By Dr Achieng Ojwang
On 3 December, the United Nations Global Compact will convene some of Africa’s leading business executives to talk about the work they are doing to advance the Sustainable Development Goals and improve life in their communities during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Global Compact Networks from across the entire continent, including South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius and the Indian Ocean region, Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Morocco partnered with the New York Office to convene business leaders from across the continent. This virtual Making Global Goals Local Business-Africa event is the 5th such summit which seeks to showcase many of the Global Compact Network Companies that have been doing great work in Africa in delivering on the SDG’s and local needs especially in the wake of the pandemic.
In South Africa, a national ventilator project to manufacture medical equipment was launched to support Covid-19 patients, beverage and chemical companies such as Distell and Sasol in southern Africa adapted production lines to manufacture hand sanitizers and garment manufacturers in almost every country sewed protective clothing for doctors and nurses. Elsewhere, necessity has been the mother of invention.
In Ghana, the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Incas Diagnostics invented an optimised Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT) kit to support the national testing regime. Collaboration has been key where across the continent, telecoms groups have worked with health ministries to set up Covid hotlines with advice on how to prevent and manage infection.
But perhaps the most important lesson we have learnt from this pandemic, in Africa and elsewhere, is that companies are only as healthy as the communities they serve. And it is this insight that has driven banks, utilities and telecoms companies to extend lifelines to their customers.
These sustainable best practices and much more will be explored at Making Global Goals Local Business-Africa, a one-day online event organised by the UN Global Compact and the leaders of its African networks. With the theme “Uniting Business for the Africa We Want: Decade of Action and Opportunities,” the conference is expected to attract dozens of journalists and more than 3,000 attendees, mainly from the private sector.
Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the UN Global Compact, the event will feature top African and international executives, including amongst others Celestin Mukeba, CEO, Equity Bank Congo (DRC); Jane Karuku, CEO, EABL (Kenya); Bridgitte Backman, Global Group Executive, Distell (South Africa), Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director, UN Global Compact, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, and many more. Sessions will explore many of the key issues African countries are confronting head-on to achieve progress to develop sustainably in the coming years, including the impact of COVID-19. For example, the opening plenary is focused on the African Decade of Action which will put the business community’s challenge in the context of reaching the SDGs by 2030 while maintaining sustainable business models.
*Dr Achieng Ojwang is the Executive Director of Global Compact Network South Africa.