Afr­icap­i­tal­ism, Gover­nance & Sus­tain­abil­ity

The Col­umn by African Global Ex­perts on Afr­icap­i­tal­ism, Gover­nance, Sus­tain­abil­ity, Pol­icy, Fi­nance and Eco­nom­ics

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THE AFRICAN PRI­VATE SEC TOR has a clear and cru­cial role to play in sup­port­ing the push to main­stream the United Na­tions Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals, adopted in New York in 2015.

THE AFRICAN PRI­VATE SEC­TOR has a clear and cru­cial role to play in sup­port­ing the push to main­stream the United Na­tions Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals, adopted in New York in 2015.

The pri­vate sec­tor can do this by turn­ing them from an as­pi­ra­tional wish-list to an in­clu­sive and trans­for­ma­tive ap­proach to eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. After all, many of the SDG tar­gets speak di­rectly to chal­lenges faced across the con­ti­nent, from achiev­ing food se­cu­rity to en­sur­ing ac­cess to en­ergy and build­ing re­silient in­fra­struc­ture.

We have al­ready seen a shift in at­ti­tudes to “cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity” from many of Africa’s busi­ness lead­ers. Rather than see­ing it as just a box-tick­ing ex­er­cise, many now un­der­stand that long-term suc­cess means com­mit­ting to a broad­based ap­proach to so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, one that in­cludes job cre­ation, skills de­vel­op­ment, gen­der eq­uity and a pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.

More­over, there is an in­creas­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion that Africa should take con­trol of its own de­vel­op­ment agenda, with its pri­vate sec­tor lead­ers com­mit­ted to seiz­ing the nar­ra­tive back from Western gov­ern­ments, donors and NGOs.

Aliko Dan­gote, Bob Col­ly­more, Strive Masiyiwa and Mo Ibrahim, among many oth­ers, have all been vo­cal in cham­pi­oning causes that are cap­tured in the SDGs, in­clud­ing gover­nance, en­ergy ac­cess and en­trepreneur­ship.

How­ever, Africa’s pri­vate sec­tor isn’t lim­ited to the big hit­ters – the con­ti­nent’s nu­mer­ous SMEs and en­trepreneurs are also fun­da­men­tal to de­liv­er­ing trans­for­ma­tional change. Such smaller busi­nesses are vi­tal to cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties by cre­at­ing jobs, find­ing in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to old chal­lenges and build­ing strong value chains.

For African busi­nesses, then, the SDGs po­ten­tially pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to demon­strate their own­er­ship of the con­ti­nent’s growth and de­vel­op­ment story.

This ap­proach, which Nige­ri­aborn en­tre­pre­neur and phi­lan­thropist Tony Elumelu terms “Afr­icap­i­tal­ism,” en­tails a com­mit­ment to long-term in­vest­ments that cre­ate both eco­nomic pros­per­ity and so­cial wealth on the con­ti­nent.

Africa’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, as driven by its own pri­vate sec­tor, should bring with it suc­cess in many of the ar­eas flagged by the SDGs. How­ever, given the scale and breadth of the SDG tar­gets, how best can they be in­te­grated into a busi­ness strat­egy and sub­se­quently, track their suc­cess­ful im­ple­men­ta­tion?

One po­ten­tial an­swer lies in the UN Global Com­pact’s SDG Com­pass, an on­line tool for busi­nesses to use to en­sure that their strate­gies are in align­ment with the growth tar­gets, while also pro­vid­ing guid­ance on in­di­ca­tors to mea­sure and tools to as­sess progress.

For ex­am­ple, in or­der to sup­port the in­di­ca­tors on “pro­mot­ing sus­tained, in­clu­sive and sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth,” the SDG Com­pass ad­vises com­pa­nies to in­clude poli­cies on pro­mot­ing eco­nomic in­clu­sion when se­lect­ing sup­pli­ers, to pro­vide train­ing to work­ers, and to adopt fair and trans­par­ent gover­nance stan­dards. It also pro­vides a re­pos­i­tory of the var­i­ous tools and guidelines al­ready avail­able to es­tab­lish best prac­tices in var­i­ous fields: from the Global Re­port­ing Ini­tia­tive’s Wa­ter Per­for­mance In­di­ca­tors to Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional’s Anti-Bribery Check­list.

A great deal of work has al­ready been put into mak­ing it eas­ier for com­pa­nies to mea­sure and re­port their con­tri­bu­tions.

Yet, with 169 tar­gets to track, many of which have mul­ti­ple ap­pli­ca­tions (the SDG Com­pass sug­gests 45 dif­fer­ent in­di­ca­tors, for ex­am­ple, just for tar­get 1.4 on en­sur­ing equal rights to eco­nomic re­sources), it is dif­fi­cult to en­vis­age any but the largest cor­po­rates suc­cess­fully ver­i­fy­ing their com­pli­ance in ev­ery re­spect.

It is in this way that the lead­er­ship al­ready shown by some of the afore­men­tioned African phi­lan­thropists and ex­ec­u­tives can serve as a tem­plate.

It is clear that fo­cus­ing on cer­tain pri­or­ity ob­jec­tives can have an ex­po­nen­tial ef­fect on de­vel­op­ment across Africa.

Ex­tend­ing ac­cess to en­ergy (SDG 7), for ex­am­ple, as many African com­pa­nies are do­ing, will have a knock-on ef­fect on nu­mer­ous other tar­gets in­clud­ing en­abling school chil­dren to study in the evenings, hos­pi­tals to store vi­tal medicines and run es­sen­tial equip­ment, and small busi­nesses to scale up their op­er­a­tions.

Sim­i­larly, pri­ori­tis­ing agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment, build­ing safer cities and con­serv­ing the en­vi­ron­ment will all pay div­i­dends in mul­ti­ple re­spects.

Of course, not ev­ery African busi­ness is in a po­si­tion to drive change in these big-ticket ar­eas. How­ever, the SDGs also pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for Africa’s SMEs and en­trepreneurs to com­mit to a range of ini­tia­tives that will de­liver trans­for­ma­tional change and de­vel­op­ment in their mar­kets.

As an African busi­ness­man, I am com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that my com­pany, Africa Prac­tice, plays its part in meet­ing these am­bi­tious tar­gets, through our work in sup­port­ing the con­ti­nent’s most pro­gres­sive lead­ers and com­pa­nies, those who are en­gaged in build­ing a more pros­per­ous Africa.

Whether it is pro­mot­ing gen­der equal­ity in the work­place, up­grad­ing in­fra­struc­ture or re­duc­ing waste, all African busi­nesses should be proud to state pub­licly what they are do­ing to sup­port the SDGs.

Africa’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, as driven by its own pri­vate sec­tor, should bring with it suc­cess in many of the ar­eas flagged by the SDGs

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