“We can compete for profit and collaborate for purpose”: Unpacking Sustainable Development and CSR in the African Context
Businesses operating in Africa face a significant challenge when it comes to sustainable development and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). One could say that CSR can only be successfully applied in the African context when it is executed on a grand scale. Africa remains a continent rich in resources, holding over 30% of the world’s minerals and oil, and is a fast-growing region for direct investment. As a result, it has witnessed a huge influx of companies opening shop within its borders.
Despite this, Africa is still regarded as one of the most economically disadvantaged areas on earth, and has seen the limitations that African governments face spill over to the business community. In order to exploit the region’s enormous potential, African businesses will need to aid in creating jobs, invest significantly in infrastructure, diversify the African economy, and adapt to the effects of climate change while mitigating its effects. All are key points in sustainable development and goals of CSR.
Needless to say, this won’t be an easy task. However, as a region we have faced tougher challenges and transformed them into opportunities. African companies can use these challenges to show the world why sustainable development and CSR are necessary and possible – especially since the application of sustainable development couldn’t be more relevant in the African context. Ironically, a region that has access to the world’s most precious resources is also a region ridden with poverty, inequality and unemployment.
The challenge therefore is this: With all our mineral wealth and potential, Africa needs to find ways of better sharing this endowment of riches with all its inhabitants, and not just with a local and international elite. If companies wish to work towards sustainable development across the continent, they need to come together and collaborate in solving the issues at hand.
The third Annual Africa Shared Value Summit took place recently in Nairobi, Kenya where it was reiterated that African businesses need to operate with purpose, together. Founder and CEO of the Shared Value Africa Initiative, Tiekie Barnard, opened the summit with strong words for the African business community: “We as a collective have a responsibility to run sustainable businesses that grow our economy and bring about change to the people whose lives we touch.”
This emphasizes the importance of businesses strategically collaborating to bring about significant change in society – which is what Five Tulips strives for. We understand that Africa’s potential will only be unlocked through effective partnerships and collaborations. Five Tulips takes pride in creating sustainable programs with tangible results that deliver long-term socio-economic and environmental development in sub-Saharan Africa – something that our vibrant continent needs and deserves.
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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