Development partnerships are agreements between public and private sector entities to pursue a shared set of development goals. Ideally, such partnerships combine public sector outreach and resources with private sector entrepreneurialism and skills. Development partnerships, in contrast to the more traditional Public Private Partnership (PPP), are entirely voluntary, although the government can make such projects more attractive to private sector partners by offering incentives such as favorable tax terms, co-financing, infrastructure access, and policy changes.
For governments, collaborating with the private sector brings many benefits, including access, resources, technology, and data and expertise. For private partners, such agreements can increase business opportunities or market share, increase reputation and provide a “social license to operate,” and/or greater access to suppliers.
Development partnerships can be implemented on different levels and with a wide variety of partners, from small, local companies to large multinational firms. The role of each stakeholder within development partnerships is not pre-determined; governments, private companies, and other actors can take on many roles.
At the onset of a partnership it is important to align on goals and definitions of success, as well as monitoring and reporting requirements. Challenges can occur in the implementation phase of development partnerships as public and private sector partner often do not have the same understanding of an issue, have different procurement or operational rules, or operate under different timelines.
China: Improving education through partnerships
In China 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas with limited access to educational resources. Ericsson, a global communication technology and services company, has partnered with China’s Ministry of Education to provide students in rural communities with enhanced educational resources.
As a member of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development, Ericsson is committed to promoting the use of mobile networks to help accelerate the achievement of universal education around the globe. By partnering with the Ministry of Education and a major ICT service provider, Ericsson has helped to build a complete ecosystem to manage the development and distribution of interactive learning content via low-cost basic mobile phones. The current program is aimed at two distinct target audiences within the vast rural population and secondary school students and farmers.
Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA). (2010). mLearning: A Platform for Educational Opportunities at the Base of the Pyramid. London: GSMA.
- Bolivia: Agua para Todos partnership between local communities and commercial enterprises that design and construct water distribution systems.
- Kenya: Financial Sector Deepening partnership aims to expand access to finance among lower-income households and smaller enterprises.
- Tanzania: Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor is an inclusive, multi-stakeholder partnership to rapidly grow the region’s agricultural development.
- Zambia: National Malaria Control Centre (part of the National Malaria Strategic Plan) National Malaria Control Centre and a broad range of private and institutional actors.
- InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB). (2011, December 11). Ecuador expands access to microcredit. Press Release: IADB. Accessed from
- Runde, D.F. & Zargarian,A. (2013). The Future of Public-Private Partnerships: Strengthening a Powerful Instrument for Global Development. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Report. Washington, DC: CSIS.