I participated recently at an interesting discussion about some of the Western projects developed in far-away part of the world, many of them included in the category of 'sustainable development'. In the last decades, there are many important supporters of such developments, mainly from countries interested in creating their own local networks of access to rich natural resources. On the other hand, China is for a long time already there and even though it is not more efficient that, let's say, Germany, it moves faster and less bureaucratically.
However, going beyond the paradigm of 'who's the first to discover the oil field', many of the 'big' investors in Africa or Latin America are faced with the same problem. They may think too big compared with the local realities. For instance, one would be keen in providing access to mobile communications in Nigeria, but why one may need mobile phones when you don't have current water to wash your hands or drink. It may be helpful to use the cell phone to call an ambulance when some severe maladies are out of control, but 1. there are no ambulances around and 2. even if there are, the village is too far away and impossible to reach in the rainy season.
Add to this an aspect that was not mentioned at this discussion, but which is permeating the experience of the Western investors in areas far away of the EU borders: corruption - that flourishes in many EU countries as well - but that is endemic in Africa, often with the benevolent help of the rich Westerners.
Still, I don't think that the race is lost for ever, but I hope that within the next decade, the small and medium-sized entreprises with economic interests in those areas will claim for a significant change and will turn themselves into engines for a sustainable change.
What about replacing 'sustainable development' with 'sustainable change'?