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UN Global Compact Renews Drive for Responsible Business in Africa

The United Nations Global Compact has announced it is redoubling its efforts to scale up corporate sustainability in Africa and emphasize the private sector’s role in contributing to the continent’s full economic and social renaissance.

The United Nations Global Compact has announced it is redoubling its efforts to scale up corporate sustainability in Africa and emphasize the private sector’s role in contributing to the continent’s full economic and social renaissance.

Following more than a decade of unprecedented growth, Africa is poised to unleash a strong business sector, with governments serving as a critical catalyst for change, Global Compact says.

With an average growth rate of 5 percent since 2000 and expectations for growth to surpass all other continents over the next five years, investment in Africa has increased and economic development is being stimulated by a growing wave of entrepreneurs, workers and consumers. While business has contributed to advancing sustainable development in the region, critical areas remain where companies can help to drive continued growth and development — including anti-corruption, youth employment, women’s empowerment and competitiveness.

“Business has certainly played a key role in helping the continent to finally take off after many lost decades,” said Georg Kell, U.N. Global Compact Executive Director. “But these gains may not be sustainable unless underpinned by responsible business practices.”

In an effort to unleash a new round of productive growth and social advancement, Kell argued African business leaders should incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles based on the Global Compact into their companies’ strategies and operations.

Already, more than 500 companies and other stakeholders are participating in the Global Compact across 35 countries, and 17 African Local Networks are helping to enhance understanding of sustainable business practice in the national and regional context. However, this constitutes only a fraction of the more than 7,000 companies and 3,500 stakeholders that are engaged worldwide in the Global Compact.

The Global Compact recently launched a global Call to Action to mobilize the private sector against corruption. Business leaders are asked to refuse to engage in graft and to urge governments to promote anti-corruption measures and to establish systems of good governance. As part of a year-long global campaign, the Call to Action seeks to showcase the private sector’s commitment to transparency and anti-corruption as new post-2015 global development priorities are established.

Moving forward, the Global Compact says it will focus on helping more companies in Africa to embed its universal principles, so that a critical mass of companies joins the global movement to conduct business sustainably. The organization also will work with the private sector to urge governments to provide the right incentives and enabling environments for business to thrive.

Another U.N. initiative, the Business Call to Action, in April announced a new set of commitments to provide income-earning opportunities and expand access to services such as mobile technology and micro-insurance to disadvantaged populations in Africa and Asia.

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