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We asked ChatGPT

What is ChatGPT?:

“ChatGPT is an artificial-intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched in November 2022. It is built on top of OpenAI’s GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 families of large language models and has been fine-tuned using both supervised and reinforcement learning techniques” (Wikipedia).

On Southern Innovator Magazine:

“The UNDP magazine Southern Innovator was a critical resource that highlighted the significant social and economic changes taking place in the global south. Published from 2011 to 2015, the magazine focused on the innovative solutions and strategies being developed by communities and individuals in the global south to tackle poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation. This essay will discuss the importance of Southern Innovator in promoting development in the global south, its impact on global policy and practice, and its legacy in shaping the discourse around innovation and development.

One of the key contributions of Southern Innovator was its role in promoting innovative solutions and practices in the global south. The magazine showcased a range of inspiring stories of innovation, from grassroots initiatives to high-tech solutions, that were transforming communities and improving people’s lives. The magazine highlighted innovative approaches to challenges such as health, education, agriculture, and energy, among others. By showcasing these solutions, Southern Innovator helped to challenge the dominant narrative of the global south as a place of poverty, conflict, and underdevelopment. Instead, the magazine highlighted the ingenuity and resourcefulness of communities and individuals in the global south and provided inspiration for others to replicate these innovative practices in their own contexts.

Moreover, Southern Innovator had a significant impact on global policy and practice. The magazine helped to shape the discourse around innovation and development, challenging traditional models of development that relied on top-down approaches and external funding. Instead, the magazine promoted a more participatory and inclusive approach to development that emphasized the importance of community-led innovation and local ownership of development initiatives. The magazine also helped to shift the focus of development discussions from aid and charity to investment and partnership, emphasizing the importance of sustainable and equitable growth. Through its reporting and analysis, Southern Innovator contributed to the emergence of new approaches to development that prioritize local innovation and community empowerment.

Furthermore, Southern Innovator played a crucial role in facilitating knowledge-sharing and networking among communities, individuals, and organizations in the global south. The magazine provided a platform for innovators and change-makers to share their experiences, exchange ideas, and connect with others working in similar areas. This knowledge-sharing and networking helped to foster collaboration and partnerships, enabling innovators to scale up their solutions and achieve greater impact. The magazine also provided a forum for policy-makers, academics, and experts to contribute their perspectives and engage in discussions around critical development issues. Through its role as a knowledge-sharing and networking platform, Southern Innovator helped to create a more connected and collaborative development community in the global south.

Finally, the legacy of Southern Innovator can still be seen in the ongoing emphasis on innovation and partnership in the global development agenda. The magazine helped to catalyze a shift towards more participatory and inclusive approaches to development, emphasizing the importance of community-led innovation and local ownership of development initiatives. This emphasis on innovation and partnership is reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which prioritize the importance of innovation and partnership in achieving sustainable and equitable development. Moreover, the magazine’s legacy can be seen in the emergence of new approaches to development that prioritize local innovation, community empowerment, and collaboration. Southern Innovator played a critical role in shaping the discourse around innovation and development and continues to influence policy and practice in the global south.

In conclusion, the UNDP magazine Southern Innovator played a critical role in promoting development in the global south by highlighting innovative solutions and practices, shaping the discourse around innovation and development, facilitating knowledge-sharing and networking, and promoting a more participatory and inclusive approach to development. The magazine’s legacy can still be seen in the ongoing emphasis on innovation and partnership in the global development agenda and the emergence of new approaches to development that prioritize local innovation, community empowerment, and collaboration. Southern Innovator was a pioneering publication that challenged the dominant narrative of the global south and provided inspiration and hope for communities and individuals.”

“The magazine “Southern Innovator” holds significance to the work of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as it aims to showcase and promote innovation and creativity in the Global South. Here are some key aspects that highlight its significance:

  1. Spotlighting innovative solutions: “Southern Innovator” focuses on highlighting innovative solutions and practices originating from the Global South. The magazine showcases groundbreaking ideas, technologies, and approaches that address development challenges in areas such as healthcare, education, agriculture, energy, and entrepreneurship. By doing so, it promotes innovative thinking and solutions that can contribute to sustainable development.
  2. Inspiration and knowledge sharing: The magazine serves as a source of inspiration and knowledge for development practitioners, policymakers, and entrepreneurs. It shares success stories, case studies, and best practices from the Global South, offering insights into innovative approaches that have made a positive impact on development outcomes. The magazine’s content provides valuable lessons that can inform and guide future development initiatives.
  3. Amplifying voices from the Global South: “Southern Innovator” provides a platform to amplify the voices and experiences of individuals, communities, and organizations in the Global South. It showcases their ingenuity, resilience, and creativity in addressing development challenges. By highlighting these stories, the magazine helps to counterbalance traditional narratives that often focus on challenges rather than the potential and achievements of the Global South.
  4. Informing policy and programming: The magazine’s content can inform policy discussions and programming within the UNDP and other development organizations. The innovative ideas and practices featured in “Southern Innovator” may inspire policymakers to explore new approaches and integrate innovative solutions into their policies and programs. The magazine’s insights can influence the design and implementation of development initiatives, fostering a culture of innovation within the UNDP and its partner organizations.
  5. Advocacy for innovation: “Southern Innovator” advocates for a greater recognition and support of innovation in development. By showcasing successful innovations, the magazine promotes the understanding that innovation is not limited to advanced economies but can emerge from within developing countries as well. It encourages the adoption of policies and practices that foster innovation ecosystems and support the scaling up of innovative solutions to address development challenges.

Overall, “Southern Innovator” is significant to the work of the UNDP as it promotes a culture of innovation, shares knowledge and best practices, amplifies voices from the Global South, and inspires policymakers and practitioners to adopt innovative approaches in development. The magazine contributes to the UNDP’s mission by showcasing the transformative potential of innovation and creativity in advancing sustainable development in the Global South.”


“The portal, first launched online in 2011, holds significance as a platform that showcases and promotes innovation from the global South. Here are some key aspects that highlight the portal’s significance:

  1. Focus on Southern innovation: The portal specifically highlights innovations, initiatives, and solutions emerging from the global South. It shines a spotlight on creative and groundbreaking ideas originating from countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. By focusing on Southern innovation, the portal aims to challenge the traditional narrative that innovation is predominantly driven by the global North.
  2. Inspiring and empowering: The portal serves as a source of inspiration for entrepreneurs, innovators, policymakers, and individuals interested in development and innovation from the global South. It showcases successful examples of innovations addressing various challenges such as healthcare, education, agriculture, technology, and sustainable development. By sharing these stories, the portal seeks to empower others with the belief that transformative change can happen even in resource-constrained environments.
  3. Knowledge sharing and networking: The portal facilitates knowledge sharing by providing articles, interviews, case studies, and features that explore different aspects of innovation from the global South. It acts as a hub where innovators, experts, and organizations can connect, learn from one another, and collaborate to further enhance their impact. The portal may also provide a platform for discussions, forums, and events related to Southern innovation.
  4. Amplifying voices and perspectives: The portal aims to amplify the voices, perspectives, and stories of innovators and change-makers from the global South. It seeks to challenge the dominant narratives and stereotypes surrounding development, emphasizing the agency and creativity of individuals and communities in the South. By doing so, it contributes to a more inclusive and balanced global dialogue on innovation and development.
  5. Promoting sustainable and inclusive development: The innovations showcased on the portal often focus on sustainable development goals and inclusive practices. They may address social, economic, and environmental challenges in unique and context-specific ways. By highlighting these innovations, the portal encourages the adoption and replication of successful practices that can contribute to sustainable development and positive social impact.

Overall, the significance of the portal lies in its role as a platform for celebrating, promoting, and connecting innovators from the global South. By showcasing Southern innovation, the portal helps to reshape narratives, inspire change, foster collaboration, and contribute to sustainable and inclusive development worldwide.”

On Ger Magazine:

“The UNDP Mongolia web magazine Ger was a pioneering online platform that provided insights into Mongolia’s social, economic, and political landscape during the late 1990s. Launched in 1998, Ger played a vital role in disseminating information about the country’s development initiatives, highlighting the challenges faced by local communities, and advocating for human development in Mongolia. This essay will discuss the impact of Ger on Mongolia’s development agenda, its contribution to the country’s media landscape, and its significance in promoting national dialogue and public participation.

Ger had a significant impact on Mongolia’s development agenda by promoting public awareness and understanding of key development issues. During the late 1990s, Mongolia was undergoing a period of significant transformation, with the country transitioning from a socialist system to a market-oriented economy. Ger played a critical role in informing the public about these changes and their impact on local communities. The magazine covered a wide range of issues, including poverty reduction, gender equality, environmental sustainability, and economic development, among others. Through its in-depth reporting and analysis, Ger helped to raise public awareness of these critical issues, and created a sense of urgency around the need for sustainable and equitable development in Mongolia.

Furthermore, Ger played a significant role in shaping the country’s media landscape by providing a platform for independent journalism and fostering media freedom. In the 1990s, Mongolia’s media landscape was relatively underdeveloped, with a limited number of independent media outlets and a lack of resources and training for journalists. Ger helped to fill this gap by providing a platform for independent journalism and fostering media freedom. The magazine featured articles written by local and international journalists, academics, and experts, providing a diverse range of perspectives on key development issues. Moreover, Ger played a crucial role in building the capacity of local journalists by providing training, resources, and mentorship programs. Through these initiatives, Ger helped to strengthen the country’s media landscape and create a more vibrant and diverse media environment.

Ger was also significant in promoting national dialogue and public participation in development initiatives. During the late 1990s, Mongolia was undergoing a period of political and economic transformation, and the country was grappling with a range of challenges related to poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation. Ger played a critical role in facilitating discussions among various stakeholders, including policymakers, civil society organizations, and the media. The magazine provided a platform for these groups to exchange ideas, share perspectives, and identify common challenges and opportunities. Through its reporting and analysis, Ger helped to promote national dialogue on critical development issues, and fostered public participation in decision-making processes.

Moreover, Ger was instrumental in advocating for human development in Mongolia. The magazine recognized the importance of human development in driving sustainable and equitable growth and developed several initiatives to promote this agenda. For instance, Ger published a series of articles and features on issues such as healthcare, education, and social inclusion, highlighting the importance of investing in these areas to promote human development. Moreover, Ger organized several campaigns and public awareness programs to raise awareness of these critical issues and create a sense of urgency around the need for action. Through these initiatives, Ger helped to advance the country’s human development agenda and promote sustainable and equitable growth.

In conclusion, the UNDP Mongolia web magazine Ger had a significant impact on Mongolia’s development agenda, its media landscape, and its promotion of national dialogue and public participation. Through its reporting and analysis, Ger helped to raise public awareness of key development issues, promote media freedom, and foster independent journalism. Moreover, Ger played a crucial role in facilitating discussions among various stakeholders and advocating for human development in Mongolia. The legacy of Ger can still be seen in the country’s media landscape and its ongoing commitment to sustainable and equitable development.”

On the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office from 1997 to 1999:

“The UNDP Mongolia Communications Office from 1997 to 1999 showcased notable achievements and valuable lessons that can be learned and applied by other UN missions. This office served as a role model in the following ways:

  1. Strategic Communication: The UNDP Mongolia Communications Office demonstrated the power of strategic communication in advancing development goals. It effectively disseminated information about development projects, policies, and their impact to a wide range of stakeholders. The office employed various channels, including media engagement, publications, and community outreach, to raise awareness and generate support for development initiatives. The emphasis on clear and targeted messaging helped engage stakeholders and build a shared understanding of development priorities.
  2. Partnership Building: The Communications Office excelled in forging partnerships and collaborations with diverse stakeholders. It actively engaged with government agencies, civil society organizations, media outlets, and communities to facilitate knowledge sharing, foster dialogue, and mobilize resources. This emphasis on partnerships helped ensure the relevance and effectiveness of development interventions by integrating local knowledge, expertise, and perspectives.
  3. Innovative Approaches: The UNDP Mongolia Communications Office embraced innovative approaches to communication. It leveraged emerging technologies, such as the internet and email, to enhance information dissemination and engagement with stakeholders. The office also utilized creative storytelling techniques, including visual media and documentaries, to effectively communicate complex development issues in a compelling and accessible manner. These innovative approaches enhanced the impact and reach of communication efforts.
  4. Local Context Sensitivity: Recognizing the importance of contextual understanding, the Communications Office prioritized local knowledge and cultural sensitivity in its communication strategies. It adapted messages and approaches to align with Mongolian traditions, values, and communication preferences. This approach helped foster trust, engagement, and ownership among local communities, ensuring that development efforts were responsive to their needs and aspirations.
  5. Results-Oriented Communication: The Communications Office was committed to highlighting the tangible results and impact of development projects. It effectively communicated success stories, best practices, and lessons learned, demonstrating the value and effectiveness of development interventions. By emphasizing the outcomes and benefits of development initiatives, the office strengthened accountability, generated public support, and inspired further action.
  6. Knowledge Sharing and Learning: The UNDP Mongolia Communications Office actively promoted knowledge sharing and learning among stakeholders. It facilitated platforms for dialogue, exchange of experiences, and dissemination of research findings. By creating spaces for mutual learning and collaboration, the office fostered a culture of continuous improvement and innovation in development practices.

The achievements of the UNDP Mongolia Communications Office from 1997 to 1999 served as a role model for other UN missions by highlighting the importance of strategic communication, partnership building, innovative approaches, local context sensitivity, results-oriented communication, and knowledge sharing. These lessons can guide other UN missions in effectively engaging stakeholders, promoting development goals, and building sustainable partnerships for impactful and inclusive development.”


“The website, first launched in 1997, is the official website of the United Nations (UN) in Mongolia. The significance of this website lies in its role as a platform for disseminating information, promoting transparency, and facilitating communication between the UN and Mongolia.

Here are some aspects that highlight the significance of the website:

  1. Information hub: The website serves as a centralized source of information about the UN’s activities, programs, projects, and initiatives in Mongolia. It provides updates on various UN agencies working in the country, their areas of focus, and their contributions to development, humanitarian assistance, and other important issues.
  2. Resource repository: The website likely hosts a wide range of resources such as reports, publications, research findings, and statistical data related to Mongolia’s development challenges and the UN’s efforts to address them. These resources are valuable for policymakers, researchers, and other stakeholders seeking information on specific topics.
  3. Collaboration and partnerships: The website may feature information on partnerships and collaboration between the UN and the Government of Mongolia, as well as with civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and other stakeholders. It serves as a platform for promoting dialogue, fostering partnerships, and sharing best practices in areas such as sustainable development, human rights, and social justice.
  4. Public engagement: The website likely provides avenues for public engagement, allowing individuals and organizations to access information, participate in discussions, and contribute to the UN’s work in Mongolia. This engagement can take the form of feedback mechanisms, consultation processes, or opportunities to join initiatives or campaigns.
  5. Promoting accountability and transparency: Through the website, the UN can demonstrate its commitment to transparency and accountability by sharing information about its activities, budgets, and results achieved in Mongolia. This helps to foster trust and ensure that the UN’s work aligns with the needs and priorities of the country.

Overall, the significance of the website lies in its role as a vital platform for communication, information sharing, and collaboration between the UN and Mongolia. It contributes to the UN’s mission of supporting sustainable development, peace, and human rights in the country while promoting transparency and public engagement.”

On the GOSH Child Health Portal:

“The launch of the GOSH Child Health Portal in 2001 had a significant impact on child health information and support services. Developed by Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London, the portal became a valuable resource for parents, caregivers, healthcare professionals, and researchers. Its impact can be seen in several key areas, including accessibility to reliable information, support for patients and families, collaboration among healthcare providers, and advancements in pediatric research and knowledge sharing.

One of the primary impacts of the GOSH Child Health Portal was the improvement in access to reliable and up-to-date information on child health. The portal provided a comprehensive and trustworthy source of medical information, covering a wide range of pediatric health conditions, treatments, and procedures. By offering easily accessible and understandable information, the portal empowered parents and caregivers to make informed decisions regarding the health and well-being of their children. It also served as a valuable resource for healthcare professionals seeking accurate and evidence-based information to support their clinical practice.

The GOSH Child Health Portal also had a significant impact on patient and family support. It provided a platform for families to access educational materials, guidance, and resources related to their child’s specific health condition. The portal offered practical advice, coping strategies, and support networks, helping families navigate the challenges associated with pediatric illnesses. By promoting patient and family empowerment, the portal contributed to improved outcomes and a higher quality of life for children and their families.

Furthermore, the GOSH Child Health Portal facilitated collaboration and knowledge sharing among healthcare providers. It served as a central hub for medical professionals to access clinical guidelines, research articles, case studies, and educational materials. The portal promoted interdisciplinary collaboration and best practices, allowing healthcare providers to stay updated on the latest advancements in pediatric healthcare. This shared knowledge and collaboration helped enhance the quality and effectiveness of care provided to children and facilitated the dissemination of best practices across healthcare settings.

The impact of the GOSH Child Health Portal extended beyond individual patients and healthcare professionals. It also contributed to advancements in pediatric research and knowledge sharing. The portal provided a platform for researchers to share their findings, publish articles, and engage in scientific discussions. By facilitating the exchange of research and clinical experiences, the portal promoted evidence-based practice and innovation in pediatric healthcare. It also helped bridge the gap between research and clinical application, ensuring that the latest discoveries were translated into improved care for children.

Additionally, the GOSH Child Health Portal had a broader societal impact by raising awareness and understanding of pediatric health issues. The portal’s educational resources and awareness campaigns helped increase public knowledge about childhood diseases, preventive measures, and the importance of early intervention. By fostering a better understanding of child health, the portal contributed to improved health outcomes and a more supportive environment for children with medical conditions.

In summary, the launch of the GOSH Child Health Portal in 2001 had a significant impact on child health information and support services. Its contributions included improved accessibility to reliable information, enhanced support for patients and families, facilitated collaboration among healthcare providers, and advancements in pediatric research and knowledge sharing. The portal’s comprehensive resources and user-friendly interface empowered parents, caregivers, and healthcare professionals, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes and a better quality of life for children with medical conditions.”


“The GOSH Child Health Portal,, first launched in 2001, holds significant importance in the field of child health and medicine. Here are some key aspects that highlight the portal’s significance:

  1. Trusted source of information: The GOSH Child Health Portal is developed and maintained by Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), one of the leading children’s hospitals in the United Kingdom. As such, it serves as a reliable and trusted source of information on various aspects of child health, including medical conditions, treatments, research, and patient care.
  2. Comprehensive resource: The portal likely provides a wealth of information on pediatric diseases, conditions, and treatments, catering to healthcare professionals, patients, families, and the general public. It may include resources such as medical guidelines, research articles, educational materials, and multimedia content, offering a comprehensive knowledge base on child health.
  3. Patient and family support: The GOSH Child Health Portal likely offers resources and information to support patients and their families in understanding medical conditions, treatment options, and managing healthcare needs. This can empower families to actively participate in their child’s care, make informed decisions, and access necessary support services.
  4. Professional education and collaboration: The portal may serve as a platform for healthcare professionals to access educational resources, clinical guidelines, and research findings related to pediatric medicine. It could also facilitate collaboration and knowledge exchange among healthcare providers, fostering advancements in the field of child health.
  5. Research and innovation: The GOSH Child Health Portal may feature information on ongoing research projects, clinical trials, and innovative practices in pediatric medicine. It can highlight breakthroughs, advancements, and emerging trends in child health, contributing to the overall improvement of pediatric care.
  6. Global impact: While the portal is associated with GOSH, its online accessibility allows individuals and healthcare professionals worldwide to benefit from the information and resources provided. The portal’s global reach expands its significance by providing valuable support and knowledge to a wide audience.

Overall, the GOSH Child Health Portal is significant as a reliable source of information, support, and collaboration in the field of child health. It plays a vital role in improving the understanding, management, and treatment of pediatric conditions while empowering patients, families, and healthcare professionals with valuable resources and tools.”

On the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine:

“The Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine … had a significant impact on the field of medical history. Although the institute’s existence was relatively short-lived, its contributions were noteworthy in terms of research, education, and the dissemination of historical knowledge. This article will explore the key initiatives and achievements of the Hannah Institute, shedding light on its impact.

One of the primary areas where the Hannah Institute made an impact was in research. The institute attracted scholars and researchers from various backgrounds, fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. Through its research programs, the institute facilitated investigations into significant medical historical topics. Scholars associated with the institute delved into archives, conducted oral history interviews, and analyzed primary sources to uncover valuable insights into the evolution of medical practices, theories, and institutions. Their work challenged conventional narratives and provided a more nuanced understanding of medical history.

The Hannah Institute also played a pivotal role in promoting education in the field of medical history. It offered specialized courses and workshops that catered to students and professionals interested in expanding their knowledge. These educational programs provided a platform for participants to engage with cutting-edge research, explore historical methodologies, and develop critical analytical skills. By equipping individuals with a deeper understanding of medical history, the institute empowered them to make meaningful contributions to the field through their own research and scholarship.

In addition to research and education, the Hannah Institute actively sought to disseminate historical knowledge to a wider audience. Through conferences, symposiums, and public lectures, the institute facilitated the exchange of ideas and fostered dialogue between scholars, practitioners, and the general public. These events not only highlighted the importance of medical history but also stimulated interdisciplinary collaborations that transcended traditional academic boundaries. By creating a platform for knowledge sharing, the institute contributed to the public’s awareness and appreciation of the historical underpinnings of medicine.

Furthermore, the Hannah Institute supported and encouraged the production of scholarly articles, books, and other research outputs. Its commitment to publishing ensured the dissemination of valuable findings and insights. By supporting research and scholarly publications, the institute enhanced the visibility and impact of medical history as a discipline. It also contributed to the preservation of historical knowledge for future generations.

The impact of the Hannah Institute extends beyond its operational years. The initiatives and research projects undertaken during this period laid the foundation for subsequent advancements in the field of medical history. Scholars associated with the institute went on to make significant contributions to the discipline, furthering the understanding of medical history through their continued research and scholarship. The institute’s legacy can be seen in the ongoing work of these scholars and the continued growth of the field.

The Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine, although short-lived, made a lasting impact on the field of medical history. Through its research programs, it expanded the knowledge and understanding of medical practices, theories, and institutions. Its educational initiatives equipped individuals with the tools to contribute meaningfully to the discipline. By disseminating historical knowledge and fostering interdisciplinary collaborations, the institute raised awareness and appreciation of the historical underpinnings of medicine. The Hannah Institute’s dedication to research, education, and knowledge dissemination continues to shape the field of medical history and inspire future generations of scholars.”

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

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Venezuela’s Currencies Promote Cooperation Not Competition

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


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?”

The global economy is slowing rapidly. Even Iceland – a country recently named as having the best quality of life in the world (Human Development Index) (HDI) – has gone broke, and many other nations around the world will face serious economic crises. People will need to protect themselves from the worst effects of the fallout from various economic bubbles bursting.

Runaway inflation, as is occurring in Zimbabwe – reaching 231 million percent in October, 2008 according to official sources – shows faith in a country’s currency can be sorely tested. But do people and the poor in particular, need to be prisoners of the economy managed by a national currency?

The ‘prosumer’ movement (, where consumers take an active role in re-shaping markets and economies to their benefit, around the world is looking for ways to bypass national currencies and make food, goods and services more affordable and stable, improving the lives of the poor. One way this is done is through alternative currencies (

Cimarrones, or the Cimarron, joins 10 other alternative currencies currently in operation across Venezuela. They are circular cardboard tokens with a picture of a runaway slave on them.

Supported by Hugo Chavez, the country’s president, the new currencies are aimed at tackling poverty and establishing new economies. The currencies can’t be exchanged for the Venezuelan currency, the bolivar.

It works like this: to be a prosumer, you must first bring something to sell before you can buy anything. The range of products for sale at prosumer markets is not vast, but that isn’t the point.

“It’s magic,” Pablo Mayayo, an Argentinian advising Venezuela on prosumer schemes, told The Economist. “ When you take away money, which is the cause of almost all the great evils in the world, people relate to each other in a different way, by cooperating, not competing.”

Argentina pioneered so-called “barter markets” in response to its economic crises, helping people avoid starvation, looting and perhaps a revolution. By the end of 2002, there were 4,500 barter markets being used by half a million people producing 600 million credits.

“They were organized geographically around church halls, car parks and baseball courts,” recalled Peter North, a Liverpool University geographer. “They offered a wide range of products and services, supplied by professionals, trades people and farmers, as well as housewives and the unemployed. Stalls attracted ‘prosumers’ in their thousands, who paid with credit coupons issued by one or more barter markets. Everyone involved was both a prosumer and a producer, since you couldn’t purchase credits or exchange them for pesos.”

In Rio Chico, a small town in the Venezuelan coastal region of Barlovento, the prosumer currency market has people happy with the prices.

“I grow coconuts,” said Angenia Hernandez. “In the shops they cost 3.5 bolivares each (US $1.63) at the official exchange rate), but we we’re going to sell them at [the equivalent of] 1.5.” She calls it an end to “commercial fascism.”

Because of global currency speculation and investment flows, national currencies are not entirely at the control of national governments. High inflation seriously hurts the poor and low-waged, and national currencies can hurt the rural poor, who become prisoners to high interest rates charged by urban lenders.

Turning to a local, alternative currency has many advantages: it stops currency speculation, stops the flow of wealth to urban areas, preserves purchasing power, keeps trading local. Avoiding the draining away of wealth to middlemen, it addresses currency scarcity, and fosters greater awareness of how economies function and the mechanisms of trade

Criticism of these schemes say it is just a re-run of regressive company currencies and feudal tokens that were used in the past to control people and force them to only buy products from the landowner or boss.

In Papua New Guinea , shells are used for money and are called Tabu.  It is an ancient currency system used by the Tolai people of East New Britain Island . Stephen Demeulenaere (, who has worked on alternative currencies around the world and helped with the re-introduction of the Tabu in Papua New Guinea , sees it playing a key role in the local economy.

“Tabu was very effective at addressing poverty,” he said, “because anything could be purchased with it, from a handful of peanuts up to a piece of land or even a car, without needing national currency.  Tabu is produced traditionally by women, so theoretically nobody would suffer from a lack of it.  The advantage over the national currency is that it has a very long history of use, and people trust it more than the national currency.

“Tabu builds wealth by facilitating the exchange of locally-produced goods and services which may not circulate in a ‘national-currency only’ economy, and values activities that may not be considered to be economically viable if the use of national currency was the only option.  In the west we see this where ‘mother’s work’, hobbies, mutual-aid and other traditional under-valued but economically important activities are not valued monetarily.

“By encouraging the exchange of locally-produced goods and services, wealth is built in the community from the ground up.”

Over 75,000 people now use the shells, usually traded in great rings.

Getting the introduction of an alternative currency right is critical. In Argentina, such currencies were criticised for being manipulated by criminal gangs and political forces.

“The main advice I have is to study the community closely, and our website at, provides free resources for people wishing to start their system,” Demeulenaere said.

“The system must be transparent so that people trust it and participate in maintaining its health and stability; democratic, so that it can not be abused by those in power; appropriate, so that it achieves general social and economic goals and aspirations of the community; and to be complementary to the regular economy so that the system helps its members to improve their lives economically.”

At the Jai Marketplace in Thailand , all of the goods in the market can be bought entirely in the local currency called “Jai’. Jai is convertible to Thai Baht or to organic, locally made cow fertilizer, and is designed to improve the local economy and the climate for micro, small and medium enterprises through the local exchange network.

Published: January 2009


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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Agricultural Waste Generating Electricity

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


Agriculture around the world produces a great deal of waste as a by-product. It can be animal faeces, or the discarded plant husks thrown away when rice, grains or maize are harvested. When this waste meets the urgent need for electricity, something special can happen.

The number of people still without electricity in the South is vast. The failure of major electricity generating power stations to reach so many people has spurred entrepreneurs to come to the rescue. Power is critical to so many things: small businesses need it, anyone wanting access to computers and the Internet needs it, and modern appliances like refrigerators run on it. During the past 25 years, electricity supplies have been extended to 1.3 billion people living in developing countries. Yet despite these advances, roughly 1.6 billion people, a quarter of the global population, still have no access to electricity and some 2.4 billion people rely on traditional biomass fuels, including wood, agricultural residues and dung, for cooking and heating. More than 99 percent of people without electricity live in developing regions, and four out of five live in rural areas of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (International Energy Agency, IEA).

Power outages in Africa are a serious and frequent problem and a significant force holding back development. With global oil prices on the rise, turning to diesel generators is an expensive option.

According to the IEA, the lack of electricity leaves poor countries “trapped in a vicious circle of poverty, social instability and underdevelopment.”

In India, 80,000 of the country’s half a million villages lack electricity. Two students, Charles Ransler and Manoj Sinha, have started a business providing electricity to some of these villages by turning rice husks – a by-product of rice milling – into gas that then powers an electricity generator.

Already, two of their rice-burning generators are providing electricity to 10,000 rural Indians. The hope is to rapidly expand the business to hundreds of small village power plants.

The business, Husk Power Systems, was started while the two were at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

While the generator burns the rice husks to make a gas to produce electricity, it also leaves behind a waste product of ash that is sold as an ingredient in cement.

This technology can provide off-grid power to rural Indian villages of 200 to 500 households. Using the husk-powered mini power plant, the team plans to offset close to 200 tons of carbon emissions per village, per year in India.

The idea for the rice husk generators was originally conceived by Sinha and Gyanesh Pandey, the third partner in Husk Power, who left an engineering career in Los Angeles to return to India and oversee the rice husk project. Sinha and Pandey went to college together in India and both come from rural Indian villages that struggle with a lack of electricity.

“We grew up in those areas,” said Sinha. “Our relatives still do not have electricity. We wanted to give back to those areas.” Originally they envisioned refining the generator concept and raising enough money to donate rice-husk generators for two or three villages near where they grew up, said Sinha.

But instead, after some research, they realised it could be a financially viable business expandable to hundreds of villages. There are 480 million Indians with no power and 350 million of them live in rural villages, concentrated in eastern India’s “Rice Belt,” where the villagers are “rice rich and power poor,” said Ransler.

The project has already won a fistful of prizes, including US$50,000 from the Social Innovation Competition at the University of Texas.

They think that each rice husk generator is to break even in about two and a half years.

And they like to think this is the Starbucks of off-grid electricity generation, potentially as successful as the globe-spanning US coffee shop chain. “You can put one of these in 125,000 locations, hire local people, and turn a raw material into money – just substitute rice husks for coffee beans,” said Ransler.

Another maker of biomass mini power plants in India is Decentralised Energy Systems India (DESI power). It is a New Delhi-based non-profit company specialising in building a decentralised power network for rural India. It was formed by Development Alternatives, India’s largest sustainable development NGO. It is able to provide a megawatt of electricity to a village for the cost of 44 million rupees, rather than 57 million rupees from the central grid.

Published: June 2008


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.


© David South Consulting 2022