Can CSI be a Buffer Between Revolution and the Predatory Elite?
South Africa is in the midst of an economic and political crisis that has persisted for years, with no apparent changes or improvements. The poor, marginalized, and youth are bearing the brunt of these challenges, which has led some to question whether South Africa is on the brink of an “Arab Spring” revolution, or becoming a failed state. Citizens have threatened to protest and take matters into their own hands. But how far do we need to go to make a difference?
With the frequent load-shedding interrupting business and day-to-day life, many South Africans continue to face high levels of poverty, unemployment, inequality and crime. The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated these challenges, with many people losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet. Are Corporate Social Investment (CSIs) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSRs) more important than ever before?
Why did the EFF National Shutdown Fail?
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is a political party in South Africa that was founded in 2013. Their primary objective is to fight for economic freedom and to advocate for the poor, marginalized, and working-class people in the country. As part of its efforts to draw attention to the socio-economic challenges facing the country, the EFF has organized several national shutdowns.
Planned for March 20, 2023, the latest national shutdown aimed to bring attention to the severe economic crisis that plagues our country. The EFF urged people to refrain from engaging in any economic activity, including going to work or school for the day, with the hope that the protest would convey a message to both the government and private sector that immediate action must be taken to address the challenges at hand. However, it didn’t take off. This lack of support could be a sign that South Africans are wary of resorting to violent revolution and prefer to pursue change through other means. It is an indication that the private sector can play a role in addressing socio-economic issues through CSI and CSR. We need more support for CSI and CSR strategies & programs.
The Importance of CSI
CSI and CSR are strategies that businesses/companies can use to address social issues and positively impact the communities they operate in. Although they may not solve the political and economic crisis in South Africa, they can contribute to mitigating its effects.
CSI involves investing resources in social and environmental initiatives, such as education and healthcare programs and community development projects, which alleviate poverty and improves the quality of life for individuals and families.
CSR involves businesses taking responsibility for their impact on society and the environment, such as reducing carbon emissions, promoting diversity and inclusion, and ensuring ethical labour practices. These initiatives can address some of the underlying causes of the crisis. By investing in education programs, businesses can build a skilled workforce to tackle economic challenges. Ultimately, working together with government and civil society, businesses can help create a more sustainable and equitable future for all South Africans.
Nevertheless, CSI and CSR initiatives should not be seen as a replacement for government action. The government has a critical role to play in addressing these issues.
South Africa is facing significant political and economic challenges that threaten to potentially plunge the country into turmoil. The EFF’s failed national shutdown last week suggests that South African society believes change can be enacted without resorting to violence. This belief highlights the importance of CSI and CSR initiatives, which can help to address the status of our economy. It would be helpful for the private sector to work in partnership with the government to address these challenges.
As we navigate these uncertain times, we must ask ourselves what role we can play in creating a more equitable and just society. How can we support CSI and CSR initiatives? How can we hold our government and private sector accountable for addressing these issues? Only by working together can we make the political and corporate elite more accountable, and create a better future for all South Africans.
About the Author:
Yolanda Gossel is the Founder and Programme Director at Five Tulips, a South African based sustainability and corporate social investment (CSI) consultancy. Five Tulips forges partnerships between communities, public and private sectors and individuals for social upliftment and preservation of our planets resources and ecosystems.
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