IBI grew out of Dr. Lucie Phillips’ research and consulting, after she returned to the USA from twenty years spent mainly in Africa. Her studies had shown that development programs sometimes failed to take into account local realities, including traditional law and authorities, property rights and institutional histories. On the other hand, local economies faced constraints for lack of ability to get information and technologies that were well known in the developed world. Her idea was to bring the two together, using modern business skills and best international practices while adapting them to developing country contexts to find truly viable, local solutions. IBI’s initial clients for research and social impact studies and training included USAID, international financial institutions, and large corporations.
For nearly twenty years, IBI has maintained its commitment to business-like standards by producing high-quality, measurable and sustainable results in a timely manner.
As IBI grew it became an implementing partner on major long-term contracts and cooperative agreements. On early projects IBI assisted West African Businesswomen to grow their business through networking and computer skills. It facilitated 15 ECOWAS countries’ application of a common external tariff as a step towards Customs Union. IBI developed a niche practice in oil, gas and mining, working with both industrial mining companies and artisanal miners. In Tanzania it facilitated coexistence between artisanal and industrial mining. In Madagascar and Liberia, improved gem markets.
For the last decade IBI has been assisting Liberia to rebuild its fragile governance capacity following two decades of civil conflict. Initially specializing in public financial management, the program now implements civil service reform, mobile money and the Ebola epidemic control effort. In the sixteen ministries and agencies we support, we have computerized operations from the bottom up, providing user friendly solutions and training several thousand Liberian government staff. We support the Liberian Institute of Public Administration and other local partners to ensure that capacity building continues sustainably.
IBI is working in Bangladesh to integrate export-import processes. We assisted in framing a new Customs Law in compliance with the Bali Accords on global trade. Other important contributions include systematizing formerly inconsistent information on customs and developing an authorized operator program and post-import audit capacity to speed operations.
IBI uses information and communications technology creatively tailored to local contexts. Three of the highest impact uses have been (1) setting national ICT standards and computerizing the operations of ministries and agencies of government; (2) introducing mobile money; and (3) using Geographic Information Systems to give entire countries the ability to see the relationships between population density, productive areas, markets and trade flows, infrastructure, education and health, and natural resources.
IBI has grown steadily and is now one of USAID’s leading small business partners. It now has a skilled, focused team of nearly 100 employees. Since its inception, IBI has been headquartered in Arlington, VA, a fifteen-minute Metro ride from U.S. government agencies and the World Bank in downtown Washington, DC. IBI recently opened a new office in Ghana, West Africa in order to expand its offerings and increase its regional presence.