Collaborating with the private sector in GIZ health and social protection programmes in Asia
A stocktaking exercise and the issues it raises
Concept: Matthias Bach, Danny Denolf, Lara Prins
At the regional conference ‘Digitalisation and the Future of Health and Social Protection in Asia and Eastern Europe’ organised by the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) in May 2019, GIZ health and social protection experts with an interest in collabo- rating with the private sector formed a working group ‘Private Sector Cooperation’. This working group aims to enhance both quality and quantity of collaborations between GIZ health and social protection projects and private companies.
Anna von Roenne, Ruth Evans
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, as at October 2020
Challenges, opportunities and issues for further discussion
From the interviews conducted with working group members and from the six examples of GIZ-private sector collaboration presented in the next chapter, the following points have emerged as lessons learned and topics for further discussion:
- Working group members regard collaboration with the private sector as useful, enriching and essential for effective development
All working group members who had an opportunity to collaborate with private companies in the context of their development work regarded this experience as useful and enriching. They noted that it opened new perspectives on their fields of work and how these can be approached. While they were able to share important development expertise with the companies, they in turn gained important insights into the economic realities and work practices of private sector companies. They underlined that it had been a ‘win-win’ mutual learning process.
Given the digital transformation and rapid modernisation of many areas of healthcare (e.g. health information systems, telemedicine or specialist training, see for instance cases 2 and 5) and social health protection (smart insurance cards, digital claim-processing, see case 3) and the resulting gains in efficiency, more collaboration with IT and medical technology companies appears essential rather than optional when it comes to supporting the development of partner countries’ healthcare and social protection systems.
- In development partnerships, roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined and understood from the start
The working group members interviewed noted that it was indispensable to have clear contractual agreements regarding the companies’ and GIZ’s respective roles and responsibilities in the collaboration, including an agreed plan of operation with targets and timelines against which everyone’s contributions could be regularly checked. Some interviewees pointed out that it was particularly important to get a good understanding of the private partner companies’ rationale and incentives for collaboration to avoid misunderstandings and generate optimum results.
- Development partnerships require time, willingness to cooperate with de and an introduction to this kind of work
Some working group members admitted that they had underestimated the extra workload created by a development partnership and that they would consider this more carefully for future partnerships, particularly when more than one private partner plus several local partners were involved. Collaboration with their colleagues from the develoPPP.deprogramme was judged differently by different interviewees, with some finding it more and others less helpful and oriented towards their support needs. Given that develoPPP.de staff based in Germany cannot be familiar with the local context and specificities, GIZ advisors in partner countries need to be prepared to invest time in communication and coordination with develoPPP.de as one necessary element of this work. Where GIZ colleagues know ‘their’ develoPPP.defocal point and have worked on development partnerships before, the coordination appears to become more efficient and less cumbersome. Overall, working group members recommended a better introduction for GIZ staff to this kind of work, including orientation on whom GIZ staff of bilateral projects can turn to with questions or suggestions regarding possible future or ongoing development partnerships.
- Balancing companies’ business interests with partner countries’ development goals can be challenging but is possible
One working group member wondered if it was GIZ advisors’ obligation to always discuss and negotiate a possible collaboration with several companies to ensure that their partners get the best possible terms of collaboration. Other working group members did not share this concern and explained that negotiating a project that was both in the companies’ and in the partner country’s interest was a task that was challenging but possible. They underlined that there was an element of competition because any interested company CAN apply for a DPP. Once a proposal has been submitted there is a careful selection and review process that ensures that project ideas make a long-term contribution to the country’s development goals. They also pointed out that any new technologies introduced through DPP and the accompanying trainings are not allowed to be product-specific but have to provide an overview of all better-known products on the market. In addition, GIZ’s online portal Leverist.de aims to make more companies aware of specific opportunities for development partnerships.
- Classic PPP are indispensable for realising Universal Health Coverage and GIZ can support governments in brokering them
While examples 1, 2 and 4 show the benefits of the DPP model for which GIZ is well-known, GIZ health and social protection advisors can also play an important role in supporting the ‘classic’ PPP model. Example 3 illustrates that GIZ health and social protection advisors are in demand as honest brokers between governments’ newly set up social health protection programmes and the private sector insurance companies that are needed to implement these insurance schemes. Over the past decade, many GIZ health and social health protection programmes worldwide have been advising partner governments on issues related to this classic PPP-type relationship. At a time in which PPPs gain in importance – within GIZ and globally in the context of the SDGs – the experience and expertise of many GIZ social health protection advisors in this field should be positioned more prominently, including in GIZ-internal discussions.
- GIZ can mobilise private sector partners for important social transformation processes
Case 5 is an example that shows that – when the time is right, the cause worthy and public visibility assured – GIZ can mobilise private sector support for social transformation processes that are needed to overcome inequality and discrimination. In collaborating with the private sector, GIZ is well placed to shape these partnerships so that they do not just maximise economic but also broader social and development-oriented benefits.