‘Making markets work for the poor’ (M4P) is a generic approach to developing market systems that benefit poor people. Interest in M4P is increasing but there are still many misconceptions over what it is and why it is important. This article sets out to address these issues. The foundation for M4P lies in real world changes, new conceptual thinking and learning from the wider experience of development agencies. More recently, the positive experience of M4P in practice - and the results generated - are a strong argument for the approach. From an operational perspective, M4P presents a framework to define market systems, emphasizes the facilitation role of agencies and offers guidance in each element of the implementation process. Although there are a number of caveats associated with it, M4P has considerable potential to bring about pro-poor systemic change.
Business services, increasingly important for the competitiveness of rural economies, can be developed through considered and focused actions by development agencies and governments. The distinctive features of the rural context mean that business services here can be different, with more emphasis on embedded services in subsectors, on collective delivery and consumption of services and on public–private collaboration. However, the role they play in the economy is essentially the same as in urban environments; providing knowledge and information to help businesses solve problems and realize opportunities (e.g. reduce costs, gain market access and improve efficiency).Drawing on a wider review and a variety of case material this paper demonstrates the nature of rural business services and highlights key steps that can be taken to promote their development. These build on the logic of the market development approach and, while posing challenges, argues that these are within the grasp of agencies to implement.
The BDS market development field has clearly made progress in its first few years of activity. However,to advance the field further,and to address incipient signs that spread has not been accompanied by depth in understanding, it now needs to confront ten critical challenges. These are concerned with reasserting the analytical rigour that underpins the approach, with confronting the difficult issues of how to operationalize market development objectives and with building the capacity of organizations and personnel. This article highlights these challenges and, in doing so, positions BDS market development within the wider private sector development field. While neither straightforward nor given to pre-packaged solutions, the issues identified here are relevant to all development efforts aimed at making markets work more effectively and inclusively for the benefit of the poor.