We #ChooseToChallenge Every Business in Africa

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The SVAI dedicates March to the women of Africa through the publication of our first gender parity report, hosting the Women in Leadership Roundtable and launching the 2021 #ITSNOTOK campaign, in partnership with the Gautrain Management Agency. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.

For the SVAI team, this month was not just about celebrating the contributions of women to history, culture and society (Women’s History Month), or observing 8 March as a special day for women everywhere (International Women’s Day – IWD2021). For us, March represented an unwavering and enduring call to action for business to accelerate gender parity. So much more so now with data revealing the coronavirus pandemic could wipe out 25 years of increasing gender equality.

For starters, we stand united behind the UN Women’s Generation Equality campaign for a world where all people have equal rights and opportunities. A world where women and girls are not afraid of walking home late at night. A world of equality in business and political leadership, from factory floors to corporate boardrooms.

The SVAI is also committed to helping business achieve and deliver on the objectives of one of the most important Sustainable Development Goals – SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. In fact, we firmly believe there can be no sustainable development without this.

In support of the IWD2021 theme, ‘Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world’, and its #ChooseToChallenge campaign, the conversation at our Women in Leadership Roundtable on 11 March focused on ‘Achieving equality in the workplace’. Key messages included the need to stand united, to come together and to lead the change in the workplace, in politics, in education, at home…everywhere.

The long and short of it is that only united can we break down the cultural and socio-economic barriers, which prevent women from taking their seat at the decision-making table. As women, we have the power to challenge men on company boards and subcommittees, while guiding and mentoring other women in order to drive this needed change.

Alongside the roundtable, we also released our report on ‘Gender Equality and Transformation in JSE-listed Companies’, which was prepared and presented by our CEO and founder Tiekie Barnard, on behalf of the SVAI.

The report aims to provide an insight into women’s representation at board and executive management levels among a pilot study of 14 JSE-listed companies in the Banking, Insurance, Life Insurance and Non-Life Insurance sectors. More specifically, we hope that the report will encourage all business leaders across the continent to tear down the often-invisible barriers and biased workforce strategies that prevent women from taking their rightful seat at the decision-making table – not only in the boardroom, but also in the day-to-day management and decision-making roles within organisations.

We are equally proud of the #ITSNOTOK 2021 campaign that kicked off this month across all metro stations in Gauteng and on social media. With the support of the Gautrain Management Agency, we hope to draw more attention to the cause and the ongoing fight again Gender Based Violence.

Through the #ITSNOTOK movement, we want to encourage everyone to take action and commit to end gender-based violence – now and throughout the year. Our very ambitious goal is to get one million people to pledge their commitment (www.itsnotok.africa) – to stand together against these and other atrocities faced by so many women the world over, as well as show support for survivors and those affected by violence.

Of course, apart from championing women and gender equality causes during March, the SVAI was equally hard at work building our entrepreneurial support network and formalising training programmes, delivered through the Shared Value Africa Academy.

At the end of February, the training academy hosted a very successful first Shared Value Masterclass with 21 attendees, which included senior executives, three CEOs and entrepreneurs from the cohorts participating in the Purpose Playbook training. The Masterclass helps students better understand the Shared Value business management concept and demonstrates how companies are implementing the framework through practical case studies such as Enel Green Power.

We reached another important milestone for the SVAI in March when the Purpose Playbook training pilot got underway with 14 attendees – two participants each from seven companies, with representation from Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania.

The Purpose Playbook was development by the global Shared Value Initiative, working predominantly with large corporations. In rolling out the training in Africa, we have to ensure that it is also applicable to entrepreneurs, hence the pilot.

Following a call for applications earlier in the year, seven successful applicants were selected to participate in the pilot. The companies were Renewcykle, GrassRoots Hub, Kenoch Herbal Clinic, Hand in Hand Waste Management, Food Court Grocery Services, Driven Advisory and Pact (a non-profit).

The pilot focuses on this select group of seven companies, which will enable the SVAI to measure both the efficacy of the training for entrepreneurs and its application by each participating company. This will be done through an extended post-pilot evaluation process, which will take place over three months.

We would like to express our sincerest thanks to Professor Suki Goodman, Head of Department, School of Management Studies at the University of Cape Town, who is conducting an in-depth evaluation of the training course content and its practical application by the entrepreneurs.

Following successful completion and evaluation of the pilot, the intention is to build up to a quarterly entrepreneurial Purpose Playbook Training course.

In other developments, the School of Consumer Intelligence and Information Systems at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) is also working with the SVAI on different projects, one of which is a service portal for MSMEs. All of this takes place under the watchful eye of Prof Roelien Brink, Senior Lecturer and researcher at UJ’s Department of Applied Information Management.

During March, the SVAI also collaborated with Belgium-based OVO (“Ondernemers voor Ondernemers” / “Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs”) to help stimulate entrepreneurship activities in Uganda. The Kampala Impact Day on 31 March, hosted by Einstein Rising and OVO, offers (impact) investors, international organisations, NGOs and others a chance to connect virtually or in-person with more than 50 MSMEs supported by the organisers and explore cooperation opportunities.

An interesting member initiative launched during March is an applied research undertaken by AgriLuxe Marketing in partnership with the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and various national public and private sector institutions. The study explores the potential returns on investments in agritourism across three measures of food system sustainability: economic, social, and environmental.  Together with SVAI, AgriLuxe plans to extend its research to consumers and engage with relevant stakeholders at national and regional levels in Sub-Saharan Africa. To participate in the survey, CLICK HERE.

On the subject of members, a noteworthy engagement scheduled for the next SVAI Members’ Forum on 30 April is a guest talk by one of our partners, SoPact, on measuring and scaling social impact throughout a company’s Shared Value journey. The forum is a closed event, hosted quarterly to update members on new initiatives and upcoming partnership opportunities.

Also of interest to our members and all Shared Value companies across Africa: The 2021 Loeries has officially opened this month and is now accepting entries for the 43rd edition of these globally respected brand communication awards. This year, the Loeries challenges the industry to #fightthegoodfight and create work that moves society forward in a positive direction.

March undoubtedly is the month to challenge and, in closing, the SVAI #ChooseToChallenge every business in Africa to stand up against inequality and help build an inclusive world.

In the words of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director: “Equality isn’t just one quarter of the seats at the tables of power. But that’s the current reality of women’s representation. Men are 75% of parliamentarians, hold 73% of managerial positions, are 70% of climate negotiators and almost all peace negotiators. Only half is an equal share, and only equal is enough.”

Before we sign-off on #SharedValueAfrica happenings this month, we would like to invite you to explore our recently refreshed and revamped website. Take some time to watch the cool whiteboard video on ‘What Creating Shared Value is all about’ on our homepage and take the quick test to assess where you are on your Shared Value Journey – we’d love to hear from you!