9 Questions: Corporate Philanthropy, SMEs and Sustainable Development

We have often heard about ‘philanthropy,’ but is the concept of ‘Corporate Philanthropy,’ and its relevance to ‘SMEs’ and Sustainable Development understood?
Osayi Alile Oruene, Executive Director of FATE Foundation, a leading private-sector led, non-profit intervention initiative on Entrepreneurship in Nigeria, gives us insight into this phenomenon in the corporate world today…

1. What Does Sustainability Mean to You as A Young Leader?
It means the ability to create solutions and make a bigger impact on a global scale. The world is a global village and issues affecting countries aren’t really different, and this means that we can create solutions, collectively.

2. How Would You Access the State of CSR in Africa in Relation to Corporate Philanthropy?
Lately, there has been a huge awakening in the private and public sector in considering CSR to be the strategic solution for socio-environmental challenges in Africa. CSR is gradually been understood by corporate organizations as the mechanism to contribute to sustainable development and nation building. More corporate organizations are setting up departments or foundations dedicated to CSR to give back to society.
However, corporate philanthropy is still practiced; whereby some corporate organizations invest their CSR towards laudable efforts but in these cases, they do not get involved and monitor their impact.

3. In Over a Decade, how would You Assess the Impact of the Fate Foundation’s Interventions in Nigerian Socio-Economic Space?
Fate Foundation was borne out of a deep passion that seeks to advance the human welfare by tackling the global issue of poverty and unemployment which are predominant in Nigeria and Africa.
Fate has at least 11 years made social impact. Annually, FATE mentors and trains over 200 enterprise-savvy Nigerians through its initiatives: ‘Aspiring Entrepreneurs Programme and Emerging Entrepreneurs Programme. We are also involved in community projects that take us around the country to train youth in business skills through various partnerships.

4. What Role Can Young Entrepreneurs Play in Enhancing Sustainable Development in Nigeria?
Young entrepreneurs can act as catalysts for sustainable economic growth by promoting the idea of sustainable enterprises. This cannot be done alone by young entrepreneurs without the cooperation of government and other interested parties to create a sustainable environment where businesses can thrive.

5. What Role Will Fate Foundation Play in Fostering Impact Investing in SMEs and the Agriculture Sector to Fast-Track Sustainable Development in Nigeria?
SMEs undoubtedly are engines of job creation and potential key drivers in the Nigeria economy. Fate Foundation’s role as an enterprise support institution seeks to provide that necessary industry-based capacity building and enterprise support mechanism for aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to harness their business potentials not only in the agricultural sector but in all other sectors.

6. What Should Stakeholders expect from FATE in the future?
Fate’s philosophy is that by equipping enterprising Nigerians with skills, tools, networks, these individuals can create successful businesses that will in turn offer gainful employment to the teeming masses of the unemployed in Nigeria. We are committed to raising world-class entrepreneurs that will positively influence the socio-economic landscape in Nigeria.

7. Who Should Control the Economy so that Business Enterprises Serve National Interest and don’t just Service the Interest of a Few?
The government is expected to play a key role in promoting the economic, social and environmental conditions that favour more inclusive and sustainable development. But there has got to be a stable political government across board because that’s the enabling environment. What we need to see is a bottom-up approach, a situation where there is investment in Education and skills.

8. In your Opinion, Should CSR Practice be Enforced and Regulated by Government?
Although CSR can be viewed as a voluntary action that organizations take above and beyond regulatory requirements to improve their socio-environmental and economic performance, I believe government at different levels can regulate the behavior and practice of businesses by defining minimum standards of good CSR practice or performance requirements embedded with the required legal framework.

9. What is the Sustainability Element in your Model and what Innovation Will Map your Organization’s Future?
Innovation and entrepreneurship are emerging opportune areas for Africa because they are associated with social and technological progress. Thus, in a committed drive to harness the innovative enterprise culture for great economic impact in Nigeria, we recently established the FATE institute for venture design in partnership with the Stanford University, Centre for Design and Research with an innovative approach to design team-based ventures that accelerate the creation and commercialization of technology to meet market needs, thereby leading to job creation and to nucleate a dynamic human-centered ecosystem of innovation in a given region.
We are poised to enhance access of SMEs to markets, finance and technical know-how, promote business linkages and partnerships which are important to catalyze economic expansion at local and regional levels.

Source: CSR Files™

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