Indian innovation for African development
Thursday, June 27, 2013
A catalyst for innovation: That is how the United States envisions India, a former aid recipient and now emerging donor that nevertheless still is home to millions of people living in poverty and is facing other development challenges despite its growing economy.
India is an “equal” partner whose development should be supported less by foreign technical assistance than by Indians educated at home and abroad who are producing so-called “frugal” or low-cost innovations, said Denise Rollins, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s senior deputy assistant administrator for Asia, in an exclusive interview with Devex.
Here are a few excerpts of our conversation with Rollins, conducted after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s first trip to India this week:
In many ways, the approach USAID has taken for building a cooperative partnership with India suggests a new role for the agency in spurring development. What is changing the most in terms of the development relationship between the U.S. and India? What are the most exciting and most promising areas from your perspective?
What’s changing the most I think is our attitude, more than anything. We have had a roughly sixty year relationship with India as development partners, and for the most part it has been a donor-recipient relationship. Over the last two years or so we have begun to transform that relationship, because we recognize that, first of all, India is a massive market and has a massive economy of its own. And our resource levels are just a pittance. […] When you begin to look at what kind of impact you can have in a country, you realize that in terms of doing businesses the way we did in the past, meaning trying to provide services to Indians to address key development challenges, we just don’t have the resource levels to do that, but India does. So what’s exciting is that we can engage in a relationship with India now where we can provide critical technical assistance to help to define and address development challenges, but we don’t have to do it ourselves, because Indians can do it on their own. […] So we look at, what can we really do in terms of fostering a more dynamic relationship? It’s looking at how do we catalyze Indian innovations because that’s what they’re known for and they do that extremely well […] in agriculture and education, health and a host of other sectors [like] energy and climate change. […] India can have a much bigger impact than just on India. They can have a bigger impact globally. And that’s what we’re talking about as global partnership. […] Our program is designed to help spark those innovations, “frugal innovations,” low-cost innovations that can be used for development in India, but also can be transferred to Africa.