Our team is working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to address the challenge of making the inclusive business concept accessible and practical for Asian companies conducting business in Africa.
What is inclusive business, you may wonder? Inclusive Business (IB), is an idea brought forward by the WBCSD since 2005 which rests upon the pillar of profitably engaging low-income populations across companies’ value chains and developing affordable products and services that meet the needs of low-income populations. IB aims to be good for business and good for development in communities where operations are conducted. Benefits of IB include accessing new markets, strengthening supply chains, improving efficiency and others. Importantly, participation from civil society and governments are also required to build success enabling frameworks and conditions.
Thus, our challenge is to essentially create win-win solutions which apply both to the case-study companies (Chinese and Japanese) and to the local communities which they impact (in Angola and some other African states). This is not an easy task, but we have already brainstormed to develop plausible intersections where the interests of the businesses and communities could meet.
One idea which we had has been to focus on gaining a competitive advantage. It is in the interests of any business to outperform its competitors, for instance in the areas of cost-effectiveness and market reach. If the competitors are operating according to IB principles and are of benefit to the community, this could be the motivation for other businesses to start operating in a similar manner. Another focus area could be actively engaging local communities, whether through employment, business partnerships or as advisers: creating opportunities, trust and monetary benefit between the two parties. For instance, Coca Cola has created the Manual Distribution Centers throughout East Africa to circumvent the problem of poor infrastructure, which made large transportation operations inefficient. This in turn has created opportunities for both local men and women entrepreneurs. In another example, a Japanese pharmaceuticals and cosmetics company Rohto has purchased surplus crops from farmers in Kenya for development of skin-care products. Local women were then employed in the manufacturing process. We hope to utilize the positive results obtained by these companies in shaping our own concrete steps to a sustainable, effective solution which anticipates and addresses possible loopholes. More on this topic will be discussed in our future blogs.
To find out more about the Inclusive Business initiative, please visit http://www.inclusive-business.org/