The History of Public-Private Partnerships
Tanja Hammel, Department of History, University of Basel
Tizian Zumthurm, Institute for the History of Medicine, University of Bern
Public-private partnerships are lauded for developing infrastructure and being the "new
orthodoxy of global health". Yet, hardly anyone knows that some of the first PPPs emerged in Africa. This panel contributes to a more critical and fuller understanding of the history of PPPs and how innovations in Africa have challenged problem-solving around the world.
While Hegel’s view of Africa as having “no movement or development to exhibit” (1837:99) is long outdated, innovations from Africa remain poorly studied and acknowledged in theory and practice (Mavhunga (ed.) 2017; Mavhunga 2018). Medical Humanitarianism or Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (STIS), for example, have only recently developed interest in the subject.
In this panel, we investigate the historical dimensions of these and similar fields through a focus on the emergence of public-private partnerships. Public-private partnerships are lauded for developing infrastructure and have become ‘the new orthodoxy of global health’ (Lock, Nguyen, 2010). Yet, hardly anyone knows that some of the first PPPs developed in Africa. Muhammad Said of Egypt used “concessions” in the mid-1800s in the construction of the Suez Canal (Karabell 2003). And clinical trials with antimalarial agents in the Tropical Disease Research Centre in Ndola, Zambia in the 1980s, were the first time a PPP went into clinical trials. We invite contributions from various disciplines to help us understand the history of PPPs and how innovations in Africa challenged various problemsolving solutions around the world. The panel thus contributes to a more critical, localized, and actor-centered understanding of developments within fields such as medical humanitarianism and STIS.