13 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) statistics
The Role of Business and Partnership in Meeting Africa’s Development Challenges: Human Development
The fundamental premise of human development is that all people should be able to live long, healthy, fulfilling lives, with access to the health services, education, goods and services that enable them to do this. Strengthening Africa’s education and health systems is central to enabling its people to participate fully in the economy, and is vital to improving long-term productivity and business growth.
However, as UNDP’s most recent Human Development Report9 points out, despite some encouraging signs, those countries experiencing the slowest progress on the Human Development Index (HDI) – a composite measure of human development – are in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Progress in human development is patchy across Sub-Saharan Africa:
Education: Looking at progress on education, the region is sustaining encouraging progress towards universal primary education, with most African countries on track to achieve universal primary enrollment by 2015 if current trends continue. Completion rates remain a problem, and also access to higher education. The continent continues to make progress toward gender equality and empowerment of women, with girls’ primary school enrollment rate outstripping that of boys between 2000 and 2006. However, gender parity goals for other levels of education are likely to be missed by 2015.10
Health: Sub-Saharan Africa is making particularly slow progress on maternal and child mortality, with one in seven children still dying before their seventh birthday. About one million people die each year from malaria, with 88% of the deaths occurring in Sub-Saharan Africa, despite the distribution of insecticide-treated bednets and essential drugs, which are increasingly proving to be effective ways of controlling malaria. The percentage of children protected by insecticide-treated bednets in Sub- Saharan Africa went up from 2% in 2000 to 22% in 2008. The number of people newly infected with HIV globally fell from 3.5 million in 1996 to 2.7 million in 2005. But two thirds of new infections and a similar proportion of those currently infected live in Sub-Saharan Africa and stigma, discrimination and denial are hampering progress in tackling HIV, resulting in low levels of voluntary testing and limited behavioural change.11 In 2008, 330 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa still did not have access to clean water, and 565 million did not have access to improved sanitation facilities.
Nutrition: According to the Africa Development Bank, African Union, and UNECA,12 Africa made steady progress in reducing the proportion of people suffering from hunger up until 2008. However, that progress has come under threat from the rapid escalation in food prices that began in early 2008, which has undermined food security in the region. In 2008, approximately 32% of the region’s population was undernourished.13 According to the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), undernutrition is responsible for more than half of the approximately ten million deaths that occur in children under five each year in developing countries.
Companies play a role in human development first and foremost as providers of goods, services, and economic opportunities that enable people to improve their standards of living. Companies can contribute to human development in other aspects of their core business operations and value chains as well – for example, eliminating child labour; making opportunities available for women and other underserved groups; and investing in consumer education and workplace health and other programmes. Outside the value chain, companies can apply their core business experience through
Accelerating Human Development in Africa
Finding commercially viable business opportunities providing education, health, safe water, clean energy, nutritious food, housing, and other essential products and services in low-income and underserved markets. All over the world, people meet most of their daily needs through the private sector – for food, safe water, clean energy, and where public sector capacity is weak, even health and education. Africa is no exception. In healthcare, for example, the International Finance Corporation and McKinsey estimate that “for-profit companies, non-profit organisations, and social enterprises – along with insurers, providers, and manufacturers – [...] account for as much as 50% of health care provision, and their role is growing.”14
Improving labour standards and investing in workplace health and education. Regardless of industry sector, companies can drive human development in the workplace and in the value chain, through policies, monitoring and enforcement, and investment – for example in awareness-raising, training, and capacity-building of staff and management.
Weighing into the public policy debate. It is important for companies to share experience and insight on policy that would enable them to provide affordable, accessible service – especially in low-income and/or geographically remote areas. Companies can also contribute lessons learned from their core business and social investment experience to inform public investment and programming.
Developing, implementing, and extending business models that reach the poor. Such models require targeted research, tailored product development and pricing, cost- effective distribution networks in places where markets are historically weak, and consumer education and financing. Partners can help by providing access to market data, sharing distribution networks and existing relationships of trust, facilitating access to consumer financing, and even offering “smart subsidies” that support up-front investment, reduce the time horizon to profitability, and/ or open access to even lower-income consumers who wouldn’t have been able to afford it on their own.
Addressing systemic constraints to human development impact in the workplace and the value chain. Not everything that happens in the workplace or the value chain is within a company’s control. For instance, eliminating child labor in the supply chain may require not only a code of conduct, periodic monitoring, and enforcement mechanisms, but also simultaneous effort to keep children in school – where a company has relatively little comparative advantage.
Strengthening entire systems – for example public health and education – by leveraging assets and competencies like know-how, employee volunteers, infrastructure, and social investment resources. In some industries, like pharmaceuticals, systems strengthening can be part of developing an effective route to market. Corporate values may also play into the rationale for systems strengthening. For many companies, in-kind as opposed to purely financial contributions will be most relevant. Product donation and employee volunteering can be powerful vectors, especially in access to medicines, education, and training.
Leveraging business coalitions and multi-stakeholder platforms to disseminate lessons learned, inform public policy and programming, and raise public awareness. Broadening outreach and enhancing credibility, such efforts can multiply the impact of a company’s own activities, allowing many others to learn from its experience.
Human Development in Africa
Social investment and stakeholder dialogue that bring health care, education, and other services to low-income communities; strengthen governments and other local institutions; and inform public policy and programming.
Partnership can help deepen companies’ impact on human development by enabling business models that serve the poor and extending their reach; by helping companies tackle issues that go “beyond the factory gates”; and by disseminating lessons to broader or more diverse audiences than companies can typically reach effectively on their own.
Collaboration in Action
9 Human Development Report 2010 – The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development, UNDP
10 Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals(2009), Africa Development Bank, African Union, UNECA 11 Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals(2009), Africa Development Bank, African Union, UNECA 12 Assessing Progress in Africa toward the Millennium Development Goals(2009), Africa Development Bank, African Union, UNECA 13 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) statistics 14 International Finance Corporation (IFC) and McKinsey & Co. 2008. “The Business of Health in Africa: Partnering with the Private Sector to Improve People’s Lives.” Washington, DC: IFC.