We recently published a release about Africa Roundtable and Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility (AR-CSR) that was scheduled to take place in Lagos Nigeria. Here is a report about the event!
Ireland’s First Female President, Mary Robinson has described Corporate Social Responsibility as a key driver to the future of the African economy. In a keynote address delivered at the Opening Ceremony of the Africa CEO Roundtable & Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility (AR-CSR), 2011, held recently in Lagos, Nigeria; the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights gave insightful case studies on how organisations can leverage on CSR for improved growth and development of emerging economies.
In her words, CSR is key to the private sector (in any economy) reaching its goal and is also key to the future of Africa’. President Robinson who has extensive experience in issues of Corporate Social Responsibility, Human Rights, International Diplomacy and Law, Leadership, Enterprise and Ethical Globalisation; delivered an apt and thought-provoking keynote address on the theme, ‘The Business Case for CSR & its Impact on African Economies’. Robinson also sighted her work on human rights including BLIHR (the Business Leaders Initiative on Human Rights) and the John Ruggie framework on business and human rights, destined to shortly become “soft law”, which coincidentally received UN approval that same evening.
In a prior welcome address, the Executive Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola, SAN represented by the Executive Chairman of the Lagos State Internal Revenue Service, Babatunde Fowler; re-iterated the inevitable overlap between private and public sectors when providing social infrastructure and services.
Fashola also added that, ‘…it is therefore essential for companies to undertake their businesses in line with global best practices in terms of meeting their civic obligations, upholding high ethical standards and above all in a sustainable manner to deliver tangible social and development impact in their operating environment’.
The opening ceremony of the Africa CEO Roundtable & Conference on Corporate Social Responsibility (AR-CSR™), was rounded off with the public presentation of CSR Files™; a new sustainability and CSR Journal published by the event organizers, ThistlePraxis Consulting Limited.
President Robinson had the previous day joined in the CEO Roundtable that preceded the conference proper and listened into the discussions by Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, MD, Access Bank Plc; Chibuzor Uwoha, MD, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Morin Desalu, MD, Riskwatch Insurance Plc and Adedotun Sulaiman, Chairman, Arian Capital Limited. She was later hosted to a cocktail reception ahead of the conference the following day.
The CSR conference that followed has been described as extremely engaging and informative, featured an array of the world’s leading experts on corporate social responsibility who shared their wealth of experience over two days through seven sessions. As the participants dug deeper into the issues, more sides to CSR and the peculiar African business environment were highlighted with a very impressive intellectual exchange and feedback.
Some speakers included: Thelma Ekiyor; Executive Director/CEO, TY Danjuma Foundation, Tunji Adeyinka; CEO, Connect Marketing, Dr. Ken Amaeshi, Edinburgh Business School, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui – Okauru, Exec. Chairman, FIRS, Dapo Oyewole, Executive Director, CAPPS, Mobolanle Babatunde, Head of CSR, Access Bank Plc, Dr. Wiebe Boer, CEO Tony Elumelu Foundation, Funmi Balogun, IPPF Africa, Noble Pepple, Executive Director, RSSDA and Debo Adesina, Editor, The Guardian Newspapers.
In one of the sessions, ‘From Business Case to Government Case’; the participants took a swipe at Senator Uche Chukwumerije on his proposed CSR Bill and unanimously agreed that legislation is not a solution to the issues. Through his legal assistant, Barr. Ita Essien, who represented him at the conference, the participants sent a strong-worded message to the Senator advising him to consult widely and review the focus of the bill to achieve tangible impact as it as yet another tax and inconsistent with the idea of CSR as a voluntary activity.
The Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui – Okauru in the same session also engaged the participants on the various tax requirements of the Federal Government and its implication on the proposed CSR Bill. She observed that tax compliance is one of the most basic responsibilities of a business, but compliance rates are low in Nigeria and sometimes firms claiming to practice CSR are at the same time failing to meet their tax obligations. She also added that the agency is investigating further tax incentives for CSR.
After her presentation, Okauru also shed more light on the pending regulation on the civil society and NGO sector. In the interesting discourse that ensured, the tax queen explained the need to exercise a certain measure of control over that sub-sector to ensure accountability, transparency and subsequently increased impact.
Some of the other sessions included: Monitoring, Measuring and Reporting, CSR and African Economies, Shaping Africa’s CSR Future and The Shifting Landscape of Philanthropy and Social Investments in Africa.
The organizers of the initiative, ThistlePraxis Consulting, an Assessments and CSR Strategy Consulting firm have affirmed that the AR-CSR™ is not a talk shop. According to Ini Onuk, Lead Consultant & CEO, ‘…at this event, we have launched an African Alliance on CSR as well as a journal on sustainability and we will also have follow up events such as the quarterly Sustainable Conversations™ to ensure that the issues of CSR and sustainability are re-iterated across the African business environment’.
The AR-CSR™ 2011 was sponsored by Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Africa Region. Other partners to the AR-CSR™ include: African Business, The Africa Investor, NewsAfrica and NN24 as well as TY Danjuma Foundation, CSR Europe, CSR Wire, CSR International, Just Means, Growing Business Foundation and SERA Awards.