Africa is transforming itself: How do we turn intentions into reality?
15 Aug 2014
Recently I attended an event from the Global Compact, a UN initiative to encourage businesses to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies. Entitled "Advancing Partnerships and Responsible Business Leadership", it was held for the first time in Africa, bringing over 300 participants together from businesses, Global Compact networks, UN agencies and governments.
Africa's economic transformation with various partners from China, Europe and the US was among the key topics discussed. But, while multinational companies do play a role, it is increasingly clear that African policy makers and business people are setting the continent’s agenda.
Participants largely agreed that Africa’s transformation requires investment in better infrastructure, education, skills, jobs, policies and more. The WHAT was better articulated than the HOW.
Africa is expected to be one of the world's fastest growing regions, with 4.8 percent growth in 2014 and over 5 percent in 2015, according to the recent African Economic Outlook 2014. However, this transformation goes well beyond economic growth.
Development practitioners talk more and more about ‘inclusive growth’, agreeing that businesses should go beyond philanthropy and corporate social responsibility towards making their core activities better suited for societies and the environment. As UNDP's Resident Coordinator in Ethiopia, Eugene Owusu stated: "Inclusive growth needs to be job rich, and the private sector has a major role to play".
Not less important is the attitude with which policy makers and businessmen approach development. “Can-do” attitude, open-mind and pro-active solution-seeking approaches can inspire entrepreneurship across all sectors. For example, "education is not an expenditure but an investment,” stated a UNICEF representative during one of the panels.
Attitude is a difficult topic for economists and development practitioners to grasp. But until we learn from the personal development, coaching and psychology fields, I feel we are scratching the surface and could do a much better job with a more holistic development approach.
"Development is not something that we do for people. Development is what people do for themselves. It must start and end from within. Our job is to facilitate the process." - International Fund for Agricultural Development President Kanayo F. Nwanze, Addis Ababa, May 2014.