Why companies matter to children
DAKAR, Senegal – The validation workshop of the study "The Impact of the Private Sector on Children in Mali - Mapping and analysis of the business community to further a child-focused Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda" was held on September 20 and 21 in Bamako, the capital. The timing of the study from Mali could not be better. The economy of Africa is growing and according to the African Economic Outlook for 2011, the continent rebounded in 2010 and is set for 3.7% growth this year with a higher projected figure for West Africa (5.9%).
While it is still one of Africa’s poorest countries, Mali has achieved an annual 5% growth in its economy over the past decade. However this is not enough to lift the half of the population estimated to be living in poverty on less than a dollar a day.
Children are the first victims of this. The lack of health care and a poor diet put their lives at risk, and they may not be able to go to school. This is a familiar story of lost opportunity not only for families and communities, but also for the country as a whole. Mali’s economic growth and future well-being depends on its capacity to invest in this segment of the population today.
It is within this context that the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce (MIIC), and UNICEF in Mali, with the technical support of Centre of Partnerships for Development (CAD), conducted the study. The companies who took part in this exercise with UNICEF in Mali realise this. Some are international and some are from the country. In a land where they see the potential for expansion they understand that it cannot be done in isolation.
For UNICEF the activity marks recognition of the private sector as a key actor able to contribute to children’s well-being. But it also states that this relationship has to be more than the traditional philanthropic activity. By incorporating children’s rights at the heart of firms’ corporate social responsibility policies, there is a commitment to respecting and promoting children’s well-being in the everyday management of their activities.
As more industries look at the expanding economy of Africa and the opportunities it presents, Mali may have the model for going beyond the bottom line.