Private capital is soaring in, but roughly 800 million people live on less than $2 a day. Hundreds of millions of people have moved into the middle class in recent years, yet hundreds of millions more have little to no access to power, sanitation, or internet connectivity. It is one of the fastest growing large economies in the world while the spread of disease persists throughout the subcontinent. This is, of course, the paradox of India.
It is important to remember that while commercial opportunity seems to be growing exponentially in India, major development challenges remain. Even more important is that the solutions to such challenges will require a multi-stakeholder approach that includes market-based solutions for these vulnerable populations. We will need to build their resilience while lifting their economic power. As the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth has rightly revealed in a recent report on Middle India, the middle 60% of India’s households will be the key demographic in determining sustained growth.
India has no shortage of donors and non-government organizations focused on various dimensions of poverty. I’m proud to say that it has been the U.S. government, largely through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which has been on the vanguard of ushering in a new model of development in India. It is one that looks to leverage science and technology, scale up innovative models, and engage in partnership with private actors.
Given the scale of development challenges in India, the leaders at USAID realized that a $90 million annual budget, while sizeable, is still a drop in the bucket compared to the need. So we sought to change the paradigm. We brought in a model that focused on innovation and partnership. We realized that the scale and complexity of the development challenges before us required a multifaceted and multi-stakeholder approach. We took this approach to every sector in which we worked.
In entrepreneurship, we partnered with business associations and government to create the Millennium Alliance, which supports small and medium-sized enterprises with capital, mentorship, and publicity. This partnership platform identifies and seeks to scale innovative solutions to address development challenges faced by those at the bottom of the pyramid.
In health, we partnered with Bollywood actors like Amitabh Bachchan and titans of business like Ratan Tata to bring awareness to deal with diseases like multi-drug resistant tuberculosis that, unchecked, could wreak havoc as a global pandemic. Given some of the most effective techniques to improve prevention of disease involves behavior change, having celebrity voices advocate for such change, through public service announcement and other media, can be incredibly powerful.
In agriculture, we spurred Triangular Cooperation between government partners across three continents to support farmers and livelihoods in East Africa. We connected premier Indian agriculture institutes and businesses to bring specialized farming practices, market-based solutions, and technologies that were specifically designed for a developing world context to countries like Malawi.
In financial inclusion, we partnered with government and dozens of private sector companies to bring digital payment solutions to the shop around the corner. Leveraging existing government initiatives that sought to bring financial literacy and connectivity to hundreds of millions of Indians through unique ID cards, new bank accounts, and payment infrastructure, this Cashless Catalyst partnership helps to align business incentives and public service objectives.
These are just a handful of programs, but there are much more. By bringing in multiple actors, there is an element of sustainability that is strengthened. Not only do you leverage the resources and technologies and networks of others, you create a sense of ownership among those who otherwise may not be invested in development outcomes. This is the power of partnership. This is the power of inclusive growth.
Manpreet Singh Anand is an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. Anand served in the Obama Administration as deputy assistant secretary for South Asia at the Department of State and deputy assistant administrator for South and Central Asia at the U.S. Agency for International Development.
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