Business & UN

Business has a vital role to play in Africa: report says

  • 14 January 2002

Whether it be fighting the AIDS pandemic or helping to resettle refugees, companies have a vital role to play in the search for solutions to many of the humanitarian crises which plague the African continent, according to a report released today.

The Building Cooperation in Africa Report – an account of the most-comprehensive meeting ever held between business, the United Nations and NGOs on the subject of Africa, details how the private sector can help solve the continent’s conflicts, fight its pandemics and ease its refugee crises.

The meeting, held at ICC headquarters in December and jointly staged by the Business Humanitarian Forum (BHF), brought together aid agency workers and United Nations officials with representatives of more than 50 companies and business groups who have operations in Africa.

The report of the conference – now available on the ICC website, – says that companies agreed they should make the fight against HIV/Aids a core business priority because the disease threatens the bottom line.

John J. Maresca, President of the BHF said business self-interest should be enough tosee it become involved in Africa.

“Business definitely has a role to play in humanitarian problems in Africa,” he said. “The problems of sub-Saharan Africa are everyone’s problems. It is in the business world’s self-interest to address humanitarian challenges.”

The report also quotes Maria Livanos Cattaui, Secretary General of the ICC, who reminded participants that businesses have many management skills and a vast store of knowledge to help solve Africa’s problems.

“Companies understand costs,” she said. “Investing in Africa is not philanthropy – it’s a business investment. But businesses must be very clear about their capacities. Afterall, business is not government.”

Echoing Cattaui’s sentiments, UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan is quoted in the reported as saying it made good business sense for companies to help solve some of the continents most pressing humanitarian crises.

“If societies are to prevent or overcome humanitarian disaster, business stands to gain and should be on hand to assist,” he said. “Busines s has a clear stake in ending conflict and in alleviating the suffering caused by humanitarian emergencies. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the private sector can make an enormous difference responding to the HIV/AIDS crisis and the United Nations welcomes their involvement.”