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IDB promotes Opportunities for the Majority initiative in Colombia

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Vélez, Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno and Professor C.K. Prahalad yesterday held a seminar with over 500 Colombian business leaders, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, academics and politicians to urge the private sector, government and civil society to find innovative ways of reducing poverty.

Prahalad, the author of a book entitled The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits, and Moreno also held a working breakfast with Uribe and members of his cabinet, as well as a luncheon with the heads of major Colombian businesses. The afternoon seminar on “Building Opportunities for the Majority in Colombia” was organized by the IDB and sponsored by Colombian energy firm CODENSA, social services organization CONFAMA, the National Association of Financial Institutions (ANIF) and brokerage firm Grupo Aval.

“It is indispensable today that companies in the region have a vision of the future to offer innovative solutions to the problems of the majority in Latin America and the Caribbean on a large scale, at attractive prices,” said Moreno. “We need more public-private partnerships that will supplement government action and generate opportunities for the poor.”

In The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, Prahalad asserts that to eradicate poverty and promote prosperity, everyone in the world needs to have access to the benefits of the global economy. According to him, the poor should be considered consumers and not objects of charity, and in order to reach the majority at the bottom of the economic pyramid, the private sector must find ways to meet the needs of the excluded.

Based on this premise, in June 2006 the IDB launched its new development initiative, Opportunities for the Majority. Under the initiative, the IDB is working with the private sector and civil society to support innovative, practical solutions to persistent problems for the poor in Latin America and the Caribbean, such as access to housing, basic infrastructure, formal financial services, employment, business opportunities and modern technology.

“We want this initiative to become a core part of all the Bank’s activities, as we discussed with the IDB governors this week at our annual meeting in Guatemala,” said Moreno.

“The IDB’s Opportunities for the Majority initiative recognizes that development institutions can support market-based solutions to poverty alleviation,” said Prahalad. “The people who constitute the enormous market at the base of the economic pyramid deserve access to the benefits of the global economy, access to world class products and the chance to become a global producer. Multilateral institutions can lead in engaging the public and private sectors to implement innovative and sustainable approaches that provide dignity and choice to all, especially those at the bottom of the economic pyramid.”

President Uribe urged businesses to develop innovative business models that will help increase income for the poor, and at the same time help Colombians compete in the global economy.

“Listening to Professor Prahalad, you realize that by exercising certain freedoms, we can reconcile the opportunities afforded by the international economy through globalization with the imperative of mainstreaming the excluded masses,” said Uribe. “That is why we have focused sharply on this important political discussion under way in Latin America and on redefining models, which many countries are in the process of doing.”

“We are trying to find a model for private investment, with a state that demands social responsibility and at the same time ensures security, with economies founded on high investment rates and responsiveness to social issues,” Uribe added. “Professor Prahalad’s writings confirm that this can lead to confidence, sustained high investment rates, productivity, competitiveness, improved income for the poorest segments of the population and a greater capacity to innovate that will enable us to become successful players in the international economy.”