Which Technological Breakthroughs Will Help the Poor the Most? A Q&A with Shashi Buluswar

By Sara Wallace

The polio vaccine…anti-retroviral drugs…M-PESA mobile payments…

These are just a few breakthroughs that have created transformative impact for the world’s poor. Breakthroughs of this caliber are rare – they require significant collaboration around information, analysis, and technology to reach fruition.

Yet we need many more for countless development challenges. How can we ensure donors, impact investors, NGO practitioners, and government officials can facilitate these breakthroughs?

Shashi Buluswar, Director of the LBNL Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies

Shashi Buluswar, Director of the LBNL Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies

In his role as Director of the LBNL Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies (LIGTT), former Dalberg Partner Shashi Buluswar has been working to answer this question. LIGTT recently released “50 Breakthroughs: Critical scientific and technological advances needed for sustainable global development,” a report that identifies where game-changing technological breakthroughs are essential to improve the lives of the world’s poor.

We spoke to Shashi to learn more about how the report came to be, who can use it, and what impact he hopes it will create:

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Four Pillars of Rebuilding: Looking to Nepal and West Africa

By Scott Strand

Another powerful earthquake struck Nepal this week, amplifying damage from the 7.8 magnitude jolt last month that killed over 8,000 people and stranded the injured in villages remote from cities and help.

As intrepid recovery efforts are underway, attention is also starting to turn to long-term rebuilding: How can we ensure Nepal will build back stronger? Journalists say it will be expensive, geographically complex, and most difficult for the region’s poorest. And this long road of social, economic, and environmental recovery will rely heavily on international aid.

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As the world mobilizes for Nepal, it’s helpful to see what we can glean from past and ongoing recovery and rebuilding efforts. West Africa’s response to the Ebola crisis is showing promise – Liberia is now Ebola-free. However, the crisis is by no means over and progress has stalled in Guinea and Sierra Leone where transmission rates are still high.

With Nepal fresh in mind and the Ebola epidemic in need of continued attention, we have pulled insights from past rebuilding initiatives into what we believe are four critical pillars of successful reconstruction efforts:

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Infographic: How Much Does Meat Really Cost?

By Sonila Cook, Thabo Matse, and Julia Rohrer

Consumption of animal protein is expected to grow 73 percent from current levels by the year 2050. While people in developed countries eat almost three times as much meat as those in developing countries at present, much of the projected growth will come from developing countries such as China and India whose burgeoning middle classes aspire to, and can increasingly afford, western diets.

To meet this growing demand, meat will likely continue to be produced in ways that require vast amounts of natural resources, placing great strain on the environment. With the world’s population expected to reach nine billion by 2050, there is a critical need to source food – and protein in particular – more sustainably.

Learn more about our meat production problem and how your actions can make a difference in this infographic from Dalberg, based on research funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

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Blended Finance: Catalyzing Private Capital for Development Impact

By Shanti Krishnan

The Development Funding Gap

Traditionally the domain of aid agencies, development finance institutions, and foundations (here we will call them collectively “public investors”), the landscape of development finance is changing rapidly. Public investors are increasingly engaging and investing alongside private investors to achieve their goals. These public-private partnerships, which come in multiple forms and structures, have the potential to provide a much-needed boost to the pool of available capital for development finance.

Estimates suggest that the emerging Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will require $4 trillion of annual investment. Current investment falls far short of these demands, leaving an annual investment gap of ~$2.6 trillion in critical areas such as health, education, food security, climate change, and infrastructure.


At the same time, private investors (e.g., private equity funds, pension funds, insurance companies) are increasingly looking to emerging and frontier markets for investment opportunities. In 2014, private equity investment in emerging and frontier markets totaled $33.8 billion, a 26 percent increase from the prior year. Moreover, an increasing share of these flows originate in other emerging and frontier markets. When directed properly, this influx of private capital into and between emerging and frontier markets can be a powerful force for global development by helping to support investments that generate social, economic, and environmental impact.

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New Report: ‘Smart Maps for Smart Cities’

By Gaurav Gupta, Ya’ir Aizenman, Sanchali Pal, Aditi Singh, Ahmed Nadeem Khan, and Sneha Iyer

Maps are essential to our lives. They answer basic questions – for citizens, for businesses, and for governments. Maps help us search for places we are interested in, pinpoint their locations, optimize routes to get there, understand surrounding neighborhoods better, and communicate better with others. When maps cannot answer these questions, we rely on other sources that may be costly, time-intensive, or incomplete.

Smart Maps IndiaEnter Smart Maps. Smart Maps use mapping technology that enables users to quickly and effectively achieve their day-to-day and long term goals. Smart Maps capture detailed data for a broad range of inputs; present data in a user-friendly, intuitive format; are dynamically maintained in real time; and allow individuals to add additional information, creating a platform for innovation.

Smart Maps hold particular promise to help achieve the Indian government’s ambitions around Smart Cities. India will see the greatest migration to cities of any country in the world over the next 35 years, with over 400 million new inhabitants flooding into urban areas. Even painstakingly compiled maps will be outdated within a year or two. Cities have the greatest density of Internet users, the most infrastructure and road information to capture, are changing at unprecedented rates, and are driving India’s social and economic growth.

In association with the Confederation of Indian Industry and supported by Google, we are releasing a new report today titled “Smart Maps for Smart Cities.” We have found that Smart Maps can help India gain upwards of USD $8 billion, save 13,000 lives, and reduce 1 million metric tons of carbon emissions a year, in cities alone. And we have reason to believe that the broader economic and social benefits of Smart Maps for citizens, businesses, and the government are likely many times greater.

In addition, we share our perspectives on India’s need for a policy framework to encourage scalable solutions and unleash the latent value that maps hold for Indian users. A mapping policy that encourages innovation and scalable solutions can help the private sector create a world-class mapping and GIS industry that benefits Indian citizens, businesses, and government.

Read the full report: Smart Maps for Smart Cities: Urban India’s $8+ Billion Opportunity >>

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Reflections on the ‘New Nigeria’

By Nneka Eze and Jeff Kaiser

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Nigeria’s recent presidential election marks a historic step for the country as a leader among African nations. Muhammadu Buhari unseated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which ruled the country since its transition to democracy nearly 16 years ago. The election marks a significant shift in Africa’s political landscape and a remarkable opportunity for economic and political reform in Nigeria.

Buhari’s controversial past—his 20-month rule as a military dictator in the mid-1980s replete with imprisonment of dissenters (including Afrobeat music pioneer Fela Kuti) and a “War Against Indiscipline” that prescribed harsh punishments for relatively minor crimes—are today part of his appeal. This election was, in many ways, more of a referendum on incumbent President Jonathan’s performance and perceived weakness than a specific vote in favor of Buhari, who competed in three previous presidential elections and lost each time.

Signs of Progress

The election is one of few recent incidents in Africa given truly global recognition as a success. Media coverage focused on the process, noting that it was largely “free and fair” (though there were many incidents of disturbances at polling units and allegations of fraud from both sides) and the fact that President Jonathan was quick to concede his defeat. Jonathan’s concession came as the biggest surprise to most people in Nigeria, and he is already being hailed as a hero for the move.

Apart from the election, Nigeria does seem to be making giant strides on its democratic and developmental journey. Take Ebola: with Nigeria on the brink of a catastrophic outbreak in Lagos—one of the most densely populated cities in Africa—the Lagos State government acted rapidly, brought in private partners, and mobilized federal resources to fund a robust contact tracing program that reached nearly 100% of contacts in Lagos. The steps worked, and the outbreak was contained to 19 cases, with a survival rate of 60%, well above the survival rate elsewhere.

While Ebola points to a success spearheaded by the government, the fight against Boko Haram is just the opposite. In Borno State in northeast Nigeria, where the government has been highly ineffective in fighting the group, young Nigerians have taken up the fight themselves. Hundreds of young men and women have come together to form a Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF)—effectively vigilantes, though they have the approval of state government. They patrol the streets of affected areas and provide local intelligence to security forces.

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The Landscape for Impact Investing in South Asia: Announcing the launch of a new report by Dalberg and the GIIN

By Jyothi Vynatheya Oberoi

Impact investing — investments that intentionally seek social and/or environmental impact alongside a financial return — holds significant potential to help meet base of the pyramid (BoP) needs in South Asia. But until now, the scope of the impact investing sector in South Asian countries has not been well defined beyond India. A new report from Dalberg and the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) analyzes the current state of the market to identify opportunities for deploying impact capital and growing the industry. Over USD $8 billion worth of investment has been deployed in South Asia since 2004 by development finance institutions (DFIs) alone; in addition, several other impact investors, including venture capital/private equity funds and foundations, have deployed over USD $800 million.

Figure 1a. Known capital deployed by DFIs, USD millions

Figure 1a. Known capital deployed by DFIs, USD millions

Figure 1b. Known capital deployed by non-DFI impact investors, USD millions

Figure 1b. Known capital deployed by non-DFI impact investors, USD millions

India holds close to USD $5.5 billion in impact investments from DFI and non-DFI players and across a range of sectors, and dominates discussions of impact investing in South Asia. While it is the most active market in the region, it is still far from mature or saturated.

In contrast, investments and opportunities in surrounding countries – Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Myanmar – have rarely been explored, let alone quantified. The Landscape for Impact Investing in South Asia captures the cross-cutting trends, opportunities, and challenges in impact investing in the entire region. “We’re pleased to partner with Dalberg on this important research, which reveals the diversity in both current activity and investor interest across these markets. For example, in Myanmar, while only USD $12 million has been deployed to date, the USD $109 million in committed capital for future deployment reflects investors’ excitement about growth and opportunities for positive impact there,” says Hannah Schiff, Senior Associate, GIIN Research.

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New Report by Dalberg: ‘From Response to Recovery in the Ebola Crisis: Revitalizing Health Systems and Economies’

By Yana Kakar

EbolaDalbergReportOver a year has passed since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa began. In that narrow window of time, the disease has claimed more than 10,000 lives, stalled economic growth, and hampered – if not reversed – gains the region had made in strengthening public health infrastructure and service delivery.

And yet, as dire as the crisis has been, hope is emerging. The pace of new cases is slowing. The fear of a truly global pandemic has subsided. We are transitioning from emergency response to longer-term recovery – a very welcome sign.

But let us not mistake these signs of progress for indications that our work is done. In many ways, it is just beginning. For the families who lost loved ones, the communities that continue to struggle, and the countries now stripped of economic resources, let us not turn away from West Africa, but towards it.

Dalberg’s mission is to tackle the world’s most pressing problems with innovative approaches that are inclusive of, and responsive to, the most vulnerable populations in our society. Today we are releasing a new report, titled “From Response to Recovery in the Ebola Crisis: Revitalizing Health Systems and Economies,” to share our experience with those now helping to rebuild the region alongside us.

Specifically, we write to share our perspectives on what can be done to strengthen the resilience and recovery efforts in West Africa today. This report presents a portfolio of ideas on where to go from here, including how we might develop creative incentives to support emerging leaders and design innovative financing products. We aspire to seed a broader conversation with these ideas, and to spark collective action by governments, civil society, foundations, and international agencies in service of the Ebola-affected region of West Africa.

Read the full report: From Response to Recovery in the Ebola Crisis: Revitalizing Health Systems and Economies >>

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Refining the Business Case for Off-Grid Energy in India: Illuminating the Models with the Greatest Potential

By Gaurav Gupta

Tdalberg.offgrid.reporthe success of solar-based products and services to bring electrical energy to many at the base of the pyramid who lack access to even basic lighting has rightly received significant acclaim. Much of this stems from the role the private sector has played in developing new solutions such as solar portable lanterns, solar home systems, and solar mini-grids. However, despite strong projected growth rates, less than 5 percent of the market is penetrated; there is significant room for further accelerating the market with the right interventions.

For example, over 80 million households – roughly 50 percent of India’s rural population – have little or no access to grid-based electricity and the light that comes with it. Most of these households continue to rely instead on kerosene lamps, which provide only dim lighting, produce damaging carbon emissions, and can lead to chronic illnesses from indoor air pollution.

The challenge is in determining what solar models present real potential for scale. While there is significant private sector activity in off-grid energy solutions, it’s been difficult to unwind which models are actually sustainable and which are effectively relying on ongoing subsidies. There is a huge amount of interest in off-grid energy from philanthropists, donors, impact investors, and even mainstream investors, all proclaiming a private sector approach. But the aggregate of all these different forms of funding have shown that few models out there today are functioning without a subsidy of some form or another.

 “The Business Case for Off-Grid Energy in India,” a new report by Dalberg (where the author is employed) on behalf of the Climate Group, highlights the business models with the greatest potential. Through a focus on these investable opportunities, the report makes recommendations for financiers and organizations looking to promote private sector investment in the off-grid space. Below are some of our findings: Continue reading

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Amplifying our Voices in 2015: A Letter from Dalberg’s Global Managing Partner

Dear friends and colleagues,

YanaDalberg was founded in 2001 on a bold hypothesis: that if global development were to advance at an accelerated pace, rigorous problem-solving skills, strategic thinking, and private sector partnerships were needed to complement traditional development approaches. Many challenged this premise and wondered whether these types of advisory services could influence real change, or indeed whether there was even a market for them.

I am very pleased to report that due to incredible efforts over the past 14 years, we have shown not only a strong need for Dalberg’s unique blend of skills, but that the demand for these skills is increasing rapidly. As a testament to this, we now have a growing staff based in 14 offices spread over 4 continents working on engagements across the public, private, and non-profit sectors.

Our success as a business is a great achievement, but we at Dalberg know that our business is merely the vehicle by which we seek to fulfil our mission: to mobilize effective responses to the world’s most pressing challenges.

Our mission remains a core and immutable part of our story. It is why we continue to do what we do. 2014 was no exception to this. We observed a number of needs and opportunities and brought our energy and insight to bear on critical issues worldwide:

  • In the face of the human disaster wrought by the Ebola virus in West Africa – which threatened to derail the region’s economic and social progress over the past decade – we helped the governments of Mali and Cote d’Ivoire set up emergency operations centers to better respond to this massive crisis.
  • In order to ensure that private and public institutions are thinking creatively about how to finance global development, we worked with a number of partners to release the landmark Innovative Financing for Development report. We are now implementing solutions recommended in the report to help unlock millions of dollars of finance for social good.
  • FAFINRecognizing that investing in small and medium sized agribusinesses in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, could both boost food security and fuel economic development, we brought the Honorable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, and his team, together in partnership with the German development bank KfW, to co-seed a new fund for agriculture. FAFIN, the fund for agricultural finance in Nigeria, is a one of a kind fund, seeded by the public sector but scaled and managed by the private sector, is already delivering on its promise of creating inclusive growth, and generating both financial and social return.

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