In 2000, the United Nations made the historic announcement of eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They were very specific and had a timeline of 15 years for delivery. Progress on most of these objectives has been encouraging, but as we look towards the next round of development goals, we must recognise how the world has changed since 2000.
The global financial crisis had a devastating impact on both individuals and the public sector. Conversely, the rise of the BRIC economies and Africa’s emergence mean that aid is simply not needed on the same scale as it was before.
Therefore, we in the emerging economies need to reconsider not only the substance of the new development framework, but also the implementation process. In the original MDGs, the private sector was noticeable mostly by its absence. This time, we must step up as part of the solution and pioneer new approaches that could hold the key to a more innovative and inclusive way to deliver development.
Take, for example, India. While its economy has expanded impressively over the past decade and half, so has income inequality. Improvements on social indicators such as malnutrition and hunger have not kept pace with its growing prosperity, primarily because public spending to tackle these challenges was simply inadequate.CSR – a game changer
But now the Indian government has introduced the first step of a potential gamechanger, and we in Africa have taken note. A new law enacted this month makes it mandatory for private corporations to invest at least 2 per cent of their profits in corporate social responsibility (CSR). The private sector in India now has a unique opportunity to respond to the collective aspirations of an entire country and accelerate action towards achieving the MDGs on hunger, health and sustainability. We applaud India for this.
My own group of companies also contributes 2 per cent of pre-tax profits to social development. Yet we go beyond this, and seek to create social impact through all the businesses we operate. While the Indian government now requires Indian companies to contribute towards social development, I challenge the Indian private sector to go further. Take up the challenge and strive to balance economic prosperity and social wealth which helps ultimately to create more gainful jobs and all inclusive nation.
In framing the new development agenda, the private sector must focus on tackling unemployment and job creation on a massive scale, and on dramatically improving access to electricity. These goals are critical to both lives and quality of life, and cannot be accomplished without collaboration with the private sector.Development framework
For example, much of the mandated and voluntary private sector investments could go into creating many of the 100 million new jobs India will need over the next decade.
Lack of access to electricity is also a major challenge that will prevent us from eradicating poverty. Millions of mothers are giving birth in the dark, life-saving vaccine deliveries are challenged by lack of power to support their cold chains, and 90 million children go to school without electricity.
If we agree that access to electricity and improved livelihoods are vital components for the success of the post-2015 development agenda, then the private sector must have a key role to play in its design and implementation.
For governments, achieving the goals of the post-2015 development framework will mean enacting reforms and creating new policies to build more competitive business environments. We in the private sector must act with integrity, making sure that markets drive development, not oppose it.
We must focus on creating and multiplying value in the societies in which we source, supply and operate, and integrate this into our corporate governance, our operations, our project development and our profit calculation, across the value chain.
To truly combat poverty, we must combine the best qualities of all sectors: the political will, resources, and convening power of governments; the compassion, selflessness and dedication of non-profits; the innovation, expertise, and financial capital of the private sector; and the drive, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the people we seek to help. Only then can we hope to take on the challenges of the post-2015 development agenda.
The writer is chairman of the Heirs Holdings group, Lagos