Is CSR in Africa the next sustainable business frontier?


No longer overlooked by the world’s most powerful companies and countries, Africa has become a power in its own right. This continent of over one billion people now reaps more success and progress, but still confronts many of the same old challenges.


Yet some of these challenges offer new opportunities for innovation and social enterprise. For example, according to the Brookings Institute, only 140 million, about 14 percent of Africans, have access to the Internet.

But the fact that over 600 million Africans use a mobile phone offers huge openings for technological advancement and social enterprise.

A generation ago, after the Berlin Wall fell, Eastern Europeans adopted cell phones at a quicker pace than their cousins across the pond because the demand for communication meant many people had no need for a land line. Fast forward to today, and any lack of infrastructure throughout Africa just means more amazing technologies thanks to mobile telephony will come out of new buzzing tech hubs […].

The same Brookings Institute Study has shown Africa is already on the move economically. Africa’s rise makes it the second-fastest growing region on Earth with an annual growth of 5.5 percent–not stratospheric, but certainly sustainable and an enviable rate when compared to the United States, the European Union and Japan.

Furthermore, since the early 1980s Africa’s middle class has tripled in size and claims one-third of the continent’s population.

And while corruption and weak institutions hinder the progress of all Africans, conditions are improving: 14 African countries rank ahead of Russia, 16 pull higher than Brazil and 17 rank higher than India.

Now countries from all over the world have taken notice. The same companies trumped by the Chinese firms who started investing in Africa several years ago now realize Africa is ripe for investment. […]

But these same companies that cast a keen eye on Africa must prove they are engaged stakeholders and are in the region for the long term. The needs are overwhelming: HIV/AIDS still leaves a devastating impact as well as other infectious diseases; the demand and desire for education amongst Africa’s young outpaces the amount of opportunities actually available; and the global land grab, in which large tracts of land were leased long term to foreign governments or multinationals, could prove even more disruptive and tragic in the long run.

More companies now realize there are opportunities to build a legacy where others only see limits.

Photo © Shutterstock / Gilles Paire

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