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news oct13 1

African Business Leaders Show Confidence at UN Private Sector Forum

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After UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told a high-level audience that “Africa is rising to its challenges” and that “African corporate leaders are playing a key role”, business, government, academic and civil society leaders met to discuss a private sector approach to strategic questions.

Sources of finance and the means of creating jobs, economic growth, a forward role for women and stronger education were the focus issues at the UN Private Sector Forum 2013: Africa.

Joining the Secretary-General at the Forum, which was held in New York on September 20th, were the Right Honourable Prime Minister Amama Mbabzi, Ministers of Governments from Africa and around the world, over 150 chief executives, and the heads of UN agencies, civil society organizations, business associations, and foundations.

The meeting was organized by the UN Global Compact, in close cooperation with the African Union, African Business Magazine, African Development Bank, ILO, UNDP, and UNESCO. It took place on the margin of the UN Global Compact’s 2013 Leaders’ Summit, bringing together more than 1,000 CEOs and C-suite executives.

Mo Ibrahim, a leading African entrepreneur and head of a good governance foundation, advocated for the free movement of people, goods and money on the continent. He also criticized companies that avoided taxes, costing the continent $30 billion a year and fostering aid dependency. Both measures would do much to stop corruption.

At a press conference, Dr. Anthony Mothae Maruping, Commissioner Economic Affairs of the African Union, said that, “Africa wishes to set its own agenda, set its own priorities”. Africa has re-branded itself in terms of production, trade and services. The express vision of African leadership is a prosperous continent with a human setting that is integrated, peaceful, competitive and doing what is necessary for sustainability.

“The scope for private sector development in Africa is tremendous”, he added. “Africa is arising.”

Among the recommendations from round table discussions at the Forum were:

  • Successful investing means betting long term, betting green, and investing right, for inclusive growth, jobs and poverty reduction. The psyche of investors needs to adopt long-term thinking.
  • Education is necessary to create entrepreneurs. Teaching the teachers is important.
  • To unlock jobs and growth, stimulate and support creativity in small and medium-sized firms (SMEs).
  • Bring women entrepreneurs and farmers into the agricultural supply chain. Give women the title to their land.

Also announced by the UN Secretary-General at the conference and endorsed by CEOs were a new “architecture of engagement” and the launch of three new issue platforms for business support of education, agriculture, and peace. They complement existing UN Global Compact platforms on children’s rights, women’s empowerment, climate and energy, water, and anti-corruption.

Speaking to the press ahead of the Forum, Elias Masilela, CEO of the Public Investment Corporation (South Africa), said that the Global Compact’s new architecture for business engagement is highly suited to the challenges of African business as it moves forward. “At this juncture, the path of the Global Compact needs to be celebrated and embraced,” he said.

Addressing the luncheon was Olanrewagu Akinola, Editor of This is Africa, a publication of the Financial Times. Mr. Akinola launched the African Sustainability Barometer, a checklist of corporate sustainability practices at hundreds of firms on the continent. Produced in collaboration with the UN Global Compact, the Barometer aims to motivate companies to improve their sustainability performance and reporting, in an effort to make the business case across the continent and assist investors.

Organizations were encouraged to commit to development-related activities, programmes and partnerships in advance of their participation in the Forum.  Announced at the conclusion of the meeting were 25 business commitments toward sustainable development or public-private partnerships on the continent.

Included in the 2013 list of commitments to action is Regency Foundation Networx who, with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), commits to promoting It’s Africa’s Time to encourage the adoption of the inclusive business model as a part of the corporate growth strategy in Africa, and to demonstrate how this approach can contribute to UN goals and priorities. The TV series will feature examples of responsible corporate engagement across the African continent and illustrate profitable core business models that also yield a sustainable social and environmental impact.

Click here for the full list of commitments.

About the UN Private Sector Forum
Established in 2008 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN Private Sector Forum brings the voice of the private sector to inter-governmental negotiations on key topics during the opening weeks of the UN General Assembly.