The third annual Africa Shared Value Summit took place last week in Nairobi, Kenya – the first time the event has come to East Africa. The diverse programme of thought leaders engaged a packed hall of delegates with thought-provoking insights and Shared Value case studies over the two days.
The first of its kind in East Africa, the Summit was sponsored by local telecommunications giant Safaricom, as well as Old Mutual, Enel Green Power, Absa, KCB and the World Food Programme.
The Founder and CEO of Summit organisers the Shared Value Africa Initiative (SVAI), Tiekie Barnard, opened the Summit with strong words for the African business community: “We as a collective have a responsibility to run sustainable businesses that grow our economy and bring about change to the people whose lives we touch.”
“A really sustainable competitive advantage,” noted keynote speaker Mark Kramer, co-creator of the business concept and MD at FSG, in his opening plenary address, “comes from picking the particular customer segment you want to serve and designing every activity in your organisation to serve their needs better than anyone else.”
Shared Value thinking is not about after-profit philanthropy or once-off PR moments – it’s about genuine differentiation and market leadership. Instead of competing for profit-margin percentages, business must rethink ‘business as usual’ to make operations more efficient, motivate and empower employees, and serve consumers better. Africa’s greatest challenges are ripe to become our biggest business opportunities – but it will take innovative, collaborative thinking to drive our continent’s economic growth. This is the essence of ‘profit with purpose’.
The Summit’s theme, Africa’s Business Growth – Grounded in Collaboration, was reflected in the message shared by many of the speakers. As Moses Muthui, Country Strategy Director of Barclays Bank of Kenya (part of Absa Group), noted on the second day of the Summit, “We can compete for profit, and collaborate for purpose.” Muthui emphasized the need to invest in the industrialization of Africa in order to promote growth, create jobs and enable us to navigate increasing urbanisation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
As with previous years, the UN Sustainable Development Goals were a theme at the Summit, underlining their usefulness in focusing a business’s purpose and providing tangible goals that business can contribute to achieving as a collective. “We believe that the Sustainable Development Goals provide the opportunity to really engage in a purpose-driven business, and business that is both sustainable and inclusive,” said Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom.
At the end of the Summit, it was announced that the 2020 Africa Shared Value Summit will take place in Kigali, Rwanda. The Shared Value Africa Initiative has since shared the proposed dates – 25-26 May 2020. The event’s continuing proximity to Africa Day (25 May) emphasises the SVAI’s commitment to building Africa’s most powerful Shared Value business network, connecting businesses across industries and borders to create change – and economic growth – at scale.