CEO Dialogues – Connecting Across Africa

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By Vuyo Lutseke, Director and Head of Fundraising & Sponsorship, SVAI

In August, Shared Value Africa Initiative partnered with Strathmore University Business School, in hosting a series of four monthly CEO Dialogues.

With the final installation taking place on 19 November, this webinar series has been connecting leaders across Africa and continues to provide a platform for them to deliberate on the issues affecting the economy. In this uncertain and complex environment, it focuses on supporting business leaders in navigating current challenges, develop turnaround strategies during and post COVID-19, and thrive in the long term.

The first webinar was titled The Future of Work: Impact of the Digital Economy on Africa’s Growth. It featured a keynote by Allan Stoga (Executive Chairman, Tällberg Foundation) who, during the discussion emphasised that Africa has a great, unused potential to grow faster in the future of work. “Africa has a unique opportunity to grow faster than any other region in the future of work, but only if the continent is willing to operate at maximum capacity. there are opportunities for growth everywhere you look in Africa, but the continent is moving very slowly; there is a need to pick up the pace,” he said.

The panel included Prof. Bitange Ndemo (Faculty, School of Business, The University of Nairobi), Dr. Vincent Ogutu (VC Designate, Strathmore University) and Cezzane Meherali (Director, Uber East Africa). The discussion included the underlying fears of new technologies replacing humans and pointed out that it is the responsibility of all our leaders from the private and public sector to create an inclusive future of work – one capable of generating opportunities for all, especially our young entrepreneurs. The primary message was that we can achieve so much more if we collaborate and work together and that companies should focus on building digitally enabled business models for the new normal, which are purpose driven, inclusive and sustainable.

The September edition of the CEO Dialogues was themed Financial Inclusion: Emerging Opportunities and Challenges and featured a keynote by the esteemed Dr James Mwangi (CEO, Equity Bank) as well as a panel that included Peggy-Sue Khumalo (CEO, Standard Bank Wealth), Dr. James Mcfie (Chairperson, Sasini plc), Toyin F. Sanni (CEO, Emerging Africa Capital Group).

While Dr Mwangi underscored that “Africa will not eradicate poverty unless we have financial inclusion”, this highly engaged session the executives deliberated on how we can change the financial inclusion landscape to make it more inclusive and create opportunities for women and our young people. Key recommendations included that we need more innovative approaches and that technology is the enabler and that financial inclusion is not about 1 product it is about access to a range of financial products.

October saw the CEO Dialogue titled, Economic Recovery: Creating Value through Public-Private Partnerships. Given the impact of COVID-19, it is evident that the private sector is not only a key stakeholder in development but also an indispensable anchor. Acknowledging that PPPs are crucial to Africa’s economic recovery, this session looked at PPPs as one of the most viable policy instruments for building innovation capabilities of the private sector, job creation and economic recovery.

The keynote speaker was Judy Sidi Odhiambo (Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs, KCB Group). It was also attended by esteemed panellists from Africa who gave interesting insights on the importance of public private partnership in re-boosting Africa economy post COVID-19. The key message was the importance of embracing the principle of Shared Value to make PPP a reality. And use co-creation in addressing local sectors such as manufacturing, agricultural, infrastructure, transport and boost job creation. The primary message was the need to increase financial support to sustain economic recovery in Africa. And enhance corporate social responsibility between governments, private sectors and civil societies   to strengthen synergies needed to boost Africa’s economy.

The business landscape across the globe is changing every single day. And with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic that as disrupted every sector of the society, this calls for new ways of doing business in Africa.

Through the collaboration and leadership of Dr George Njenga- (Dean of Strathmore University Business School) and Tiekie Barnard (CEO and Founder of Shared Value Africa Initiative and Shift Impact Africa) these successful events acted as a connector and unifier.

These CEO Dialogues were initiated against a landscape where the world was a few months into global pandemic, and not quite sure how business and society would be affected – what was clear was that the things would never be the same. But what such a platform showed was the potential for sustainable growth if all are able to firstly converse but ultimately collaborate, at scale, across borders and across sectors.

Join us for the final 2020 CEO Dialogue, themed AfCFTA: Making Africa Realise its Potential Globally – taking place on Thursday, 19 November 2020. Register here