable and recent. For example, according to accountants KPMG, between 2001 and 2009 China invested just US $215 million in Brazil. But in 2010, China invested US $20 billion in energy and chemical companies in Argentina and Brazil. And Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Inter-American Development Bank, told the Financial Times that “seven percent of Colombian gasoline has been replaced by domestic ethanol, produced with green Indian technology – while Indian companies, including Infosys and Tata, now have 17,000 employees in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

This jump in investment has also had its downside: coming fast and furious as investment cash chases better investment profits in the global South, it has pushed up inflation and commodity prices and spawned property speculation bubbles. This, as can be seen across North Africa and the Middle East, can lead to political and social instability.

A review of the big trends bubbling under the surface in 2011 shows how important South-South exchange will be in alleviating poverty and improving lives in the run-up to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals ( It also shows up the dangers inherent in this new environment – rising inflation without economic growth can crush the poor. A focus on innovation and new thinking will be necessary to get through this year and beyond.

Some of the top trends that will have a big impact in 2011 are:

– Inflation: In 2011 it looks like we will hear a lot about inflation. As the global economy tries to stabilize and return to growth, there will be inflation surges for a wide variety of reasons. People will need strategies and new techniques to make sure they can afford the necessities of life. This will be critical if development gains from the past decade are not to be lost.

– Super cycle: Some are putting forward the theory we are entering a ‘super cycle’ ( created by better connectivity, global travel and mobility and the ease of moving around investment to create businesses and jobs. The super cycle theory claims that this will spark the greatest period of human development in history – raising all national economies – as more and more people benefit from rising living standards and opportunities.

– Switch to South-South trade: With the trend of increasing South-South trade now firmly established, there is a greater awareness now of the power of sharing ideas across the South. One example of this idea-sharing is the annual Global South-South Development Expo ( run by UNDP’s Special Unit for South-South Cooperation Unit (

– New technologies: The spread of new technologies around the world will continue and bring many changes. Africa is seeing increasing access to high-speed Internet as new undersea cables are laid around the continent. Mobile phones will continue to be a critical tool for many to stay in touch and boost incomes.

– MDGs on horizon in 2015: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target of 2015 is just four years away. This will face the headwinds of the global economic crisis and urgent attention will be needed to make sure gains are not lost as 2015 approaches. The role played by South-South trade will be a critical partner in aiding goal achievements.

– Cities: A surge to the urban was pronounced by 2007 and we are now living in a majority urban world. Innovation and sharing experiences and knowledge will play a key role in ensuring this is not a disaster. A recent book, Arrival City by Canadian journalist Doug Saunders, detailed this urban surge occurring across the global South, the largest movement of people to cities and urban and semi-urban areas in human history. It follows the pattern that was seen in Europe in the 19th century, as economies change and people seek the new opportunities promised by cities, or find rural economies unsustainable.

– The China model of development: The big talking point will be China’s economic model for eradicating poverty on a mass scale. A new book by Dambisa Moyo, How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly – And the Stark Choices Ahead, investigates the mistakes made in developed, Western nations and what can be learned from the experiences in the global South.

– Food crisis: At the beginning of February, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) issued a warning about the risk of a new global food crisis after its food price index reached a record high in January 2011. The FAO also issued an alert about severe drought in China, the world’s largest wheat producer. Flooding in Brazil and Australia have also devastated crops, much of which are exported to countries across the South. There is also risk to crops from flooding in southern Africa. Wheat, corn and soybean prices are rising, and prices reached a peak just as they did in 2008 (FAO).

Even developed countries normally used to food surpluses are at risk. In the US, corn reserves are at a 15 year low (US Department of Agriculture), and the price of corn has doubled in past six months.

A billion people go to bed hungry every night; someone starves to death every 3.6 seconds – 75 percent are children under five, according to the World Food Programme (

Published: 2011

1) Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture: A data mix tracking global food prices and situation reports. Website:
2) World Bank Food Crisis blog: Website:
3) Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa: “Building capacity to help Africa trade better”: tralac’s mission is to build trade law capacity in southern Africa so that these countries can participate effectively in the global economy; to negotiate trade agreements that will support their development objectives, and so that they can implement the agreements to ensure that they realise the potential benefits of international trade. Website:
4) Future Forum world videos: Compelling animated videos exploring the hard choices of an urbanizing world and the need to promote sustainable development and environmental harmony. Website:

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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Global South Trade Boosted with Increasing China-Africa Trade in 2013

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


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.

US exports and imports of goods totaled US $3.82 trillion in 2013, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. China’s annual trade in goods passed US $4 trillion for the first time in 2013 (Guardian).

Zheng Yuesheng, a spokesman for China’s customs administration, told The Guardian that becoming the world’s number one trading nation was “a landmark milestone for our nation’s foreign trade development.”

Significantly for Africa, 2012 was also a record year for China-Africa trade, which reached 5 per cent of China’s total foreign trade and made up 16 per cent of all of Africa’s international trade, according to a new report from South Africa.

Consultancy Africa Intelligence (, a South African-based organization with more than 200 consultants focused on “expert research and analysis on Africa” highlights the achievements of this strong trade relationship – and also some of its threats and weaknesses – in its report.

Trade between China and Africa has surged during the decade since China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) ( in 2001, rising from around US $10 billion in 2000 to US $198.49 billion in 2012, according to China’s Ministry of Commerce. Ambitiously, it could reach US $300 billion by 2015, announced Cheng Zhigang, secretary-general of the China-Africa Industrial Cooperation and Development Forum ( (China Daily).

China’s trade and poverty reduction.

The World Bank reported South-South trade now surpasses South-North trade, meaning exports from developing countries to other developing countries exceed exports to wealthy developed countries. South-South trade experienced rapid growth in the 2000s, accounting for 32 per cent of world trade by 2011 (World Bank).

South-South trade and investment between Africa and lower-income and middle-income developing countries rose from 5 per cent in the 1990s to almost 25 per cent in 2010 (Consultancy Africa Intelligence). Before the 1990s, over 90 per cent of trade for Africa was with high-income or developed countries.

China is attractive as a trade partner for many reasons. One of them is the strong admiration for its success in lifting millions out of poverty through an aggressive growth strategy and rapid urbanization with big investments in education, science, technology, infrastructure – modern airports, ports, roads and rail – and research and development.

Since 1978, it is believed China has lifted 500 million people out of poverty, out of a population of 1.3 billion people (World Bank). Incomes have doubled every 10 years with average GDP growth of 10 per cent a year, meaning the country has almost reached all the Millennium Development Goals.

Building a trade relationship with China has led to Zambia’s copper mines running again, Gabon’s oil fields being re-explored, and Sudan becoming a major oil exporter to China. Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo and South Africa are all benefiting from exporting commodities to China.

The relationship has not been entirely beneficial, according to the Consultancy Africa Intelligence report. Some African industries, such as textiles, have suffered from competition with cheaper Chinese imports, leading to factory closures and job loses.

Non-commodity exports from Africa to China amounted to just 10 per cent of the trade total. Many of the contracts signed for projects also go to Chinese companies, the report found.

Renewed concern has also emerged over rising debt levels in Africa.

In summary, the report finds a growing trade relationship with China has brought to Africa commodity booms, growing GDP (gross domestic product), and lots of foreign investment. On the negative side of the ledger, there have been job loses due to cheaper imports, rising personal and government debt levels and an over-dependence on minerals for economic growth.

Across Africa, new infrastructure has emerged where it probably would not have come about under the continuing debt burdens from the 1970s and 1980s. The continent has received a shot of energy, but it remains to be seen whether governments can sustain this  economic jolt and make the wise choices that create African jobs and build liveable cities for the 21st century.

Published: March 2014


1) Global South-South Development Expo: The Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) is the only Expo solely from the South and for the South. It showcases successful Southern-grown development solutions (SDSs) addressing the need to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Website:

2) World Trade Organization (WTO): There are a number of ways of looking at the World Trade Organization. It is an organization for trade opening. It is a forum for governments to negotiate trade agreements. It is a place for them to settle trade disputes. It operates a system of trade rules. Essentially, the WTO is a place where member governments try to sort out the trade problems they face with each other. Website:

3) Djibouti Free Zone: Djibouti Free Zone was created with one primary goal in mind – to bring about a sea-change in the way Africa thinks and does business. No red tape, ruthless efficiency and genuinely exhaustive services – in essence, it offers the ideal conditions for trade and commerce to flourish. Website:

4) Forum on China-Africa Cooperation: Keep up with the busy diplomatic and trade contacts between China and African countries. Website:

5) China-Africa Cooperation Net: China-Africa Industrial Forum (CAIF) is the collective dialogue and cooperation mechanism that was set up by both China and friendly African countries in the year 2000. Website:

China has been a member of the WTO (World Trade Organization) since 11 December 2001. The World Trade Organization deals with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible. 
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South-South Trade Helping Countries During Economic Crisis

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013


Weathering the global economic crisis is testing the stability of countries across the global South. But many countries are finding South-South trade and catering to their domestic middle classes can lift incomes and maintain growth rates despite the global turmoil.

A decade of boom in global markets as they became more integrated has brought rising incomes and created growing economies in the so-called emerging markets of the global South. Finance and investment from developed countries flowed into the global South and helped bolster growing economies, boosting incomes and bringing millions of people into the middle classes. But since the start of the global economic crisis in 2008, more and more countries in the global South have experienced turmoil, chaos and crisis.

The export-driven model that had served many Asian countries well – creating products for developed Western markets – is being tested by high unemployment in developed economies and declining purchasing power for the Western middle classes. Two trends that have grown in the past 10 years may offer a solution to this economic crisis. One is to build on the growth in South-South trade, and the other is to tap the growing middle classes of the global South by expanding the products and services available to them and further improving their quality of life.

It is well established that one of the key elements to securing sustainable prosperity is a thriving middle class. Middle classes in many countries in the global South are still classified as vulnerable – at risk of returning to poverty if the economy experiences a short-term crisis. Their resilience to an economic downturn needs to be strengthened, and this can be done by improving the quality of products and services available to them.

Building this market can also strengthen domestic job growth and help reduce a country’s dependence on imports.

One country facing up to this challenge is Indonesia. The New York Times recently reported that ports in Indonesia and other resource-exporting countries are quiet, as China’s demand for resources slows.

But while export markets are experiencing a slowdown, investment is going into Indonesia’s agricultural food-processing industry. Agricultural multinational Cargill ( is building a cocoa-bean processing plant in the country, and the PT. Suprama ( instant-noodle factory is running at full capacity to meet the needs of the country’s growing middle class.

Many countries have experienced significant inflows of investment money as a result of stimulus measures led by the United States Federal Reserve ( to counter the economic contraction caused by the global economic crisis. This money, however, is uncertain and can just as easily disappear as it leaves to chase the next opportunity. Wise countries take measures to avoid being dependent on this fickle and fast investment funding.

Unlike in the Asian Crisis of 1997-1998 (, many emerging-market countries now have large foreign currency reserves and robust stock markets. They have also built up their middle classes and increased consumption. Trade links with other countries in the global South have grown enormously since the late 1990s. For example, the trade between China and Africa, as announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping ( in early 2014, has surpassed US $200 billion for the first time, turning China into Africa’s largest trading partner

The relationship between trade and poverty reduction, the case of China.

Despite a raging global crisis, in many emerging economies domestic spending is holding up and, in some cases, has never been stronger.

China now plays a key role in maintaining global economic demand. According to the global bank HSBC, Chinese growth adds “twice as many dollars to annual global demand as growth in the United States economy and far more than the economies of the European Union.”

An article in The New York Times ( suggested that global South countries can benefit from these trends by becoming an alternative to China’s “own increasingly high-cost producers of coal, aluminum, and other minerals” – as well as of clothing, shoes and electronics.

China is also in the process of altering its economy, from being the low-wage workshop of the world to an increasingly high-tech, high-value economy with growing science, technology and innovation sectors buoyed by heavy investment in research and development, for example China’s Xi’an Hi-tech Industries Development Zone ( As China changes, other countries can step in and replace the industries that no longer find China an affordable place to manufacture their goods.

As an example, the Indonesian vice minister of trade, Bayu Krisnamurthi, announced that the Foxconn Technology Group of Taiwan (, which makes components and assembles devices for the popular Apple ( computer brand, is looking to set up a large factory in Indonesia.

“The other brands will come in their footsteps,” Krisnamurthi told The New York Times.

Other countries are bucking the crisis trend and using greater freedom to boost economic growth.

Cuba has been able to bounce back with free-market reforms. The Caribbean island has had its ups and downs economically since its revolution in the late 1950s. After the revolution, the country had several decades of impressive human development gains and built up enviable education and health care systems. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the country lost its trade relationships and subsidies and was pitched into a major economic crisis.

During the Cold War, the USSR hoovered up almost all of Cuba’s exports of sugar, nickel and citrus fruit, and sold Cuba two-thirds of its food and 98 per cent of its fuel.

What was termed the “special period” after the collapse of the Soviet Union saw petrol become scarce. Many had to turn to cycling and walking to get around. Factories closed and food production declined.

One estimate by Hal Klepak of the Royal Military College of Canada, reported in The Observer newspaper, found the economy collapsed by 50 per cent in the five years to 1993.

Since then, Cuba has endured significant austerity and has struggled to regain its trade relationships and restore economic growth. Tourism has played a key role in keeping the country going.

And since 2008, various economic reforms have started to shift the economy away from over-dependence on the state and towards a more mixed market model.

Its capital, Havana, is a UNESCO world heritage site and is a popular tourist destination with one of the best-preserved former Spanish colonial architecture in the Caribbean.

When President Raul Castro took over from his brother Fidel, he began to slowly experiment with reforms to test how much market freedom could boost the economy and increase incomes. This has included allowing paladares, or privately-run restaurants, which are now flourishing and benefiting from the steady flow of tourists to the island.

The state now allows people to set up as independent traders in 200 occupations. Some have established entertainment businesses such as paint balling, others are running bars, or bookshops. It is now possible to easily change money in Havana and to find accommodation in private homes. Cash machines are spreading throughout the capital and more and more businesses will accept credit cards.

Registered businesspeople rose from 157,000 in October 2011 to more than 442,000 in 2013.

By being flexible, it is possible to discover new ways to grow economies and increase incomes, even in hard times. And increasing South-South trade is the way to go.


1) The China Africa Project: The China Africa Project is a multimedia resource dedicated to exploring every aspect of China’s growing engagement with Africa. Website:

2) China’s trade and investment in Africa: Resources to contribute to more informed investment and trade policies and decision making in sectors and locations where China is emerging as a major player. Website: With the continuous and explosive growth of Chinese exports, trade and the number of internet users, Focus Technology launched its online trade platform, provides the most complete, accurate and up-to-date information on Chinese products and Chinese suppliers available anywhere on the web. Nowadays, is a world-leading B2B portal, specializing in bridging the gap between global buyers and quality Chinese suppliers. Website:

4) Southern Innovator Issue 2: Youth and Entrepreneurship: Called “Graphically beautiful & informative”, Issue 2 features entrepreneurial solutions for escaping poverty relevant to youth. Website:

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China has been a member of the WTO (World Trade Organization) since 11 December 2001.


© David South Consulting 2021