Private sector

A female researcher at work in a laboratory in Kisumu, Kenya.
At the Kenya Medical Research Institute, which falls under the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) public-private partnership, research is being carried out on anti-malarial drugs. © Elizabeth Poll/MMV

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can only be achieved if all parts of society work together. In order to meet development challenges at global level, private-sector resources, know-how and innovative strengths are indispensable. That is why the SDC is continuing to consolidate partnerships with the private sector in order to promote sustainable development in the Global South and Eastern Europe.

Private sector and sustainable development

The private sector has a key role to play in sustainable poverty reduction. Nine out of ten jobs in developing countries are in the private sector. The products and services of private companies improve living conditions for countless people. The private sector is also an important driver of innovative solutions to development challenges.

The international community and the private sector agree that global development challenges can only be addressed if they work together. To this end, Switzerland's International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24 highlights the major potential of private sector engagement (PSE), especially in SDC priority countries (link in box at bottom of page).

General Guidance on the Private Sector in the context of the International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24 (PDF, 16 Pages, 682.3 kB, English)

Advantages of PSE

SDC partnerships with the private sector are based on a shared vision of sustainable development. The goal is to achieve greater impact through market-oriented solutions by creating synergies and building on the strengths and know-how of individual partners. 

There are many reasons for private-sector companies to work together with the SDC such as:

  • SDC’s presence in the field, its long-standing engagement in various regions and its local networks as well as its credibility as a facilitator in the international cooperation sector – all of which create added value for private-sector partners looking to develop and implement sustainable solutions together with the public sector.
  • Financial risks can be mitigated with the additional support of the SDC, thereby facilitating private investment in difficult contexts.
  • Innovative approaches aimed at creating new market opportunities for products and services with significant added value in terms of development can be tested and implemented more easily with SDC co-funding.
  • Cooperation with the SDC helps to promote sustainable business practices, industry-wide standards, and policy and regulatory reforms that foster good business conditions (including the rule of law and fair competition).

For the SDC, private-sector partnerships are one of several approaches to fulfilling its overarching mandate to reduce poverty and 'leave no one behind'. The strategic use of public funds for PSE aims to foster innovations that address development challenges, catalyse private investment and mobilise much-needed resources in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Basics of PSE

All SDC partnerships with the private sector must meet clearly defined criteria: respect for human rights, corruption standards, a shared vision and shared responsibility for the targeted impact, as well as clear outcome indicators and their monitoring.

The PSE approach taken by the SDC means joining forces with one or more private-sector partners on an equal footing, sharing benefits, costs and risks.

  • Co-initiation: building the collaborative partnership together, including the development of innovative approaches to solving problems.
  • Co-steering: all partners are equally committed to the success of the collaborative efforts. As a rule, both the SDC and the private-sector partner(s) involved in the PSE partnership also participate actively in the governing body.
  • Co-financing: all partners must contribute financially and/or in kind.

PSE involves joint steering and financing, which makes it different from other forms of private-sector cooperation such as the awarding of contracts or projects that benefit local companies in SDC priority countries.

The SDC works with companies of all sizes, social and impact enterprises, impact investors and foundations. In principle, private-sector actors from all countries are eligible for PSE cooperation with the SDC. NGOs and academic institutions can also be involved in these partnerships.

PSE has considerable potential but it also poses challenges. The SDC makes every effort to mitigate risks and select partners carefully. A common risk management strategy is key, which is why the SDC has set up a comprehensive process based on best practices that must be followed throughout all its PSE partnerships.

Handbook: Private sector engagement (PDF, 80 Pages, 8.4 MB, English)

Flyer: Private sector engagement (PDF, 4 Pages, 889.0 kB, English)

PSE and the SDC

The SDC is not new to PSE. In fact, one of the first public-private partnerships – the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) – dates back to 1999. At the end of 2021, the SDC had 142 active PSE collaborations with 162 different partners in a wide variety of contexts. The thematic spectrum and scope of these partnerships are also diverse. For more information on SDC-private sector collaborations, follow the links under 'PSE examples' at the bottom of the page. 

Partnering with the SDC

Are you a private-sector actor interested in finding out more about PSE partnerships with the SDC and making a joint contribution to sustainable development in one of its priority countries? Please contact the SDC's Competence Centre for Engagement with the Private Sector (CEP) with your enquiry and we will be happy to provide you with any information you may need (