In conversation with Tiekie Barnard, SVAI founder and CEO, on becoming the champion of Shared Value on the African continent.
Johannesburg, 23 February 2021.
What are the origins of the Shared Value Africa Initiative?
Six years ago, I was accepted into the honours class at the Vega School for Brand Leadership. My final year research paper was on ‘Exploring how creating Shared Value can play a role in building the sustainability of a brand’ and I fell in love with the concept.
After I completed my studies in 2016, I attended my first a global sustainability summit in New York. Shared Value stalwarts Michael Porter and Mark Kramer were speakers at the event and truly inspired me. It also dawned on me that Shared Value could easily have been an extension of Ubuntu. In fact, I was convinced that Shared Value belonged to Africa as it is far better suited to the developing, than the developed world. Upon my return, I relaunched my consulting business as Shift Social Impact and began my Shared Value journey on the African continent.
We had to start from scratch with raising funds and building awareness. While, there were those at the vanguard like Anglo, ABSA, Nando’s, Old Mutual, Safaricom, Enel and Discovery, the vast majority of companies still did not understand the Shared Value business management concept. More specifically, many organisations failed to grasp that creating economic value and creating societal value are not mutually exclusive concepts.
Hosting the first Africa Shared Value Summit seemed the logical next step to get the Shared Value message out to many more and get like-minded people to rally behind the concept in Africa. In 2017, we also started negotiations with the global Shared Value Initiative (SVI) team. One year later, we became a member of the global SVI network and the Shared Value Africa Initiative (SVAI) was born.
In 2018, we invited Prof Mark Kramer, Co-Founder and Managing Director of FSG, to deliver a keynote at the second Africa Shared Value Summit, which coincided with the launch of the SVAI on Africa Day, 25 May 2018. Mark has participated in every summit since then.
How have you gone about building the Shared Value network across Africa?
Reaching out across Africa has not been easy, but it has been a very rewarding journey. As of now, we have a footprint in 10 countries and are currently exploring partnerships to extend our reach into Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda during 2021. The best part of it all is that, after three years of hard work, we are finally recognised as an organisation capable of taking Shared Value across the African continent.
We have a dream and that is to see every single organisation across the continent of Africa – large, medium and small – embrace and practice Shared Value. We believe this is the only way for Africa to build sustainable economies that, over time, can evolve into sustainable societies.
For me, building Africa’s largest Shared Value business network is not something we can do on our own. We need to collaborate and we need the voices of the private sector to influence, advocate and show others how it is possible for business to create both sustainable economic value and value for society.
Please tell us more about the educational alliances you have formed and why?
From the start, we recognised that the educational route would be integral to our long-term success. To this end, one of the overriding mandates that we have set for ourselves, is to get the Shared Value business management concept into executive short courses across the continent. We opted for this route, as getting it into the curricula will take too long and, having learnt from what Mark and Michael did at Harvard, we started talking to business schools.
This has been a focused effort on my part and in 2019, we launched our first-ever Shared Value Masterclass through the University of Johannesburg (UJ). We also formed a strategic partnership with Strathmore Business School (SBS) in Kenya, with the intent to make SBS the epicenter of Shared Value teaching on the African continent. We are very fortunate also in that Dr. George Njenga, Executive Dean of the Strathmore University Business School, is supportive and committed to taking the shared value management concept out into the continental business world.
We set out to develop a three-day classroom course, but COVID-19 changed all of that and we had to adapt and reposition it as an online-only, executive course over five days in 2020. This year we plan to deliver both the three-day on campus and five-day online courses.
In addition, we engaged the Lagos Business School (LBS) in 2020. We recently concluded a memorandum of understanding to co-create the LBS Responsible Business Summit in April and, in the long-term, to include Shared Value in their MBA course material.
In Rwanda, we are in conversation with the African Leadership University’s School of Business (ALUSB) and hope to conclude a similar collaboration in due course.
In the Africa Shared Value journey, is there a role and place for entrepreneurs?
From the start, we knew that bringing entrepreneurs into the Shared Value fold would be vital in developing the most impactful business network across Africa. For this reason, we established the SVAI Council of Eight in 2017. We identified eight individuals from across Africa, who were young successful business leaders in their own right and recognised as such by their peers. We conducted extensive research on both individuals and the businesses and discovered that, without realising it, they were already creating Shared Value.
We shared our vision from a Shared Value Africa perspective and invited them to become our young voices in the region and members of our first Council of Eight. In 2018, we brought them to South Africa and introduced them to the broader Shared Value community. In turn, they have helped to fast track SVAI’s reach into countries like Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Kenya.
As a next step, we will be launching the Shared Value Africa (SVA) Academy in March to focus on entrepreneurial and executive training. It is important to point out that our entrepreneurial training will take a deep dive into their business from a strategic, operational and people perspective – as per the Purpose Playbook and the “how” of Shared Value developed by FSG and SVI. The programme will be delivered by SVAI’s advisory and training arm, Shift Impact, and the University of Cape Town will be documenting the leaning outcomes of our first-ever Shared Value Entrepreneurship course.
From a Shared Value perspective, we know that we have to influence and support the young leaders of tomorrow. We have to ensure that their primary focus, as they build their businesses, remain on creating both economic value and value for society. In a way, we are already ahead of the curve as many young business leaders, whom we have engaged to date, are far more socially conscious than their counterparts were during the eighties and nineties.
In the near future, considerable focus will be on growing entrepreneurship in Africa and building partnerships with larger private sector organisations that will contribute and enable the SVAI to empower entrepreneurs. The SVA Academy will play a major role, but we need private sector support to build a platform capable of supporting our entrepreneurs and taking them to the next level.
What are some of the key milestones over the past five years and what is next?
Since starting out on the Shared Value journey in Africa, every partnership, every member, every organisation engaged and every relationship formed have contributed to shaping SVAI’s destiny.
One main achievement and an annual milestone has been the Africa Shared Value Leadership Summit, which gained enormous traction over the years. In fact, our 2019 summit, which took place in Kenya, was like a dream come true for me personally – with the late Bob Collymore opening the event and more than 350 people in attendance throughout.
Particularly noteworthy has been the unwavering support we received from Prof Mark Kramer since our launch. A more recent achievement was last year, when we brought Mark together with Prof Mervyn King around the same table, at a webinar we hosted on the subject of measuring stakeholder versus shareholder value.
Getting the founding members onboard was an important milestone, but so is every member that has joined SVAI since and every strategic relationship we have formed.
Not least of all, the launch of the SVA Academy in 2021 is not only a significant milestone for us; it is also a first within the global Shared Value community.
As to what comes next? Globally, creating Shared Value may be 10 years old, but I believe it is a business concept that really belongs to Africa. Perhaps for us it has always been an extension of Ubuntu and the rest of the world only knows it as Shared Value.
Either way, I am convinced that it has a better fit with the developing world and my vision for the SVAI is to be able to position Africa as the Shared Value continent, globally.
Until then, we will focus our collective efforts and energies on growing the Shared Value network across the continent and bringing large, homegrown African businesses into the fold. It is time to make Africa more resilient, together.