Springer Nature's Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Programme aims to connect the researchers who are tackling the world’s toughest challenges with the practitioners in policy and business who desperately need those insights to achieve their goals in improving the world, by making our publishing activities more visible to our key communities through a variety of channels. Earlier this year we launched our SDG16 hub, focused on peace, justice and strong institutions.
In honor of International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (October 17) we reached out to some of our authors, editors, and researchers, asking them to reflect on how we can end poverty and how they are helping in the ongoing mission to achieve SDG 1, and how we, as a scholarly publisher, are helping to contribute to these goals by publishing and distributing their research. In this interview we hear from Helmut Asche.
As a development economist I have long been engaged in research and developmental practice regarding effective economic policy to overcome under-industrialization and lags in agricultural modernization in developing regions. I have been active in the international debate, looking at poverty reduction strategies in Africa. My long-standing work seeks to combine new ideas on regional economic integration with the emerging consensus on new industrial policy – including ideas on the ‘greening’ of these areas. It is a search for ‘Green Integration’, for the better of poor African populations who suffer from the multiple threats of climate change, war, and inadequate economic policies.
My work is explored in my new book, published with Springer. It directly addresses the SDG 9 on industry, innovation and infrastructure which lays part of the foundations for effective poverty elimination. Compared to the earlier MDGs, it is very important that the SDGs do not only mention social goals but explicitly name employment and industry as goals and means to overcome poverty in a productive way. And most developing countries are well-advised to address employment creation or industrialization not just globally or locally, but regionally – in economic compacts with their neighbors. This is what regional economic integration is all about.
As much as poverty eradication itself, deep integration among developing countries has short- and long-term benefits. My work helps clarify what are the low-hanging fruits of integration that can be reaped and what are the challenges to achieve long-term integration similar (but not identical) with that of the European Union.
Even where political consequences of academic work are obvious, researchers have to establish special communication channels to reach the political realm. This is my experience from development economics, and it applies also to my new book with Springer. To give another example, currently I have established a special platform, together with 20 other researchers, from which German (and African) Africanists lobby for a complete revamp of the German government activities in the Sahel region, as current Western answers to combat terrorism are – in the light of our field work – obviously inadequate to re-establish peace and some prosperity.
Regional economic integration is an eminent area of public policy engagements, both by the entities in developing regions and by ‘northern’ entities such as the European Union. All these public bodies are aware that without more effective integration only limited economic progress and, by extension, poverty reduction will be possible. Yet, economic and social research has to prove – and has done so for years – that free trade or so-called partnership agreements more often than once have an adverse impact and have to be modified and rewritten accordingly.
We all know that the most notable progress in poverty reduction over last decades has happened in China (and in other Asian countries). In Africa, the absolute number of poor people is on the increase, despite all laudable efforts. My personal hope, after having worked for four decades first in East Asia and then in Africa, is that this sad trend can be reversed so that the African region catches up with the global trend towards poverty elimination and can achieve the SDG 1.
About Helmut Asche
Helmut Asche has been professor at the University of Leipzig and Mainz (Germany) where he has taught development economics and African studies. Previously, he worked as a social and economic advisor for the governments of Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Kenya and was Africa Chief Economist at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) (formerly GTZ) Head Office.Helmut Asche is the author of Regional Integration, Trade and Industry in Africa", published by Springer in 2021.