“A problem shared is half-solved.”
- Published: Friday, 02 June 2017 09:21
Just like many sectors, the agriculture sectors in multi-faced such that various challenges will continue to rock the sector. However, for sustainable solution as well as sector vibrancy there is a need for the public and private sector to work closely at all levels.
Felix Lombe, CEO of African Institute of Corporate Citizenship says that unlike other sectors, private sector engagement in the agriculture sector has been very minimal at all levels and this has equally affected the operations within the sector.
“In wake of this, we would like to urge all players in the sector including the private sector to work together in order to grow the sector in the direction that all players desire. Lasting solution to the challenges facing the sector can also be addressed only when all stakeholders take part in finding solution.”
African Institute of Corporate Citizenship (AICC) is a non-governmental organisation whose main mandate is to promote the role of business in development. AICC specialises in acting as a catalyst and facilitator of change; a broker and initiator of multi-sector partnerships and platforms; and a knowledge management hub for issues relating to the role of responsible business in African societies. AICC is committed to promoting responsible growth and competitiveness in Africa by changing the way companies do business in liaison with the public sector. This is done to benefit people and the economy while building sustainable communities.
AICC started in the 2001 with its first office in South Africa but later in 2005, the organisation expanded and opened a branch in Malawi. Since then, AICC has been involved in research; advocacy; training and capacity building; facilitation of multi-stakeholder process for policy change; social learning and collective action in various fields including agribusiness value chain and social development.
Lombe says AICC’s goal is to ensure that the public sector works closely with the private sector.
“Many developing nations in Africa continue to face various socio-economic challenges despite the ever increasing support and interventions being fostered by various players in the country. These dynamic challenges facing African countries today call for not only renewed and concerted efforts but also collaborative efforts by all relevant stakeholders. Major challenges experienced by the ever-growing population amidst ever decreasing resources require governments, private sector and civil society to act together to exercise shared responsibility to achieve collective prosperity that help build sustainable communities. Thus to say, the countries can only register high success in development if there is strong correlation between the public and private sectors.”
AICC has facilitated the formulation of various platform in the agricultural sector as one way of fostering Public Private Partnerships (PPP’s). Through these platforms – namely rice, legumes, cotton and diary – the agricultural community has benefitted substantially as it provides a space were various stakeholders from both the public and private sector meet and discuss various issues affecting particular subsectors and provide concentrated solutions that all players are part of. Furthermore, through these platforms, players have managed to establish links with other players within their sector.
“Using the PPP’s approach, AICC has managed to significantly contribute in these areas,” says Lombe. “For many years, government and the private sector in Malawi have been operating in a vacuum where all players acted separately from each other. This affected the delivery of services as there was duplication of efforts as well as contestation of efforts.”
Several developments have taken place since AICC started undertaking various projects in these areas of focus. Among these developments are the many technologies AICC has successfully pioneered with both the public and private sector. The developed technologies have not only focused on increasing production of particular commodities but also offer other services that various players fail to easily access in Malawi.
“AICC recently launched an oilseeds online extension platform that aims to ensure harmonised and adequate information going to farmers on all stages of production and marketing processes. The platform also shows where and who owns what aspects of oils seed crop production, storage and marketing. The platform features Google Maps and boast to be first of its kind in the sector in Malawi.”
Lombe says one challenge he has often come across is the struggle to change one’s mind set.
“Many organisations in Malawi working in the agriculture sector offer inputs to farmers and this has made many targeted beneficiaries to expect the same from each organisation. However, AICC operations aims at promoting sustainable solutions and to this effect, handouts are highly discouraged. At times, this makes it difficult to work with other communities that highly anticipate handouts from organisations.”
Based on the current trend and response in various sectors, AICC is very optimistic that in five years’ time, private sector engagement in various social intervention programmes will be directly involved as it is the case with public and non-governmental entities.
“AICC’s constant advice and argument as an institution is that unless NGOs in Africa collaborate with not only government but also private sector, the sustainability and depth of impact of NGO’s interventions will remain a lip service. Realising that there are several aspects to development, there is a need to foster responsible corporate citizenship among various players within the development circle. The role of business in development cannot be appreciated if every player in the corporate world fully take up their responsibilities.”
Lombe says that ever since AICC started fostering partnerships in the agriculture sector, a lot has changed. Not only has the private sector engaged in interventions there have been close collaborations. From a market access aspect, farmers who have been trained in skills of identifying markets have benefited.
“Skills have impacted entrepreneurial mind set and has helped farmers to fully benefit from their sales as they get maximum profits. Due to previous lack of negotiation skills, most farmers failed to negotiate good prices for their crops such that many traders – especially vendors – used to buy crops at low prices than what the farmers desired. But due to limited markets, farmers were forced to sell at such low prices. Lombe says this has changed as farmers are now capable of identifying a wider market that offers them various prices.”
AICC has a number of partners in various countries including Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is through such partnerships that AICC has managed to reach various countries in Malawi. However its area of collaboration with various partners in these countries have been on the notion of corporate citizenship – specifically sharing notes on how to engage the private sector in social intervention for sustainable development. In terms of agriculture, AICC currently focuses on agricultural technology innovations, agriculture entrepreurship and market access.