April 23, 2012, by ICCSR

Is CSR taking root in East Africa?

The 2nd East African Awards Ceremony was held in Dar es Salaam on the 17th April, 2012.  They were sponsored by Bank M in partnership with East Africa Business Council and Africa Practice amongst others.

As one of the judges in the award’s judging panel, I had hoped that the 1st East African Awards held in 2010 had stimulated greater awareness of CSR as a concept and also increased positive social and environmental business impact across East Africa.  I had secretly wished that the 1st Awards had steered some sort of ‘competition’ amongst companies.

So I was pleased when the Awards secretariat received a record 71 applications (from both local and international companies) competing in five different awards categories:

  1. Best workplace practice
  2. Most ethical and responsible supply chain
  3. Environmental excellence
  4. Sustainable and scalable community investment
  5. Innovative Partnership

As would be expected, the community investment awards received most entries – 38 in total.  This was not very surprising to me as my research had showed that ‘community investment’ was a first for companies as it was considered as more visible and with immediate impact.  In other quarters ‘corporate social investment’ and ‘corporate social responsibility’ were used interchangeably.  The events sponsor’s award marketing slogan ‘You don’t have to be an Angel to give’ perhaps spoke volumes of what CSR is perceived by many – a rather minimalistic approach! 

This notwithstanding, there were some excellent CSR showcases: Tullow Uganda Operations Pty Ltd award winning Closing the Gap project develops the capacity and capabilities of local businesses to engage in the supply chain; Sarova Hotels Resorts and Game Lodges provides a comprehensive health care programme that promotes the health and wellbeing of their workforces; Unilever Tea Kenya Limited’s Tagabi Hydro II Project provides renewable energy to the company and beyond;  Vodacom Tanzania’s M-Pesa Women Empowerment Initiative, a bottom of the pyramid initiative, and Coca-Cola Central, East Africa and West Africa with their Project Nurture which aims to build capabilities of and provide access to credit and skill building for over 50,000 fruit farmers.

As I interacted with company representatives at the ceremony, it was evident that CSR was taking root in East Africa.  That many companies were thinking more of strategic CSR, and shared value with stakeholders.  As the awards become popularised in Burundi and Rwanda, it is my desire that companies will seek to embed CSR in their strategy and culture.

by Dr Judy Muthuri, Lecturer in Corporate Social Responsibility at the ICCSR

Image source: thinkstock

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