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FROM THE CEO’S DESK: FEBRUARY 2020

The latest World Economic Forum Global Risks Report singles out health systems as a significant area of risk for 2020. As business, we know that health has a massive impact on economic prosperity, impacting productivity and absenteeism. Life expectancy in Africa still lags behind the rest of the world, hampered by problems ranging from a lack of quality infrastructure to the problematic doctor-to-patient ratios even in the best-performing countries. The escalating climate crisis is having its own impact on the state of Africa’s health, adding even more strain to stretched healthcare systems.

It has been clear for many years that governments simply do not have the resources to address the gaps and deficits in health care alone. Access is just the beginning; cost and quality are also hugely important considerations. Business must step up to the plate to innovate and implement new solutions at scale. Businesses like babyl Health in Rwanda, which offers digital access to basic medical care, and M-TIBA in Kenya, an inclusive mobile medical savings platform, are making some progress in changing Africa’s medical landscape. The African Continental Free Trade Area has the potential to increase business’s ability to serve healthcare needs across borders, opening up new markets and enabling improved access for consumers.

Private sector involvement is essential for achieving quality universal health coverage. Even companies not directly involved in health care must develop an understanding of the healthcare needs and challenges of their employees and consumers. As a business risk, both communicable and non-communicable diseases weaken the workforce and the communities on which business relies to survive. It is only by taking a serious holistic look at wellbeing throughout the business’s operations and value chain that gaps can be identified and strategic investment made to build or support the ecosystems needed in order to address these problem areas.

This is the essence of what we at the SVAI refer to as ‘Shared Value thinking’. The Shared Value business management strategy emphasises the importance of business using purpose as the basis for all strategic decision-making. Profit and long-term sustainability can only be achieved if a business is constantly assessing its employees, its value chain, and the ecosystems in which it operates. Wellness is an indicator of productivity, and as such should not be neglected. The aim is not for business to become a health provider at the expense of the core business function, but rather for it to facilitate the access to care that is needed in order for the drivers of the business, the people, to function at their best.

Perhaps even more important from a business perspective than their employees’ physical health is their mental health. Depression, anxiety and burnout can play a huge role in stunting an employee’s productivity and enjoyment of their job. If left undiagnosed and untreated, this can seriously deplete their ability to deliver effectively and, over time, undermine a business’s ability to meet its goals. In fact, workplace mental health programmes have been shown to improve not only productivity but also general economic growth.

We have seen the beginnings of a positive trend in Africa of businesses wanting to step up to the mark and address the social challenges in the communities in which they operate. This needs to be done with a focused Shared Value approach in order to ensure that it is both sustainable and integrated into the business’s core strategy and operations. As each business undertakes the self-analysis that is an essential first step to creating and implementing a successful Shared Value strategy, health is certainly something that should be top of mind.

Since the beginning of the year, we have hosted the first meetings of two SVAI country Working Groups, in South Africa and Kenya. These meetings brought together high-level representatives from key regional stakeholders to identify a critical local issue and determine a collective business strategy to tackle it, using Shared Value principles. From this first encounter onward, these businesses will work together to use their resources and scale to make a positive impact in their country. We look forward to continuing to bring together changemakers and business leaders, acting as the catalyst for Africa’s businesses to collaboratively move the continent forward.

Want to be a part of creating business solutions for Africa’s challenges? Don’t miss this year’s Africa Shared Value Leadership Summit, 4-5 June 2020 in Kigali, Rwanda, where for the first time we will be hosting Solution-Seeking Sessions. These interactive sessions encourage in-depth engagement with high-level speakers and experts on topics ranging from the decentralisation of health care to unlocking the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area for all African countries. Visit the website to learn more and book your tickets.

By the same token, I encourage you all to join us at our Harvard-aligned three-day Shared Value executive course at Strathmore University Business School. Taking place 23-25 March 2020, the course will unpack the Shared Value business model, from its theoretical framework to real case studies showing its successful implementation in Africa. Hear from some of Africa’s most prominent companies about their Shared Value journey. Click here to book your place!

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3508809/

Onwards and upwards!
Tiekie Barnard