Why creating ‘Shared Value’ is vital for Africa’s economic recovery
We as leaders – young and old – need to create an African narrative and drive our own African agendas. The Shared Value Africa Initiative is designed to do just that, writes TIEKIE BARNARD.“Africa Unity starts with you and I, recognising each other as brothers and sisters, irrespective of whether we speak Swahili, Portuguese, French or English … respecting each other and doing away with our colonial past that ONLY respects that which comes from the outside and is prejudice based. To a large extent we are getting this right, but we are moving too slow because we are blocked by our inability to see value in people that are not members of our private exclusive clubs.”
– Prof Mthunzi Mdwaba
The concept of One Africa, One Voice is about uniting us all with one voice and, most of all, it is about being the voice for those voices that are silent; those who do not have the power nor the freedom or platform to raise their voices.
These are voices of our women and children, our young people that cannot get jobs, our employees who are too scared to speak up, and our informal sector not getting enough support from governments and private sector. One Africa, One Voice represents both the ones holding the power and the ones needing the support, it is voice of all the voices.
That is why the 2021 Africa Shared Value Leadership summit, held late last year, chose the phrase as its theme – not just for one year, but for all future summits.
We as leaders – young and old – need to create an African narrative and drive our own African agendas. To do this, we need unity. Unity that is still eluding Africa even after a decision was made 59 years ago in Addis Abba to create Pan-Africanism, which centred on and promoted African unity and intensified co-operative action towards development.
The summit, for me personally, was insightful and inspiring. And yet it was also sometimes sad as we still live in a world ruled by inequality. It was energising to be able to connect face-to-face again, yet the ‘emptiness’ in the room – with masked individuals – did reflect and remind us once again that COVID-19 is still with us.
The fifth summit created a platform for our young entrepreneurs, who joined us from countries all across Africa. The work, drive, energy, and enthusiasm shared by these young voices – as our future leaders – was truly inspirational and I personally feel that the future of Africa is in good hands
Mark Kramer once again pointed out that we have a responsibility to change the system. A system that was created hundreds of years ago, before we knew about the devastating effects of climate change, or about the future population growth and its enormous challenges, or even about a pandemic that caused more than four million deaths and that touched every individual, every country, and every company worldwide.
We need to throw out all of our assumptions: assumptions about our own continent, assumptions about each other, the assumption that Africa is poor and always will be, the assumption that for Africa to develop we need to be more like the West, assumptions that we are not good enough, the assumption that whatever comes from outside Africa is better than what we have here, and the assumption that in order to make money businesses need to put people and planet aside and focus on profit only.
Business can be the agent for change for the nearly overwhelming problems we face today and businesses can and need to profitably address our social and environmental issues.
It was world-renowned architect Becky Fuller who said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, we need to build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
As a collective, we need build that new model, and that starts with changing our own thinking and attitudes. A new model that sees us, as a collective. Take the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) for example – supporting it and using it, and growing intra-Africa trade, a new model that is based on economic inclusion, a business model that supports young businesses, a model that embraces gender equality, a new model that is not steeped in old thinking, and a new model that creates equality and an environment where we create trust and intentionally leave no one behind.
The summit was inspiring and led by speakers young and old – thought leaders that shared insights, who raised thoughts on how we can drive economic recovery and change. Change that needs to happen now, as we do not have the luxury of time. Yes, time is running out and our people and our planet are suffering. We need to make the change.
If you missed out on the summit and could not join us, please visit our YouTube channel. It provides more insights and food for thought on building the future of our Shared Value Africa.
What is the Africa Shared Value Initiative?
Creating Shared Value (CSV) is a concept developed by Harvard University School of Business professors Michael Porter and Mark Kramer. It states that companies can profitably deliver economically beneficial strategies that simultaneously solve societal challenges. Larry Fink, CEO of Black Rock, explains, “To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”
Businesses that create value for the society also create economic value. A shared value approach requires embedding social needs into the value propositions businesses have; value creation, therefore, goes beyond the conventional calculation of revenues earned relative to costs incurred and rather, conceptualises value more holistically by connecting corporate success with societal improvement over time.
The Shared Value Africa Initiative (SVAI) is a non-profit pan-African Shared Value advocacy, training, research and membership organisation and the regional partner of the global Shared Value Initiative. Shift Impact Africa, a Shared Value advisory and consultancy firm based in Johannesburg, operates it. The purpose is to grow the community of African Shared Value leaders that intentionally align and deliver on profit with purpose, thus creating economic value and simultaneously generating value for society and the environment
Source: Shared Value Research Report (June 2020)
How Shared Value Africa Initiative members demonstrated solidarity during COVID-19
A couple of months after COVID-19 landed in South Africa, SVAI members conducted research around questions and thinking such as: Is there continuity between the company’s core focus or purpose, its business operations, and its response to the pandemic? And what do the findings imply about the resilience of Shared Value companies?
The most striking take-out of the research was how Shared Value companies continued to amplify their existing social impact work during a crisis. Each company that is part of the SVAI network demonstrated during its clear purpose, and existing social impact work, could simply be broadened in order to respond meaningfully to the crisis.
It was also interesting to note the extent to which Shared Value companies demonstrated during this period their willingness to collaborate in order to achieve social impact, forming partnerships across private, public and non-profit sectors an eco-system to tackle the pandemic’s social and economic devastation.
Tiekie Barnard is founder and CEO of the SVAI and Shift Impact Africa. The SVAI was founded by her passion and drive to make a difference, and the realisation that business has the resources and the power to accellate change on our continent. The SVAI is striving to assist business on the Africa continent and to build the most impactful business network of companies pursuing profit with purpose. Barnard is the co-creator of the firstever Harvard aligned Shared Value executive training course on the African continent
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