By Jean d’Amour Mugabo
African business companies from 16 countries have convened in Kigali, Rwanda, to devise ways of doing more in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities.
The two-day African Business & Social Responsibility Forum kicked off on Wednesday under the theme “Unleash the CSR potential of African businesses.”
Stéphane Bell, the Director General of Latitude Monde based in Gabon and founder of African Business & Social Responsibility Forum, said the third edition of the forum held in Kigali focuses on how CSR activities can contribute to education and employment on the continent.
“Africa needs to create many jobs (29 million jobs annually); so education is important to enforce skills across Africa. Business companies need to be more involved in academic systems because companies need strong people in terms of education,” he said. “So, the academic system needs to know the needs from the private sector in terms of employment. Companies have committed to getting more involved in education systems across Africa.”
Education and employment are enshrined in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) number 4 and 8 respectively.
The forum attracted over 200 participants from corporate companies, SMEs, Start-Up, corporate foundations, investment funds, the United Nations and government agencies. The high profile speakers included the 6th President of Mauritius, Ameenah Burib-Fakim, and Rwanda Development Board’s CEO Clare Akamanzi.
The last two editions in 2017 and 2018 were held in Mauritius.
The forum aims at inspiring companies in societal best practices, forging partnerships for funding opportunities related to CSR promotion, stimulating SMEs and start-ups to become CSR champions and rewarding the most innovative African companies in sustainable development, among other objectives.
Mr Bell said that the forum offers three symbolic awards to encourage African start-ups, SMEs and major companies to implement CSR activities.
Aphrodis Mutangana, the General Manager of kLab, a Rwandan IT knowledge lab which co-hosted the forum, told the media that the outcomes of the previous two editions of the forum are now visible.
“Some small companies have started taking CSR activities at a good level and employing more people. For example, kLab is sharing with others what it has achieved. We have been in existence for only seven years but we are sharing the little we have got,” he said, adding that kLab has three CSR projects.
“We have a project to support the genocide widows, a project of offering computer skills to children from six to 15 years of age. We have so far trained over 40,000 children aged between six and eight years from 15 districts across Rwanda. We have also trained over 400 children aged between nine and 15 years. We train them about six computer languages, enabling them to develop software applications just at the age below 15 years.”
Mr Mutangana said that at least 100 companies, including the notable AC Group (which makes Tap&Go bus cards) and Safe Motos, have been created by kLab training beneficiaries
“This forum offers networking opportunities whereby we get investors who accompany start-ups. For example, we got a connection with Hub Africa through this forum. In our partnership, we are sending three best projects to Morocco in June for a continental competition in front of the investors and the best in Africa will also go to Singapore to meet global investors,” he said. “We had also sent three projects last year and one has passed for the global competition in Singapore.”
He added that the partnerships also lead to the merging of some companies from different countries which increases their market.
Mr Bell said that 10% of the forum’s revenues will be dedicated to support entrepreneurship and research in Africa.