3 August 2012

Africa: Private-Public Partnerships to the Rescue

At the 2012 Africa Roundtable Conference on Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility (AR-CSR), held recently in Calabar, speakers including the United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change, Dr. Gro Brundtland, advocated genuine private-public partnership and sustainable CSR initiatives as solutions to poor economy on the continent.

Corruption, failure to properly preserve natural resources and poor government policies were among some of the problems identified at the 2012 edition of the Africa Roundtable Conference on Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility (AR-CSR), held in Calabar, Cross River State.

The conference, with the theme, 'Sustainable Development: Expanding Economic Opportunities for Public-Private Synergy', was organised to create a new roadmap for society to advance, as well as remind the private sector that the era of focusing only on profit was gone.

The event kicked off with a high-level roundtable session followed by a one-and-a-half-day conference that sparked off stimulating and thought-provoking sustainable ideas.

In her opening remark, the Lead Consultant/CEO of ThistlePraxis Consulting; Ini Onuk said the organisers agreed on the theme to give economic experts in the continent the opportunity to rub mind on common challenges and the way to solve them.

ThistlePraxis Consulting Limited, an Assessments and Strategy Firm partnered Friends of the Global Fund, Africa (Friends Africa), CAPPS Consult as well as the Cross River State Government to organise the conference.

Governor of Cross River Liyel Imoke said the conference has provided a forum for peer-to-peer policy dialogue for business leaders to learn and share experiences in best practices on emerging issues in Africa, while at the same time, helping to develop business relationships.

"As a state seeking to be the leading service-driven economy in Nigeria, we are keen to provide the most enabling business and recreational environment for investors and visitors alike, this informed our decision to encourage a forum like this" he said.

Africa's Development

In her keynote address, the former prime minister of Norway, who is also the United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change, Dr. Gro Brundtland, stated that development of African countries should no longer be measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

She stated that the market alone cannot spur change because if ecosystems keep degrading, many companies would find it impossible to exist and succeed. The envoy also bemoaned the fact that many of the world's problems highlighted in the 1987 Brundtland Commission are still in existence today and advocated the use of Science as the key to point the way forward to a more sustainable planet.

Speaking further, she advocated that all government subsidies must be transparent and phased out by 2020, adding that s sustainable development in Africa depends on active PPP frameworks that enable businesses advance Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

To this end, she pointed out that "public policies are needed to remove barriers, stimulate progress and we need to remove old policies that promote unsustainable energy. We must also do much more to expand Global Sustainable Energy transmission. In our common future it was warned before now that threats such as climate change, deforestation, dependence on unsustainable sources of energy must be looked into,"

Speaking on the need for African nations to preserve their natural resources, Engr. Nurudeen Rafindadi of Afri-Projects Consortium observed that; "Despite the awareness of the problems of a dwindling resource base and deteriorating quality of land and water resources, conservation plans receive low political priority. The few conservation policies and integrated natural resources management concepts remain poorly operationalised, largely due to institutional constraints that inhibit their implementation"

Role of Corruption

The acting Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC; Barr. Ekpo Nta and the Governor of Cross River State unanimously agreed at the conference that corruption, which was identified as a major problem in Africa, can be effectively tackled only if the sub-cultures that fuel corruption are properly addressed.

The ICPC boss, who observed that corruption has percolated down from up, advocated for the need to aggressively enlighten the public on its trends, stating that there are academic questions to be asked and answered when dealing with issues of corruption. He also tasked citizens on the need to call for people-centric governance which would ensure that the demands made from public officials are reduced because the people are enjoying sustainable development.

In his own contribution, Governor Imoke blamed the society for the damage corruption has done to African economy. He said, "The root of corruption should not be linked to politician alone or top government functionaries but also to members of the public, who encourage and at times push their representatives to go extra miles and involve in corrupt practices in other to take care of their individual needs or their communities.

Speaking on the topic, 'Emphasizing Good Governance & Fighting Corruption', other discussants included Senator Liyel Imoke, Executive Governor, Cross River State, Dr. Kasirim Nwuke, Chief, Quality Assurance Section, Office of Planning & Management, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA); Dr. Chibuzo Okezie, Deputy Director, Banking Supervision, Central Bank of Nigeria and Dr. Deogratias Barakamfitiye, Country Director for Senegal, Institute for Security Studies. The panel was moderated by Soji Apampa, Co-Founder, Convention on Business Integrity.

In other comments, Nta advocated for the need to aggressively enlighten the public on corruption trends and educate the citizenry. He also advocated for people-centric governance which will ensure that the demands made from public officials are reduced because the people are enjoy sustainable development. The ICPC Chair also stated that there are academic questions to be asked and answered when dealing with issues of corruption.

Corporate Governance

President of the Africa Sustainable Investment Forum and Principal, SinCo; Graham Sinclair advocated the need for evidence-based research and sound corporate governance practices for the uniform growth of the continent's economy.

In his opening presentation as lead discussant, the environmental social and governance expert decried the dearth in research, especially evidence-based research which will compel the business case for sustainability. He also noted that Corporate Governance ranked second highest, next to risk as the critical determining factor for investments in Africa. Sinclair also urged African economies to respond to the need to do more due to the competition for investments by other continents.

He however noted that more investors are interested in African companies that are incorporating ESG into their project lifecycles.

Youth Empowerment

Corporate organisations and individuals operating in the Nigerian market were urged at the conference to focus on empowerment of youths in the area of provision of sustainable education skills in their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes.

Chief Executive Officer of Etisalat Nigeria, Mr. Steven Evans, who made the remark stated that focusing on educational development projects would help African nations. To this end, Evans said his company was committed to empower the youths to advance the sound future of the nation through the different programs.

"At Etisalat Nigeria, we believe that education is the bedrock of development, and is an essential pre-requisite to the development of the economy and its growth, along with access to food and health care," he stated.

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