The World Economic Forum held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland from 22-25 January under the theme “Globalization 4.0: shaping a global architecture in the age of the fourth industrial revolution.” While the conference had many highlights, one of the most talked about revolved around the comments by IMF’s Lady-in-Chief, Christine Lagarde, who ultimately remarked that “poor countries should stop using global consultancy firms to write development strategies”.
To take it a step further, Ms. Lagarde even singled out global consultancy firms such as McKinsey and Boston Consultancy Groups, asking them to heed her advice. She remarked that “low-income and emerging-market economies had to raise more revenue themselves domestically and cut white elephant projects and corruption.” She encouraged poorer countries to build their strategy plans before hiring global consultancy firms to then put these plans into action, highlighting the fact that poorer countries spend millions on development strategies that ultimately never bear fruition. Ms Lagarde brings up an important point, why hire global companies to come up with strategies that require local knowledge and context?
The Caribbean is one of the regions that falls into the loop of looking for external solutions, while civil servants and local development experts are overlooked, particularly in the climate change agenda. While our countries demand more money for aid in climate resilience, this money goes back to wealthier countries in the form of consultancy fees. As the former chair of the African climate negotiation group Emmanuel Dlamini put it, “Developing countries hire consultants from developed countries, who often don’t even understand the context to write proposals and implement adaptation projects.” Dlamini also blamed the overuse of global consultancies by developing countries on their “limited ability to prepare applications and carry out the work once they have received the funding.”
It seems to me that in order to reverse this cycle, we should look into building capacity of civil servants and local development partners, to write proposals and implement projects. This is essentially development management reform and would cost relatively little in comparison to the consultancy fees paid per project. The question is, would we rather build the capacity of our own or fund foreign experts to build it for us?
Keithlin Caroo is the founder of Helen’s Daughters a Saint Lucian non-profit with a special focus on rural women’s economic development through improved market access, adaptive agricultural techniques, and capacity-building. It was formed in 2016 in a winning proposal for UN Women’s Empower Women Champions for Change Program. To learn more about the initiative, visit:
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