Business leaders celebrate progress, pledge to invest more in Africa

11 Jun 2009

Cape Town, South Africa — Global business leaders gathered today at the World Economic Forum to mark the one-year anniversary of the launch of the Business Call to Action (BCTA).  The breakfast event, hosted by the Business Call to Action International Partnership, highlighted the immense opportunities for investing in Africa despite the global economic crisis.

“Although playing no part in its causes, the poorest countries have suffered as much as anyone from the global economic crisis.” said Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, UK Foreign Minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations. “Aid, trade and investment must all play their part in driving the recovery. The Business Call to Action offers an opportunity for the private sector to help create a better, more secure future for all.”

The Business Call to Action was launched by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at a high level event for CEOs held in London on 6 May 2008. The Business Call to Action International Partnership was announced in September 2008.  Partners include the UK Government, AusAid, UNDP, Clinton Global Initiative, The International Business Leaders Forum and the UN Global Compact. In its first year more than 60 CEOs signed the Business Call to Action Declaration and committed their companies to invest in ending poverty.  To date, 18 companies have already launched initiatives creating thousands of jobs, establishing hundreds of small independent businesses and increasing trade with, and sourcing from, Africa and Asia.

Some companies are currently providing financial support and technical trainings to thousands of farmers and aspiring entrepreneurs in the developing world; expanding mobile money transfer services to over six million people in Africa; and supplying accurate, timely and personalized information to over a million farmers in India which has helped them increase their profit.

“The Business Call to Action builds upon the enlightened self-interest of the private sector to find financial gains while contributing to development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” said Bruce Jenks, Director of UNDP’s Partnership Bureau.  “At a time when global business leaders are facing difficult decisions about how to manage growing costs and dwindling profits, it is even more important for companies to boldly explore business models that include the poor in their core strategies, and take advantage of new business opportunities.”

Business leaders met in South Africa to take stock of the company initiatives and to encourage more companies to join the Business Call to Action.  During the breakfast, companies celebrated the progress made so far, showcasing success stories and lesson learned.  The organizers of the event, along with African ministers called on companies in Africa to sign and launch new business initiatives that promote sustainable development and combat poverty.

“We are encouraged to see this unique and bold initiative,” said Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Rwandan Minister of Trade and Industry.  “Africa provides an obvious starting point because of the potential opportunities for inclusive markets development. We will welcome the initiative in Rwanda and encourage national companies to participate, and also contribute to the generation of learning and good practices.”

The Business Call to Action challenges businesses to implement concrete initiatives that apply their core business and skills in a transformative and scalable manner that will enhance growth and create wealth. This is not about encouraging more philanthropy or corporate social responsibility, but producing business ideas that are both commercially viable and help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

“The Business Call to Action recognizes that the private sector has a vital role to play in transforming the greatest challenges of our young century —poverty, climate change, social inequity, hunger, and disease, among others— into opportunities, especially in the face of today’s troubled economic climate,” said former US President Bill Clinton.  “I’m proud that my Clinton Global Initiative, whose members have made commitments valued at more than $46 billion to improve the lives of 200 million people, is a partner of the Business Call to Action. By working together, we can build a more just, sustainable, and equal world for future generations.”

Business can help improve the lives of people in developing countries by increasing investment, creating jobs and increasing skills, and developing goods, technologies and innovations.

Progress Highlights

·     Coca Cola has set up 700 small distribution centers, creating 4500 new jobs.

·     Diageo is investing in the development of sorghum to support its brewing operations in Cameroon by providing support to farmers as well as developing transport and storage systems.

·     ASDA has significantly increased it sources of fresh produce from Africa and is investigating importing new products.

·     Microsoft has launched it Students to Business Programme in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal.

·     PepsiCo has begun a pilot in South Africa on improving nutrition for children and pregnant women.

·     SABMiller is on its way to doubling the amount of barley it sources from India.  The initiative is benefiting around 7500 farmers.

·     Standard Chartered is proceeding with training small businesses in Pakistan – conducting multiple workshops in several cities.

·     Sumitomo is opening a stitching factory in Ethiopia this month that will process 3 million bed nets a year and employ 300 people.

·     Thomson Reuters is providing accurate, timely and personalized information on more than 125 crop types to 400 markets in India.  The programme benefits over a million farmers in India, increasing their profits and savings in losses.

·     Vodafone now has more than 6 million people using its mobile money transfer service and is developing its initiative to include new services.

·     Cadbury is moving to make its Cadbury Dairy Milk brand Fairtrade in the UK and is working to help 100 Cocoa Partnership communities achieve Fairtrade certification.

·     MAP International has biometrically enrolled over 50,000 Ugandans in its Integrated Banking Platform and hundreds of thousands of transactions have taken place over their network of ATMs, Point Of Sale units and mobile phones.

·     Ericsson’s Innovation Centre in Sub-Saharan Africa has produced a number of mobile applications that focus on solutions in health, education, agriculture and small business investments.

·     Cisco Systems is currently establishing a number of Connected Community Research Centres (CCRC) in Kenya to bring a range of affordable services to the local residents.  The on-line services focus on e-government, education, healthcare and vocational training.



Sustaining development in Uganda
(Large version)

BCtA and Coca-Cola (Large version)

BCtA and Diaego (Large version)

Contact Information

For more information of UNDP’s work with the Private Sector, please visit http://www.undp.org/partners/business/index.shtml

For further information, or set up interviews please contact:

In Cape Town: Maureen Mundea, Tel. +27 716718734; email: maureen.mundea@undp.org

In New York: Sausan Ghosheh, Tel. +1 (212) 906-5390; e-mail: sausan.ghosheh@undp.org