It has long been accepted that Africa is in dire need of a paradigm shift, or a systems reset, in order to equip and enable its people to address the long-standing challenges she continues to face.
Covid-19 was a stark reminder of this reset imperative. But despite the many social, health and economic difficulties the pandemic created, it also raised awareness of the potential that exists across Africa for impactful, transformative intervention, delivered through a shared purpose and a unified vision of a better tomorrow for all.
Corporate philanthropy has a vital role to play in delivering this African transformation. The pandemic has heightened awareness of the interconnectedness between all citizens; whether individuals, communities, businesses or corporations. As we come to better recognise and understand this, the role that businesses must play in supporting the societies in which they operate, and on which they depend, is becoming increasingly clear. As is the simple truth that transformative social investment cannot be achieved if corporate philanthropy continues to be seen as secondary to other business activities.
Corporate social investment needs to become integral to business and form one of the strategic pillars on which its sustainable success is achieved. Only by making such a core shift to strategically integrated corporate philanthropy, will organisations in Africa begin to achieve the scale and momentum that is needed for their social support efforts to become truly impactful.
There are, of course, challenges that will need to be overcome before this required momentum and scale are achieved. It will almost certainly take a number of years for most businesses in Africa to fully recover to their pre-Covid-19 levels of operational effectiveness and profitability.
The global economic crisis that came on the back of the pandemic impacted markedly on the already fragile economies of most African countries. From a corporate philanthropy perspective this means that there will now be less money available to businesses to use to provide the support needed by people and communities.
Unfortunately, the need for such support has increased exponentially over the past year, creating an obvious social support supply and demand gap across much of the continent.
The pandemic has shown us that the historical corporate social responsibility (CSR) model is no longer effective in Africa – nor is it at all sustainable.
What is needed, then, is an even more rapid transition to a corporate social investment (CSI) approach – one characterised by closer partnerships, being less focused on quantifying the value of the support provided, and more involved in the sustainable, positive impact that such investment delivers.