Building Business for the Future – Inclusive Growth & Decent Work for All

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In order to build the African economy, it is vital to create an enabling business environment that is both inclusive and sustainable. The eighth UN Sustainable Development Goal, Decent Work and Economic Growth, outlines what is needed to create this ecosystem – and businesses are best placed to become the driver of this economy, no matter where on the continent they are based.According to the World Bank, six out of the top ten fastest-growing economies in 2018 are in Africa –and yet at the same time the continent has some of the highest unemployment rates in the world. It is time for business to take matters into its own hands, in order to create a stable, prosperous future for us all.

“We understand that organisations of our size and stature have an obligation to operate beyond simple financing but as an enabler and a catalyst for growth, which in turn will benefit both society and our own organisation,” noted Temi Ofong, Co-Chief Executive: Corporate and Investment Banking at Absa (formerly Barclays Africa Group), at the 2018 Africa Shared Value Summit. “In short,we want to do good whilst doing good.”

Existing education systems often do not adequately prepare learners for the modern world of work. Absa has taken a long-term approach to improving the prospects and competency of their future workforce in this area, both from the perspective of enabling learners to become “employable” and of supporting institutions to improve the quality of the education they provide. For example, the Ready to Work programme offers Africa’s youth free online and face-to-face training to improve their soft skills and support them in the transition from education to the workplace.

As the fourth Industrial Revolution looms, digital skills are becoming an essential part of working life.However, especially in developing countries, access to digital skills is limited, contributing to the cycle of poverty and unemployment. Tech giant Cisco recognized that this was having a negative impact on their ability to sell their products – there simply wasn’t the support system in place in developing markets. Thus the Cisco Networking Academy was born: a way to empower locals will the skills they needed to become a part of the Cisco network – and become self-sufficient – via online and in-person training. Classes are available in more than twenty languages, enabling people from all over the world to improve their skills and earn certifications. The Academy has recently been expanded to accommodate people with disabilities, providing even more students with accessto affordable education and twenty-first century skills.

Job creation is one of the biggest hot-button issues of our time, especially in Africa. Governments cannot solve this alone – it is up to business to reassess their value chain and create a Shared Value strategy for a sustainable future. Whether through purposefully supporting small businesses or sharing skills through mentorship or training programmes to the next generation of employees,business has the power to create the inclusive economy of the future. Perhaps more than any other,SDG 8 requires the commitment of businesses across every industry to make it a reality. And with aconscious shift to the Shared Value mindset, anything is possible.