Global business leaders gathered yesterday at the World Economic Forum to mark the one year anniversary of the launch of the Business Call to Action (BCTA). The breakfast event, hosted by the Business Call to Action International Partnership, highlighted the immense opportunities for investing in Africa despite the global economic crisis
“Although playing no part in its causes, the poorest countries have suffered as much as anyone from the global economic crisis,” said Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, UK Foreign Minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations. “Aid, trade and investment must all play their part in driving the recovery. The Business Call to Action offers an opportunity for the private sector to help create a better, more secure future for all.”
The Business Call to Action was launched by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at a high level event for CEOs held in London on 6 May 2008. The Business Call to Action International Partnership was announced in September 2008. Partners include the UK Government, AusAid, UNDP, Clinton Global Initiative, The International Business Leaders Forum and the UN Global Compact. In its first year more than 60 CEOs signed the Business Call to Action Declaration and committed their companies to invest in ending poverty. To date, 18 companies have already launched initiatives creating thousands of jobs, establishing hundreds of small independent businesses and increasing trade with, and sourcing from, Africa and Asia.
Some companies are currently providing financial support and technical trainings to thousands of farmers and aspiring entrepreneurs in the developing world; expanding mobile money transfer services to over six million people in Africa; and supplying accurate, timely and personalized information to over a million farmers in India which has helped them increase their profit.
“The Business Call to Action builds upon the enlightened self-interest of the private sector to find financial gains while contributing to development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” said Bruce Jenks, Director of UNDP’s Partnership Bureau. “At a time when global business leaders are facing difficult decisions about how to manage growing costs and dwindling profits, it is even more important for companies to boldly explore business models that include the poor in their core strategies, and take advantage of new business opportunities.”
Business leaders met in South Africa to take stock of the company initiatives and to encourage more companies to join the Business Call to Action. During the breakfast, companies celebrated the progress made so far, showcasing success stories and lesson learned. The organizers of the event, along with African ministers called on companies in Africa to sign and launch new business initiatives that promote sustainable development and combat poverty.“We are encouraged to see this unique and bold initiative,” said Monique Nsanzabaganwa, Rwandan Minister of Trade and Industry. “Africa provides an obvious starting point because of the potential opportunities for inclusive markets development. We will welcome the initiative in Rwanda and encourage national companies to participate, and also contribute to the generation of learning and good practices.”
The Business Call to Action challenges businesses to implement concrete initiatives that apply their core business and skills in a transformative and scalable manner that will enhance growth and create wealth. This is not about encouraging more philanthropy or corporate social responsibility, but producing business ideas that are both commercially viable and help to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
“The Business Call to Action recognizes that the private sector has a vital role to play in transforming the greatest challenges of our young century -poverty, climate change, social inequity, hunger, and disease, among others- into opportunities, especially in the face of today’s troubled economic climate,” said former US President Bill Clinton. “I’m proud that my Clinton Global Initiative, whose members have made commitments valued at more than $46 billion to improve the lives of 200 million people, is a partner of the Business Call to Action. By working together, we can build a more just, sustainable, and equal world for future generations.”
Business can help improve the lives of people in developing countries by increasing investment, creating jobs and increasing skills, and developing goods, technologies and innovations.