Making Business Work for Development: Issues for Small to Medium Enterprises
This thesis examines the question of whether business can be made to work for development. Can the standards that are used to measure development projects be applied to the outcomes of business ventures in developing countries? Proponents of neoliberal economic globalisation claim that economic growth is, by definition, good for the poor, and that the opening of global markets gives unprecedented opportunities for poverty reduction. 'Aid for Trade' is now a significant proportion of ODA funding. This is aid that is directed at assisting developing countries to be able to enter the global market. The claim is that the removal of trade barriers and the facilitation of smooth trade processes will be the key to achieving the MDG targets for poverty alleviation. Literature however suggests that such claims are much exaggerated, and that the global market does not automatically work to benefit the poor. Even where good rates of growth are achieved in a country, the poor are left behind, with widening income gaps between the rich and poor. This thesis examines these issues before investigating the concept of 'pro-poor business'. Economic growth can be structured to have positive benefits for the poor. It does not happen automatically, but it can be intentionally built into economic growth structures. There are some basic and fairly simple steps which all business could adopt to assist in poverty alleviation. Beyond this there are business ventures that are proactive in targeting the needs of poor communities. The thesis looks at case studies of six businesses started by expatriate entrepreneurs in six Asian countries. The businesses are investigated by a qualitative study that uses an emailed questionnaire followed up by further email and phone discussions. The businesses have been chosen to illustrate the possibilities over a range of types and sizes of business, and the degree to which they are intentional in targeting specific poverty issues. The businesses are asked questions both about their business structures and also about the extent to which they achieve development oriented goals. Issues faced by the businesses in this melding of business and development concerns are examined. The conclusion is that there are opportunities arising from globalisation that can be taken and shaped to enable the poor to become participants in the global economy.