Business for Development

Both the Commission for Africa’s reports in 2005 and 2010 emphasised the role the private sector had to play in promoting a strong and prosperous Africa – alone and in partnership with others. It was in this vein that the head of the Commission’s Secretariat Myles Wickstead chaired a Business Fights Poverty event in London last week that looked at new models of partnership between business, government and civil society.

The event brought companies together with government and NGOs to discuss what made for successful partnerships between the three sectors – and coincided with the launch of Business Action for Africa’s report on the same theme.

Deputy Director of the Shell Foundation Clare Woodcraft’s opening remarks focused on the lessons they had learned from scaling up projects, summarised in a report being launched that day. The clear lesson is that projects need to be designed to accommodate expansion from the outset.

From the government side, Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, who is Head of Profession for Private Sector Development at the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), spoke of DFID’s work to improve its communication with and support to the private sector. William Asiko, President of the Coca-Cola Africa Foundation and Chair of Business Action for Africa, gave the private sector perspective on partnerships. Dame Barbara Stocking, Chief Executive of Oxfam GB, described some of the work her organisation had done with private companies – including in helping smallholder farmers in Azerbaijan become suppliers for Unilever. Finally, Natalie Africa, Executive Director of the Business Call to Action partnership, gave an overview of their work to bring private companies together with donors and multilateral agencies to promote development.

A key theme emerging from all the presentations was the need to understand each others’ perspectives and the different skills that each partner brings to the project.

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