SWEDISH SUSTAINABILITY FOUNDATION

Leap-frog Transfer of Green Technology - from development aid to an international rescue plan

Charity will not save the word.
But transfer of green technology just might.

There are more scientists at work today than in the rest of human history combined. We have to make sure that all this science is not shelved in academia but comes to good practical use in solving the immediate problems of the world. 

Post-war development aid

In the latter part of the 20th century, development aid became an extremely important issue. Countries ravaged by war and countries liberated from colonialism all needed a new start. In the seventies it became apparent that while the formerly industrialized countries made good recovery, the countries that had been liberated from colonialism did not make the same progress.

The industrialized countries could revive know-how and traditions that were lacking in the post-colonial countries which traditionally had been used mainly as sources of raw-materials and cheap labor. The UN therefore created a special agency for technology transfer called United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

UNIDO had a bias for large scale projects, mainly infrastructural projects and large extraction projects which made the developing countries more sophisticated exporters of raw-materials.

The incomes from the raw materials exports were low and also unevenly distributed. They were therefore supplemented by international charity to ameliorate the lack of real welfare.

Intensification of international development aid

Many efforts have therefore been made to expand the scope of development aid. I will take Sweden as an example.

In the seventies the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) launched a subsidiary called the Import Office for Products from Developing Countries (IMPOD). The purpose was to assist exporting countries to add value to raw materials before export. In spite of a successful start, the office was soon closed down for budgetary reasons. As it turned out, the costs for developing new products, put them in production, get necessary certification and, above all, market them, were large.

One intervention that had a lasting impact, however, and has become a model for others was the development of upgraded products from coconut plantations – products that would give better export revenues  as well as more rewarding, satisfying and profitable, products locally.

The organization Coconut Industries was established and promoted the industrial manufacture of virgin coconut oil, coconut water, coconut cream, activated coconut shell carbon, ground stabilization mats, rubberized coconut fiber for mattresses, car seats and other upholstery components. These products are today manufactured by private industry and meeting an ever growing export and local markets. This has completely replaced the colonial shipments of copra and the early post-colonial manufacture of low quality trans-fats for margarine production and it has also become a model for other raw material producers. Some of the results can today be studied at http://www.ruraldevelopment.info

A finding in the work with IMPOD was that private industry needed other types of development co-operation than was possible through the existing government to government aid disbursements. A special entity was formed under the name of SwedeCorp which was later absorbed by Sida. Yet another organization named the Agency for International Technical and Economic Cooperation (BITS) was formed in the beginning of the 90ies and abandoned after a few years.

It was also found that very little of existing research was directed to issues that would promote welfare and industry in the post-colonial countries. Therefore, the Swedish Agency for Research Cooperation with Developing Countries (SAREC) was formed by Sida. These activities were later incorporated in Sida.

Also a venture company for projects in post-colonial countries - Swedfund - was created by Sida. This organization is still active. Globally, its impact has yet been limited.

There have been many attempts to bend development aid from large scale government to government charity towards a more efficient and constructive promotion of productivity and welfare, but countries receiving development aid have not been more successful than those that have not.

Recently, Sida has started new activities under the banners of Business for Development and Innovations against Poverty. The intention is to address basic development issues in an innovative way.

Empowerment

The UN prides itself of having reduced poverty by pointing out that fewer live under the poverty line of one US dollar and twenty-five cents a day but forgets that billions of people are today moving into cities. One dollar a day may be more than enough for a subsistence farmer but it is far from sufficient for a city-dweller.

Contrary to the optimistic fanfares from the UN we are now facing catastrophic poverty that no charity will be able to mend. Instead there is a need for empowerment.

One way of empowerment is to set the tools of modern science in the hands of competent local professionals to create welfare by developing the latest findings in science and technology for the benefit of presently marginalized people.

Leap-frog transfer of technology

There are more scientists at work today than in the rest of human history combined. We have to make sure that all this science is not shelved in academia but comes to good practical use.

Each country must develop it’s owe scientific resources, but even more important is that already existing science be applied.

Growth in the exponential way that a part of the world population has experienced recently is no longer possible. All of humanity will not be able to live in the same way as the present upper classes do. We must find other ways to create good life for all. We need to stop the one-way traffic of resources and raw materials into consumerism and pollution. We need sustainability and a circular economy.

Today we have an exceptional opportunity to transform what has been called development aid. All countries on the planet are interdependent in the need to develop a global technology that is green and sustainable. The concepts will vary, but typical tags today would be: optimized efficiency, polygeneration, recycling, zero discharge, sustainability, resiliency, equality, nutraceuticals, permaculture (agro ecology), slow and healthy food, solar power, microelectronics, Internet, decentralized systems.