Pitching for business at Rio+20

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Sometimes, it seems like we are constantly under pressure to “pitch”. Whether it’s planning your two minute “elevator pitch” for the momentous day you meet your role model in a lift, or working out how to get your boss to pick up your innovative new idea, pitching is becoming a norm in our society. It was confirmed in my mind when I attended a rather unusual event a few days ago at PwC’s smart, eco-friendly offices in London, co-hosted by the Aldersgate Group.

What was unusual about the event was its focus on pitching. More specifically, it used the “Dragons’ Den” format, where people get the chance to pitch their small business ideas to investors with money – and hopefully matches are made.

This format was originally tried and tested in Japan’s “Money Tigers”, and then exported across the globe – for example this short radio piece by the UK’s Dragons’ Den host Evan Davis explores Nigeria’s version. Aid donors have supported these sorts of programmes in the past – Afghanistan’s “Dream and Achieve for example has received support from USAID. That’s because these sorts of programmes encourage entrepreneurship and new businesses, which are desperately needed all over the world.

A Shining Light – aid can help women like Khadija in Afghanistan start new businesses. Picture: DFID

The idea at the PwC/Aldersgate event was pretty similar. But rather than pitching small business ideas to investors, household-name companies such as Microsoft, Virgin and PepsiCo were pitching ideas for governments to advocate and agree in Rio+20.

The nine businesses invited pitched a wide variety of ideas – summarised helpfully in this blog post from RTCC’s John Parnell.

As I discovered, many of the ideas already form part of the UK position for Rio+20, which Caroline Spelman, who was also at the event, reiterated. Nevertheless, after the pitches, a panel of judges – “the dragons” – interrogated the ideas, and the audience finally voted on which they thought was the best.

The winners were as follows: ASDA’s (the UK’s Wal-Mart) pitch for governments to put more action and aid into food security came first, followed by B&Q’s pitch for governments to measure GDP+ (which I wrote about in my last blog post). Third was Aviva’s pitch for governments to push companies to be more transparent about sustainability.

Reflecting on the event, I think what drove these results were the questions the dragons asked before the votes. PwC’s dragon – Richard Gledhill – was particularly “fiery”. His big question to the pitchers was, “Why is this idea important for your business? How would it help make your business’s core activities sustainable?”

I was struck in particular by ASDA’s answer. They said their parent company Wal-Mart is expanding into Africa, China and India, the three places with the largest numbers of smallholder farmers worldwide. According to figures compiled in 2005, that’s 33, 193 and 93 million each respectively. Businesses like theirs could invest in improvements to smallholder farmers’ productivity, and increase the number of products sourced from smallholders in existing and new stores. Ultimately, in terms of sustainability, this will mean farmers improve their rates of return, get more income and build resilience to climate change. At the same time, Wal-Mart’s business might grow further if farmers also became consumers. It was certainly an interesting pitch.

Had we had more time, I expect the dragons would have interrogated this answer further and extracted similar information from others. Sustainable business models do have real potential. A recent report from Ecofys measured the carbon reductions of over 30 companies who have signed up to WWF’s Climate Savers Programme. Over the last 10 or so years these companies together have reduced emissions by an amount equivalent to Vietnam’s 2009 annual carbon emissions. That’s a decent impact, but they clearly can do more. Indeed, the competition for businesses to get ahead in sustainability is rising. A new EIRIS report for Rio+20 publicises the 10 current “sustainability leaders” and scores 50 companies with a combined market capitalisation of £4.4 trillion against each other on a range of sustainability criteria. Rio+20 can and should clearly be a catalyst for action by governments, but it should be for business too. Rio+20 could even catalyse some new public-private partnerships.

So here’s my pitch: there should be another Dragons’ Den in Rio+20 where we ask businesses to provide the best pitch for a new business model that will make their core activities more sustainable at the same time as creating wealth and reducing poverty. Who knows, we might elicit a few worth investing in.


This blog post was featured on E2B Pulse – the website of the UK carbon reduction network.

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EDMOND BOSILONG

Research Analyst

Edmond is a research analyst who is passionate about sustainable development, innovation, and the environment. Passionate about climate financing, he firmly believe there is a more reliable system to promote equality, growth, and welfare in societies without affecting the ecosystem. Through his skills, knowledge and experienced gained over 7 years, he wants to make an impact in the world of development. Edmond holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Korea Development Institute and a BA Degree (Honors) in Business from University of Derby.

HANNAH RYDER

Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.

LEAH LYNCH

Deputy Director

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.

YIKE FU

China-Africa Policy Analyst

Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.

JUDITH MWAI

Research Analyst

Judith is a Research and Policy Analyst, where she specialises in Africa-China relations, international development, and diplomacy. During her time at Development Reimagined, Judith has co-authored several articles published in The Diplomat on debt and China-Barbados relations and was quoted by China Daily in a piece on Women Rights in China. Previously, Judith worked as a research analyst for an Advocate and Commissioner and Oats office in Kenya.

OVIGWE EGUEGU

Policy Analyst

Ovigwe specialises in geopolitics with particular reference to Africa in a changing Global Order. He is adept at critically analysing the politics of contemporary development processes and providing insight into the geopolitical interests that influence them. His work includes research, publications, tailored briefings and advising on global and regional trends, and issues at the nexus of geopolitics and development. Ovigwe appears frequently in media around the world such as Al Jazeera, TRT World, SABC, CGTN, BBC Radio, and other platforms.

JING CAI

Policy Analyst

Jing leads China-African health and agriculture cooperation research at Development Reimagined, having managed our FOCAC Policy Analysis and Advocacy project. She is also the co-author of “China-Africa Health Cooperation under FOCAC Umbrella”, in which she analysed China’s commitments around health cooperation since the first FOCAC summit and deepdived into four African countries’ health overview, challenges and cooperation with China as cases studies. Before DR, Jing worked at GIZ Cambodia on M&E of a disability advocacy project. She also worked as a translator with Chinese medical team in Benin.

PATRICK ANAM

Trade Policy Analyst

Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst and was the lead author of Development Reimagined's recent Report on Africa-China Relations titled "From China-Africa to Africa- China: A Blue Print for a Green and Inclusive Continent-Wide Strategy Towards China." and “Reimaging FOCAC Going Forward.” Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.

ROSIE FLOWERS

Senior Policy Analyst 

Rosemary is our Senior Policy Analyst. She is a skilled policy analyst and has previously worked as a UK civil servant. She is studying Human Rights at Birkbeck, University of London with a research focus on international law in the context of health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

JADE SCARFE

Project Manager and Africa-China Communication Assistant

Jade is a Project Manager for Development Reimagined’s flagship project Africa Unconstrained, which focuses on financing needs and debt vulnerabilities of African countries. Her research focuses on China-Africa development finance alongside debt vulnerabilities, infrastructure needs and South-South cooperation. She has worked with a breadth of stakeholders from China, Africa and the wider international community, including governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including The Africa Report, The China-Africa Project, The Diplomat and more. Jade holds a Master’s in China and Globalisation studies from King’s College London.

ROSIE WIGMORE

Programme Manager

Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Rosie is also alumni of the School of International Studies at Peking University in Beijing where she is also an editor at the Peking Africa Think Tank. PATT is led by a diverse group of scholars who specialise in African Studies within the context of Sino-Africa relations.

LAUREN ASHMORE

Consultant

Lauren has lived in six countries from the Americas to Europe and Asia and speaks both French and Spanish proficiently. At Development Reimagined, Lauren’s research focuses on climate action both in the Asia-Pacific and in Africa, and how countries are using tools such as SDGs and Covid-19 action to build a more climate-resilient future. She holds a Masters in International Relations from Leiden University.

ETSEHIWOT KEBRET

Consultant

Etsehiwot holds a Masters’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. She has diverse experience in humanitarian and development issues by working in both multilateral organizations and international non-governmental organizations. Etsehiwot is currently a consultant focusing on the SDGs and development finance.

DIBEKULU MULU

Economist Consultant

Dibekulu is an economist by training. He holds an MSc in International Development Studies from Palacky University Olomouc, an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Clermont Auvergne, and an MSc in Economics, Finance, and International Integration from the University of Pavia. At Development Reimagined, he works as an Economist consultant. He has strong data analysis skills, with research interests centring around development finance, impact assessment, food security, and agricultural insurance.

OSARU OMOSIGHO

Research Analyst

Osaru is a health professional with an MSc in Health Systems Policy and an interest in women’s health and population management. At Development Reimagined, she applies her health sector experience to global health research and collating locally applicable development insights from China.

PIER FERDINANDO CINOTTO

Research Analyst

Ferdinando’s research at Development Reimagined is centred on South-South Cooperation dynamics, specifically on the analysis of Chinese investment and debt flows in Africa and their linkages to African industrialisation. He is currently a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, after having graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Development Studies.

DAVID TINASHE NYAGWETA

Research Analyst

David is a Research and data analyst at Development Reimagined. His scholarly focus is mostly on interdisciplinary research in demographic economics and development with interests in migration, economic development and policy, education, health and subjective well-being. He is currently a PhD scholar at Nelson Mandela University from which he also holds B.com Economics and Statistics and M.com respectively.

IVORY KAIRO

Research Analyst Kenya

Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team at DR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French.

JOY ENE

Research And Data Analyst China 

Joy Ene is a Research and Data Analyst at DR. Joy is passionate about African/global development, poverty eradication and trade policies between underdeveloped and developing countries. She is also a fourth-year student of International Economics and Trade at the  Liaoning University, Shenyang, China. She serves as the President of the Student Union, Liaoning University, International Students chapter.

CHENSI LI

Research Analyst 

Chensi Li is a research analyst. She has previously worked for local NGOs in Nigeria and Cameroon and think-tanks in China.  Her research areas include Sino-African relations, African foreign affairs, public diplomacy, state-building and national governance.