Primer on Private Sector Engagement for Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations

  • Date Posted: October 12, 2021
  • Authors: Feed the Future Market Systems and Partnerships, Daniella Maor, Feed the Future Market Systems and Partnerships; Avery Ouellette, Global Knowledge Initiative
  • Organizations/Projects: Feed the Future Market Systems and Partnerships, DAI Global, Global Knowledge Initiative
  • Document Types: Primer or Brief
  • Donor Type: U.S. Agency for International Development


Employees assemble tablets at the Surtab factory in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Photo Credit: David Rochkind, USAID

This post is written by Feed the Future’s Market Systems and Partnerships (MSP) Senior PSE Advisor, Daniella Maor, and and Avery Ouellette, formerly of Global Knowledge Initiative.

The Primer on Private Sector Engagement (PSE) for Fragile and Conflict-Affected Situations (FCS) identifies the risks and benefits inherent in engaging the private sector in FCS and addresses special considerations and unique approaches to facilitate successful collaboration. Namely, the primer focuses on how in FCS, we must apply a third layer of intersection—in addition to the shared value intersection between business and development objectives—to ensure a partnership or alliance also aligns with principles such as Do No Harm and Conflict Sensitivity to foster stability and resilience. Discussion is devoted to factors that can facilitate successful use of PSE as a lever to catalyze systemic change, such as the donor’s or implementing partner’s ability to: commit to more than financial support, to take a facilitative approach through practicing systems leadership, to balance the need for fast and urgent action with due diligence, and to allow for longer timelines and anticipate the need to pivot approach.

The primer describes four main types of private sector actors that operate in FCS to reveal the variations in incentives, appetite for risk, and drivers in decision-making across these actors: 1) social enterprises, 2) local private sector, 3) large-footprint companies, and 4) new investors. For each type of private sector actor, the guidance describes how they tend to operate in FCS, common incentives and constraints, where USAID can add value, anticipated behavior change through PSE efforts, and special considerations.

Finally, an annex presents a series of vignettes that highlight real-life examples of engaging the four different categories of private sector actors to support conflict stabilization, humanitarian efforts, and foster resilience.

The Feed the Future MSP Activity is advancing learning and good practice in MSD and PSE within USAID, USAID partners and market actors. For more information, access to technical resources and opportunities to engage, visit