Troubled times an opportunity to make a difference
Although the world is in a crisis, it is the ideal time for business leaders, the private sector, governments, and development agencies to pursue the same goals to improve living conditions on the planet, writes Leon Louw, founder and editor of WhyAfrica.
Today, the world is “challenged like never before,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said earlier this week. However, these troubled times also presents an opportunity for business and business leaders to show that they really care and to make a meaningful difference in the world, especially in Africa.
Historically, development agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), governments and the private sector have not been good at collaborating in bringing about significant change in an increasingly unequal world.
Although the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have always provided a roadmap of where the world should be heading, business and the development community have never operated in tandem to reach those goals. And yet, the business community can learn so much from organisations like the United Nations, aid agencies and NGOs, and vice versa of course.
These agencies have been present in Africa for many years and operates in areas where crisis have often made one question humanity. Getting these large and complex projects off the ground requires knowledge and logistical skills only an international organisation like the UN would be able to garner. Moreover, their intelligence and information, especially in fragile states and areas where conflicts have marred economic development, are becoming increasingly important for any business brave enough to look for communities where they can make a difference.
The private sector needs to be bold and brave and invest in areas where in the past only development agencies would tread. The private sector and business, big or small, have the skills, resources, and ambition to create jobs and at the same time, empower local communities, so that they are not always dependent on aid and hand-outs. However, this should be done in a responsible manner.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a roadmap for business to help the developing world get back on track after the global pandemic. SDGs are the vocal points around which business leaders, government officials, politicians and development agencies should rally.
The implementation of development goals should be the number one concern and monitoring and evaluating their impacts the second. The UN’s monitoring and evaluation blueprint can be duplicated in any business, and CEO’s or operational managers should take note of the importance attached to such functions.
Earlier this month, Guterres launched “Our Common Agenda”, a plan to strengthen and revitalise the whole multilateral system and rally the world around common objectives.
In the document, the Secretary-General points to five areas for urgent action.
- First, the world needs to end the pandemic. Noting the response “has been too slow and too unequal”, Guterres called on the world to mobilise behind a global vaccination plan that doubles production, to reach 70% of the world’s population by the middle of next year.
- Second, he highlighted the need for a sustainable and equitable recovery for all, so that the world stays on track to end poverty by 2030. For him, that means bold investments in systems that support human development, but also “putting people above profits, including through progressive taxation, and ending tax evasion, money laundering, and illicit financial flows.”
- He then pointed to equal rights for women and girls, saying none of the SDGs can be achieved without gender equality. “We need bold investments to make sure every girl has a seat in the classroom and the skills she needs to chart her own future”, he said. “We need to dismantle the power structures that allow discrimination, violence and economic hardship to keep one half of humanity down. And we need to make sure that girls and women have a seat at every table,” he added.
- Another priority for Guterres is to end the war against the planet, by committing to net zero emissions by 2050. He recently asked member states to shelve plans for any new coal-fired power plants after 2021 and mobilise USD100-billion a year for climate action.
- Lastly, he stressed the importance of an equitable global recovery, asking people everywhere to work with their governments to put people first in their budgets and recovery plans.
“It would be easy to lose hope. But we are not hopeless. Or helpless. We have a path to recovery. If we choose to take it,” Guterres said.
Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.
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