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Responsible business – crafting South Africa’s responsibility journey through social innovation

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The new decade has in so many ways forced us to reconsider the way we live, work, produce, and trade. Businesses must be equipped to not only tackle today’s global problems – especially the current health crisis – but also build greater positive interdependence between the world’s organisations and the complex systems in which they operate. This starts by reflecting on how we lead and how we can hold organisational and political leaders to a higher standard.

At Accenture, we believe that the next legacy is about Responsible Business (RB) in action. Leaders today have to face new responsibilities. They must deliver organisational performance, embrace continuous innovation to unlock long-term value, the most challenging of all, build and earn stakeholders’ trust. These stakeholders include consumers, employees, investors, business partners, policymakers, and representatives of civil society. These important stakeholders are exponentially vocal in demanding a more equitable and sustainable wave of growth, and the generations Y and Z are at the front line of this movement. 

Defining the Responsible Business framework

Our research aimed to define a new model of responsible leadership in the 2020s – one that delivers sustainable and equitable growth for all. With that objective, we extended our analysis to listen to the views of more than 20,000 people around the world. As outlined in our Next Generation Growth model, living a Responsible Business is evident both in how we serve our clients and how we lead as a company. The latest comprehensive Accenture report[1] on ‘Seeking New Leadership’ highlights that the social, economic, and environmental challenges of the 2020s require new approaches to leadership and responsibility. Furthermore, an ability to master Mission & Purpose, Technology & Innovation, and Stakeholder Inclusion must become second nature. In terms of growth, companies that combine high levels of innovation and sustainability and trust have been shown to outperform their peers.

South Africa is quite far along in its RB journey, and the Growth Markets leadership team is showcasing us as a champion of the initiative and a blueprint for others to follow. Given this spotlight to be a global pioneer and for potential investment, we are leveraging this opportunity to its full capacity in unlocking sustainable value for our business, clients, and country. As one of our business leaders rightly put it, “Responsible business is not another KPI to us: it is simply how we do business, it is how we think, how we act and how we bring about the impact to our clients.”

‘Responsibility’ can be defined across various stakeholders and themes. We collated a comprehensive responsibility framework to look at our current portfolio and assess our impact across six stakeholder groups. By conducting an audit of all on-going initiatives Accenture Africa now has the opportunity to bring RB to the very core of our business model and impact with clients. Most of the responsibility initiatives in South Africa are Corporate Citizenship driven, lack business involvement, and are fragmented across divisions and teams. To achieve the RB vision, we need to include responsibility in the way we operate. There is also a lack of communication and visibility on these initiatives which leads to investment redundancy. Thus, we need to ask ourselves: are we investing in the most streamlined and efficient way possible?

We scanned all the current impact initiatives in South Africa across the business, people, and process lenses. All business unit leaders shared their perspective on what ‘Responsibility’ means for their business and shared certain gaps and opportunities to unlock further value. We found that there is scope to better communicate with our stakeholders and leaders on our efforts toward being a responsible business and have a common vision towards responsibility, streamlining our operations, and embracing best practices in areas that we identify as priorities.

Challenges in the South African context

The South African local context offers five key challenges for us to address in our RB strategy with unemployment, future skills shortages, and government mismanagement being the most prevalent challenges, and the economic inequality as well as environmental degradation adding to the list. The current unemployment rate sits at an alarming 29%, with youth unemployment at 56% which is the third-highest in the world. While SA spends one of the highest GDP per capita amounts on education, the quality of public education is still very poor, leaving most South African youth ill-prepared for further study and employment. SA ranked 114 out of 137 countries for education quality.

Also, South Africa’s workforce of the future is one where automation may replace manual and repetitive work and therefore workers. Over 30% of South African jobs are threatened by total automation. The industries impacted strongly will be retail, e-commerce, and financial services. The workforce of the future will be one requiring more specialised skills. This is why we place critical emphasis on improving education quality, up-skilling, and re-skilling the existing workforce.

State capture and corruption pose the third biggest challenge. There were 166 fraud and corruption cases between 2010 and 2016 related to procurement by state institutions and SOEs, ranging from R70 000 to R2.1 billion that are still affecting the economy today. Several private sector companies have been implicated in state capture, corruption, and fraud and the country’s economy has been severely jeopardised by state capture.

Being responsible in the new is weighted on five pillars:

  1. Responsibly South African: Tailoring our solutions to the South African market’s needs, using our RiTN strategy to directly address the biggest challenges that South Africa faces.
  2. Responsible Leaders: Leading by example and ‘going above and beyond’ in driving responsible business practice. Being proactive in driving impact above and beyond the regulatory checkboxes and being conscious in the business opportunities and clients we take on.
  3. Responsibly Human: Investing in people to be ready for the changes in the New. Positioning our employees to better respond to market demand through continuous upskilling. Enabling South Africa to play in industries that make us more globally competitive and contributing to positive GDP growth.
  4. Responsibly Eco-Conscious: Being Custodians of our Environment for future generations. Being leaders in conducting business in a way where Economy and Ecology go hand in hand and being custodians for future generations. Applying best practice, cutting-edge technology and solutions to drive impact internally and for our clients
  5. Responsibility in Action: Inspiring a shift in Thinking and Doing with clients and Engaging in Collective Impact. Using our ‘Responsible DNA’ to inspire a shift in thinking with our clients and help them drive impact beyond compliance. Proactively pursuing partnerships with clients to solve the business challenges we share.

The growing importance of Social Innovation

Social Innovation is growing in importance as part of the RB agenda. Two new forces are changing what it means to be a responsible business – Emerging Technologies and Higher Public Expectations of Business. The role of social innovation is to enable our responsibility in the new goals. It is “a new way of doing things that add value to communities, society, and the environment by unlocking value for our clients” and the business case for investment is clear.

There are four major benefits that social innovation presents. It restores trust in business – over 54% of companies in the Accenture Strategy Competitive Agility Index[2]experienced a material drop in trust and conservatively lost out on $180BN in revenue. It also allows for Growth and Inclusion at scale – the world’s largest problems viewed as business opportunities are collectively estimated to be worth $12–17 trillion by 2030. It plays a role in attracting and retaining talent – around 6 in 10 millennials indicate that a “sense of purpose” is a major factor in their decision to work for their current employer. Lastly, there is a financial correlation – companies with consistently high responsibility performance, measured through Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) ratings, outperform their peers financially an average 13.4% increase on return to shareholders.

Accenture Social Innovators is a program designed to catalyse opportunities to create positive social impact through client and ecosystem collaboration. To up-skill, connect, and showcase our people as social innovators. In FY20 we are scaling social innovators across all dimensions of Accenture. Underpinned by the global community, the certification program which is a work in progress offers insights and methods for client engagement, social innovation ecosystem, KPIs, and measurement of success.

At present, we are creating a robust role for Social Innovation in our Accenture operating model. We are working with the Social Innovators Global Platform Leadership team to create an operating model for including social innovation in our business. This will enable us to operationalise social innovation from idea generation, building capabilities and capacity of employees to be certified social innovators, amplification through communities of practice, converting demand generation into deals, and serving as a triage function for those navigating from where to go to pursue a great opportunity or bring life to an idea. Our ambition is to become the SA change agent in the New by changing the very concept of how business is conducted with broad ecosystem consciousness. We also aim to be market leaders in RB and the first to come to our clients’ minds as their strategic partner in helping them grow into a responsible future. This will enable us to truly deliver on our purpose of Unlocking Africa’s abundance for all and shaping the destiny of the continent.


[1]Seeking New Leadership – Responsible leadership for a sustainable and equitable world. Available at: https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-115/Accenture-DAVOS-Responsible-Leadership-Report.pdf

[2]Formula Won – A new way to measure Corporate Competitiveness. Available at: https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-57/Accenture-Formula-Won-PoV.pdf#zoom=50

Khethiwe Nkuna is the Head of Corporate Citizenship and Inclusion and Diversity at Accenture, Africa

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As Burkina Faso Heads to the Polls

Burkina Faso goes to the polls on Sunday. As the country smatters under security challenges,threats from extremist groups could prevent people from casting their votes on the day of the election .

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Ahead of the Presidential and legislative elections on Sunday, amid escalating extremist violence that’s harvested over 2,000 persons this year and leaving millions of others distraught and displaced from their homes, the land of upright men finds itself at another epochal threshold of history.

When results of the November 2015 elections were announced, they were greeted with respite and excitement. 

Most Observers adjudged it as the most transparent and democratic ever in the country. They ushered in the first elected civilian leader in nearly 50 years, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.

Roch Marc Christian Kaboré_CreditAFP

Earlier in the month at a rally in the country’s second most populous city, Bobo-Dioulasso, President Kaboré who is seeking a second five-year term promised to continue fighting until his country is secure.

Since taking office five years ago, Kaboré has been blamed for his inability to secure one of Africa’s most hopeful democracies.

Many had hinged their hopes on improved living standards, enhanced health care system, trial of the corrupt leaders, equity and social justice.

Credit_DW

Burkina Faso is almost slipping into a humanitarian disaster due to the debilitating activities of various terrorist attacks linked to al-Qaida and JNIM militants from neighbouring Mali.

Eddie Komboigo, head of the Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) is his major challenger. He belongs to the party of former President Blaise Compaore. Compaore’s overthrow by a popular insurrection in October 2014 brought to a halt, an authoritarian phase that had dogged the country for decades. 

Komboigo explained that Burkina Faso was in a “catastrophe” and blamed Kaboré for being averse to the use of enhanced intelligence-gathering approach, dialogue, and a more diplomatic approach in the fight against terror.  

Burkinabe gendarmes sitting on their vehicle in the city of Ouhigouya in the north of the country. Credit_ ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images.

Under the slogan, “let’s save the country”, a third contender in the person of Zephirin Diabre, candidate for the Union for Progress and Change party (UPC) is running against Kaboré for the second time. Diabre who challenged Kabore in 2015 secured 30% in the polls. He wants the fractured nation to reconcile and present a formidable front against the gunmen. In his words, “you can’t fight the war and win it if you’re not united and together.”

For a country which had spent 49 of its 55 years of independence under military rule, if this election runs smoothly, it will be the second time in its history that an election proceeds without incident.

Electoral process in Burkina Faso

In a statement issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the UN Chief commended the Government, the political leaders and citizens of Burkina Faso for “upholding an atmosphere of mutual respect throughout the electoral process, despite the challenges facing the country.”

He further called on stakeholders to maintain this posture and ensure that the elections are conducted and decided in a peaceful and credible manner.

 The winner of the polls will need at least 50% of the total votes cast to win. While Kaboré is projected to be re-elected, the opposition seeks to split the vote, deprive the President of an outright win in order to form a coalition behind the strongest candidate for a second round. The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) spokesperson says election results should be out between 48 to 72 hours after the completion of the polls.

This election will be a major test for the nation’s nascent democracy and a failure to ensure a transparent and peaceful election will offer terror groups operating in the region more material for its nihilist propaganda against the state.   

A wave of attacks in recent weeks has already threatens the legitimacy of the electoral outcome in the country as large swaths of the country will be unable to exercise its franchise.  Denying a large number of voters this inalienable franchise delegitimises the process and undermines the winner’s acceptability.

Burkina Faso’s voter apathy saw less than 2 million voters representing 10 percent of the population determine the emergence of President Kaboré.

Areas subsumed in violence account for at least 400,000 voters. According to its electoral commission, over 160,000 new voters, especially young adults were unable to get registered.

In spite of violence, many still thronged out to support their candidates

The mass disenfranchisement of this demography who are mostly rural voters and young people equally dents the legitimacy of the election. Any chance that opposition groups contest the election result or Extremist groups exploiting divisions within the country may throw the country into another round of highly destabilising deadlock.  

In August an electoral code triggered a law that says, in the event of “force majeure” (unanticipated situations preventing the organisation of elections in part(s) of the country), the election may continue based on the results from polling stations that remain open.

This supposes that election results will be considered binding even if people are unable to vote in parts of the country.

That is not all, two years ago, the National Assembly changed the electoral code to prohibit the use of widely used ‘consular cards’. The card issued by the Embassy to Burkina Faso citizens registered in its jurisdiction serves as voter registration document.

This year however, citizens must switch to a national ID card or passport. For those who do not have any, a new passport costs as much as 110,700 CFA Francs and not everyone currently has these documents. These modifications may keep thousands of persons from voting.

Burkinabé denizens in hard hit areas are apprehensive about exercising their franchise as terrorist groups continue to warn them against voting. Few days ago, terrorists backed groups took credit for the murder of 14 soldiers in Oudalan province. Another attacker threw an explosive into a mosque in the capital, Ouagadougou where many were injured.

Read also Court Clears 13 for Burkina Faso Presidential Election

Although similar incidents should be expected around polling stations, against voters, passers, and against authorities, the country’s security network must be on alert to ensure that the radical elements do not dictate the tempo of the polls.

The deployment of significant military reinforcements to flashpoints, probable hotspots and strategic locations around the country may offer reprieve for many and see a slightly higher number thronging out to entrust their fate and lives in a process that may, in the next five years mean life or death for them.

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Welcome to Lagos Where We Fight Fire with Laxity

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Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue – François de la Rochefoucauld once quipped this in a salon in Paris many years ago. I dare say that is indicative of the way the richest state in Nigeria responds to fire emergencies; yet, we all call for reforms and “statism”.

The recent fire and other fires that have inundated lagos have shown that the fire service in Lagos needs a revamp and I put this at the doorstep of the state.

It has to be said that one of the vestiges of a modern society is a quick emergency response mechanism that is swift and reliable.

Ruddy Giuliani became a cult hero as result of his leadership shown during the September 11 incident in New York. He emboldened the fire fighters on ground, provided leadership at ground zero and was there on ground himself. Because New York had invested properly in their emergency response team, by the time the dust on September 11 settled, every child in America wanted to be a firefighter and the country rallied around them.

If we claim Lagos is a megalopolis and the city of all cities, I expect nothing less from Lagos. The case, as experienced in recent times, has been different. I see Lagosians more concerned about taking photos of burnt property for Instagram rather than saving lives. I see a mammoth, yet useless, sympathetic crowd that swells from side to side preventing emergency workers from saying lives. It is at times like these ones I loathe the citizenry’s disposition to emergencies the most.

I think Nigerians need to be trained on how to be useful during emergencies. What I see more often is a crowd hindering rescue efforts, leading to the loss of lives – in one case a police officer.

I have seen a fire fighting force that was ill equipped but continuously fought, gallantly, to put out the fire while eye witnesses resorted to the use of buckets of water to quench the fire.

We are not entirely a write-off because I have seen first responders equally working gallantly to put out a fire that gutted property worth millions of Naira in the heart of Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria even though I didn’t see Governor Sanwo-Olu. Correct me if I am wrong, please.

It is shocking how a recently constructed big market doesn’t have a simple fire hydrant and that begs the question is Lagos really ready for a megapolis label?

It is easy for the government to slam taxes on citizens but the infrastructure of Lagos is similar to that of 18th century France. It is almost inconceivable that we do not have emergency fire provisions for some buildings, including, wait for it, government assets.

How many government parastatals have effective fire hydrants and fire blankets? Our safety culture is dead and we don’t have an active fire service because we have failed as a state to invest in emergency response infrastructure.

Don’t even get me started on the expensive apartments you live in in Ikoyi or Victoria Island. I’ll wager there isn’t any adequate emergency infrastructure on ground.

We keep playing with fire and when the same fire comes out to play, we, out of fear, forget everything else in a hurry. There is a litany of emergency woes staring at us stark in the face but we seldom learn from them.

As we say, God help us.

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#AfricaNXT | Breaking The Cycle Of Silence Around Issues In Africa

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In these times where information is readily available, certain serious issues around the continent go unnoticed. Our panel at the #AfricaNXT virtual event discuss some of these issues that are usually swept under the rug and are hardly covered with the severity and nuance that is necessary.

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