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The IBSA Fund: A pioneering South-South development initiative

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Picture: Yandisa Monakali / DNS / Taken January 25, 2019 – President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the inaugural IBSA Gandhi Mandela Freedom Lecture on the sidelines of a state visit to India at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2004 India, Brazil, and South Africa, three geographically and culturally diverse nations, came together with a shared vision to combat poverty and hunger globally. But this noble initiative faces challenges such as political change that often can dictate funding, among others, the writers say.

By Siphamandla Zondi and Naledi Ramontja

South-South co-operation is a dynamic and transformative approach to international development that encourages countries of the Global South to work together, share knowledge, and resources to address common challenges. Within this framework, the India, Brazil, and South Africa (IBSA) Fund stands out as a shining example of effective collaboration and a powerful catalyst for positive change.

Established in 2004, the IBSA Fund for the Alleviation of Poverty and Hunger embodies the core principles of South-South co-operation. India, Brazil, and South Africa, three geographically and culturally diverse nations, came together with a shared vision to combat poverty and hunger globally. Their commitment to solidarity and collective action laid the foundation for this remarkable initiative.

The IBSA Fund’s primary focus is on implementing projects that directly impact the lives of vulnerable communities in developing countries. These projects span a range of sectors, from healthcare and education to agriculture and infrastructure. What sets the IBSA Fund apart is its emphasis on country ownership and inclusivity. The projects are tailored to the specific needs and priorities of the recipient countries, fostering a sense of ownership and sustainability.

One of the key strengths of the IBSA Fund is its approach to capacity building. Rather than imposing solutions from the outside, it invests in local skills and expertise, ensuring that communities are equipped to manage and sustain the projects once they are completed. This approach not only promotes self-reliance but also nurtures a sense of empowerment among local populations.

Moreover, the IBSA Fund’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) demonstrates its alignment with the global development agenda. By targeting poverty and hunger alleviation, it directly contributes to achieving several SDGs, notably Goal 1 (No Poverty) and Goal 2 (Zero Hunger).

The success of the IBSA Fund can be attributed to its flexibility and adaptability. Over the years, it has evolved to respond to changing global dynamics and emerging challenges. Its ability to shift focus when necessary, such as addressing the Covid-19 pandemic, showcases its agility and relevance.

The IBSA Fund is not just about financial contributions; it is a testament to the power of knowledge exchange and best practice sharing. India, Brazil, and South Africa each bring their unique experiences in addressing development challenges to the table. Through this mutual learning process, the IBSA Fund enriches the global dialogue on development co-operation.

There are a couple of key constraints which the IBSA fund must overcome including financial constraints in the Fund’s limited capacity to undertake projects and initiatives to address poverty and hunger across the South effectively. Administrative constraints are evident in the complex and time-consuming nature of decision-making and co-ordination involved.

Political and economic limitations represented by political instability, economic downturns, and changes in government policies in any of the member countries can impact the IBSA Fund’s operations. Unfavourable political and economic conditions may result in reduced financial contributions or shifts in the fund’s objectives, hindering its effectiveness.

The IBSA Fund is constrained also by its limited efforts to collaborate and forge partnerships with other international organisations, including NGOs, development agencies, and governments.

In a world often characterised by competition and divergence of interests, the IBSA Fund shines as a beacon of collaboration and shared responsibility. It demonstrates that South-South co-operation is not merely a theoretical concept but a practical and effective way to address complex global issues. It exemplifies the potential for countries of the Global South to play a pivotal role in shaping a more equitable and sustainable future for all. It is a remarkable example of the power of South-South co-operation.

By leveraging their collective strengths, India, Brazil, and South Africa have set an inspiring example for the world to follow, proving that together, nations can achieve extraordinary outcomes in the pursuit of a more prosperous and equitable world.

Siphamandla Zondi and Naledi Ramontja work for the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation (IPATC), at the University of Johannesburg.