The DNA of a new world system – doing good and creating Shared Value

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Rethink, Retool, Innovate, Digitalize and Transform – the theme of the recent Strategic Leaders’ Summit for African start-ups and SMEs, aptly encapsulated key leadership messages arising from the event, which was hosted in Kampala, Uganda by Human Capital International in partnership with the SVAI.

Keynotes and panellists called for entrepreneurs and small business owners to rethink how they do business in the post-COVID era and after the AfCFTA, as well as leverage technology to innovate and digitalise supply chains. In a nutshell, the way business in Africa happens must be transformed.

The same holds true for governments and financial institutions, both of which need to rethink policies needed to build an enabling environment and borderless ecosystem, one that is geared to support small businesses, nurture innovation and cultivate local economic development opportunities.

Doing good and creating Shared Value (CSV) was put forward by SVAI chairperson Sazini Mojapelo, during her keynote, as the operating model and indeed the DNA of a new world system capable of crafting conscious businesses regardless of size.

In the words of Ms Mojapelo, it is about driving profit with a purpose and achieving sustainable and system-wide impact. “It is about rethinking the way we do business to better reflect where we are on our human journey. It is about the inherent potential of business to make a positive impact on society and, last but not least, it is about reconceiving our products and services to build innovative solutions to global challenges.”

Conscious leadership, she noted, is a key ingredient in driving this change and realizing the paradigm shift from the traditional product and service-based economy to a new world values-based system.

Representatives from the SVAI’s Africa Council of 8 joined Ms Mojapelo in a lively discourse on system change and prosperity for all. The panel discussion centered on the need to shift world systems to one that is more conscious and ethical, underpinned by the need for companies – small, medium and large – to create Shared Value; a concept anchored on the belief that a business can do well, by doing good.

A systems change has to start within SMEs themselves, according to Simbarashe Eric Mhuriro, General Manager at RioEnergy. “SMEs needs to adopt a long-term growth perspective that is cognizant of both the socio-economic environment within which the business operates and the role of the business within that ecosystem. In the final instance, the health of a business is intrinsically linked to the health of the markets, society and communities within which the business operates,” Mr Mhuriro stressed.

Afetsi Awoonor, Regional Head, Sales and Marketing at Convenio Energy, added that any system shift needed to create an enabling environment in Africa also requires a collaborative, partnership approach with private and public sector role players working together. He is confident that the AfTFCA will play a fundamental role in helping to create that enabling environment where trade policies and regulatory frameworks are aligned.

Ms Mojapelo referenced the Better Business Better World Commission, which predicted that an estimated US$12 trillion can be unlocked through shifting four key, dominant systems identified in the SDGs. These are innovating around food production; the distribution of energy and materials; growing cities and health and well-being. They argued that by turning the traditional business models and systems upside down, there is an opportunity to unlock incredible value in the economic ecosystem.

The challenge, according to Ms Mojapelo, is to get business leader to shift their mindsets and stop clinging to old school notions that doing good, means making less money and that there’s always a trade-off between financial return and social impact. Indeed, companies that have made social impact central to their strategies have seen greater returns on investment and sustainable growth.

She passionately concluded: “Our inability on this continent to embrace the concept of creating shared value perpetuates the way we do business. It is at this level where systems change has to happen..”

If you were unable to attend the recent Strategic Leaders’ Summit, take some time out to watch the proceedings online here: