UN ‘matchmaker’ to foster South-South tech transfer

South south tech transfer Panos.jpg
Copyright: G.M.B. Akash/Panos

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  • A new knowledge-sharing platform targets private firms in low-income nations
  • Hosted in Benin, it could help stimulate private partnerships and tech transfer
  • Since its launch in July it has already spurred US$12 million of investment

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The UN has launched a new technology-transfer platform aimed specifically at private companies in low-income countries to help foster the spread of technology, assets and financing.

The scheme is dedicated to the least developed countries (LDCs) as a direct response to the challenges they face in areas such as sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation and water management.

The South-South Technology Transfer Facility for the LDCs is modelled on a platform already hosted by the UN — the South-South Global Assets and Technology Exchange (SS GATE) — and will act as a matchmaker for companies by providing a space for networking and tools for building collaboration.

“It will allow us to focus our attention on promoting technology transfer specifically in LDCs.”

Teresa Liu, UNOSSC

Since its launch in July at the Ministerial Meeting on New Partnerships for Productive Capacity Building in LDCs held in Cotonou, Benin, 28-31 July, the scheme has already spurred US$12 million of investment between companies.

“It will allow us to focus our attention on promoting technology transfer specifically in LDCs, an area that needs a lot more support,” says Teresa Liu, chief of Development Solutions and Technology Exchange at the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC).

At the conference in Benin more than 100 companies signed up for collaboration.

Advice and support will be available to help identify and guide partnerships on a range of issues, such as capacity building, financing and different partnership options.

The facility will initially focus on agriculture, energy and the environment, and infrastructure-based initiatives, with the possibility of expanding into health domains, says Liu.

UNOSSC and the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS) will take the lead on the project, with the government of Benin hosting the facility in partnership with the UN Development Programme.

The platform will be based at Benin’s Business Promotion Center, which already engages in partnership activities with SS-GATE’s networks of 49 centres, such as chambers of commerce or business associations spread over 39 countries, giving it a global scope, says Liu.

The size of the project will depend on funding — which will come from the UN Development Programme and UNOSSC — but it is likely that around six LDCs, beginning with Benin, will be targeted, she adds. UN-OHRLLS will also help mobilse the network and provide technical input to the project.*

Tony Wamala, an information technology officer at the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomes the launch and believes the platform will be a huge help in stimulating private partnerships and tech transfer.

But efforts must be made to adapt the SS-GATE framework to make it relevant to small- and medium-sized businesses in LDCs, he tells SciDev.Net.

This could include offering IT training for companies lacking the skills to use the predominantly online platform, he says.

Furthermore, he says, many companies lack the funds to travel to events and conferences to meet other players and forge relationships, and so the new facility should offer sponsorship to bring businesses to networking events and raise awareness of the scheme.

*This article was edited on 15 September 2014. It originally stated that UN-OHRLLS would provide funding for the initiative.