BOP Conferences: Engaging Private Sector “the only option”

The BOP Conferences in Brazil and Mexico were a tremendous success. Brazil attracted over 550 attendees; Mexico over 300. WRI’s New Ventures project and our in-country partners (Fundacao Getulio Vargas and Fondo Mexicano para La Conservacion de la Naturaleza), with support from Ashoka and the Multilateral Investment Fund, invited an excellent lineup of speakers that included several CEOs, Presidents, and Ministers. (See conference proceedings for full details, including PowerPoint presentations).

The BOP cases presented in the thematic concurrent sessions were inspiring and noteworthy: Life insurance for low-income consumers, microfinance, remittances (Visa), savings cards for immigrants, low-value or prepaid credit cards, low-cost computers, telecom, great consumer products (George Carpenter from P&G), solar ovens, wind-up radios, low-cost pharmaceuticals, eye care, neonatal care, mortgages, solar lighting for rural areas, efficient housing, adobe brick machines, cable TV by and for shantytown residents, cosmetics, and more.Keynotes from Stu and C.K. really inspired the crowds – people were talking about them throughout the events. Additionally, Don Terry from MIF highlighted work with the private sector, particularly BOP work, as the next trend (and perhaps the only option) in poverty alleviation. He noted that building infrastructure, aligning policies, and structuring the regulatory frameworks in poor countries have all failed at creating equitable development. He said that engaging the private sector can have the ?most profound social results,? and MIF also emphasized that SMEs are starting to learn that protecting the environment is in their own interest.

The closing remarks in both countries were remarkable. In Mexico, Edmundo Vallejo, the President for GE Latin America, told the crowd that he had been talking to CEO Jeff Immelt about the BOP concept and being asked to close for our event. He said two weeks later, Jeff called him from India, telling him about what he was seeing on the ground and how it connected with the BOP concepts Edmundo was talking about.

In Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso?a WRI Board Member and the former President of Brazil?gave an impassioned speech on the role of the government in creating policies that support businesses that engage the poor as citizens and consumers. Drawing on examples of previous policies that supported private sector work, he suggested that aligning policies with BOP concepts could support social development.