WINDHOEK: First National Bank (FNB) Namibia Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Vekuii Rukoro has called on an enhanced collaboration between the private and public sector in tackling socio-economic and political challenges in the country.
Rukoro was speaking at the first annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) conference on Monday. He formed part of a panel of speakers from Namibia and South Africa and addressed delegates on the emerging link of CSR and employment in the country.
The two-day conference, which is taking place at a local hotel, is being hosted by Excel Business Consultancy in partnership with the publishers of the ‘Who’s Who Namibia’ publication. It is endorsed by the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI).
The conference is aimed at outlining how CSR impacts and fosters innovation, and will provide delegates with practical insight into how to build innovation through CSR in their own companies or organisations.
“Poverty and unemployment are some of the biggest challenges facing the world today, particularly in developing economies, and is a social, political, moral and economic problem,” he stated.
The FNB Namibia CEO said it impacts on all dimensions of human well-being, such as adequate food, shelter and comfort, access to education, health-care and the opportunity to participate in social and political life on an equal basis with the rest of the population.
Rukoro said if left unaddressed, the poor feel trapped and are thus constantly connected with some of the most pressing social and political problems such as crime, violence, broken families, loss of community, environmental degradation, corruption and even ethnic conflict.
“This is obviously not conducive for growing any economy,” he stressed.
He then advised that corporations could play an important role by growing their businesses in order to employ more people, and in so doing providing jobs and stimulating other businesses.
He said the correlation between direct job-creation and CSR is currently being hotly debated, adding that companies that are creating jobs that pay fair wages, with good working conditions and associated benefits, are having a direct positive impact in communities and national economies.
Rukoro further noted that while most companies in the country are still focusing on the upper and middle classes, there is a growing appreciation of the huge potential of consumers who seem to have little disposable income.
“There is a promising market if businesses rethink their strategies and technologies, products and services geared specifically at meeting the unmet needs in the emerging survival economies,” the FNB Namibia CEO said.
He called on companies to consider combining commerce and social development by incorporating social performance, more specifically poverty reduction, into the CSR strategies “because fighting poverty helps create secure and stable markets.”
According to Rukoro, corporate social responsibility can be an effective medium for companies to reach low-income consumers, turn them into entrepreneurs who become self-employed and employ others by alleviating poverty in society.
“Business has a critical role to play in transforming society on a sustainable basis. It is a major stakeholder in the countries they operate in and they must seek to establish strong and effective links with the public sector in order to maximise the positive social impacts,” he stated.