Expert Perspectives on Reviving Businesses Through Inclusion

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Engaging indigenous people (integrating everyone in process, activities/production) in innovating and  developing local contents will not only resuscitate the economy, but also lift over half of the population out of poverty. Inclusion is capable of changing the business atmosphere and economic dynamics; improving the quality of lives of the people and ensuring sustainable development.

At the 6th Africa CEO Round-table and Conference on Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility (AR-CSR), experts shared their views on the trajectory inclusion can take in Nigeria and Africa as a whole.

It can be proven that the bright side of any economic recession is an opportunity for innovation and the development of local content that will not only resuscitate the economy, but also lift over half of the population out of poverty. Although the concept is still emerging in many African nations, it has proven beneficial to business growth, quality, and sustainability. Besides, the practice of inclusion has reduced the number of people left at the base of the economic pyramid in developed countries.  Considering the strong belief that imbibing the inclusive business model in Africa is capable of changing the business atmosphere and economic dynamics; improving the quality of lives of the people and ensuring sustainable development, we share below excerpts from discussions with Nigerian SMEs and large sector players who have hands-on experience of running inclusive businesses across a full value chain.

With over three billion of world population living on less than $2 per day, these population constitute the Base of the Pyramid (BoP), businesses can through their set up and activities reduce this number of people at the BoP, therefore fostering growth and sustainability.

Raliat Oyetunde, CEO/Lead Consultant, Prinsult Global Consulting Limited

Eradicating poverty is all about inclusion, developed countries across the world have already embraced this model to improve the lives of their citizens by offering incentives to companies that include citizens at the BoP, in order to encourage others to do more. In establishing my company, we considered inclusion from the start by offering opportunities for small-holder farmers to make more income even as the company can source sufficient and quality cassava from these farmers – thereby transforming these small-holder farmers to commercial farmers and improving their livelihoods. This singular decision to integrate small-holder farmers led to a direct effect as top multinationals began to signify interest in the company’s product. Investing in a small business yields ripple effects of opening up bigger opportunities for the inclusive business model. Multinationals should engage and pull up SMEs while SMEs include more people at the bottom of the income pyramid in their business chains, in order to eradicate poverty.

Government legislation needs to create awareness to stop ‘unnecessary’ importation of products that can be sourced or produced locally. Although poor yield is a hindrance to reaping full benefits of inclusion, the introduction of new technology to support the local supply chain is necessary for the success of any inclusive model. Furthermore, stakeholder engagement is key to ensuring trust, profitability, as well as the sustainability of the inclusive business model.

Yemisi Iranloye, Managing Director, Psaltry International Limited

Inclusive business is about seizing the need of the country in starting up a sustainable business. Our company was set up primarily to stop ‘unnecessary’ importation of food products to Nigeria in order to deliver fresh and quality products for the Nigerian populace at the same time create one brand from small-scale farming. We therefore approached inclusive business by bringing several small-scale farmers together to form a local supply chain. This increases yield and higher returns for these farmers through creating a ready market for their products – this is a first and major step towards lifting up the poor in the society.

Often times, Nigerians are skeptical of purchasing made in Nigeria products because of quality but, it is important that both packaging and content are capable of competing with international brands. Though it seems difficult sourcing quality and unique materials in the country, especially for packaging yet, it is important to look inwards and activate the creative Nigerian nature in order to navigate these challenges.

Shola Ladoja, Founder, Simply Green

 

The operation of people in silos has led to the lack of growth, currently being seen in the entrepreneurial space. Creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurship to actually thrive is an ecosystem approach and what this does is ensuring that businesses get into the system and still scale. To create the number of jobs required to sustain the ecosystem, big companies need to employ people.

Furthermore, ensuring rich conversations around entrepreneurship, acceleration and development is critical, not underestimating the impact of collaborating with educational institutions. When decisions are being taken in entirety, getting the entire ecosystem to talk to each other is also required.

Trust is another issue that should be approached and addressed in overcoming the problem of impeded start up growth. Before a bank or any investor whatsoever can partner with a business, the element of trust is required. Developing the culture of modeling your space in a high trust environment will, overtime, pass across the message.

Bolaji Finnih, Founder, Techpreneur Africa

A business can be focused on solving a social problem yet it is still very critical to build a business (revenue) model around it so that the business is not stuck when a donor decides to terminate funding.  It is essential the business model solves problems with a wide reaching base that has a larger pool of people at the bottom of the pyramid. Besides, being ingenious in the type of problems solved requires going beyond the generic buying and selling into using the mobile technology platform that is becoming increasing popular in the country.

BudgIT and Wecyclers, are two entrepreneurial success examples in Nigeria that have a primary focus of solving a social problem but who have been able to create a sustainable business model round their solutions.  To create a sustainable enterprise is to create jobs, solve fundamental environmental problems and at the same time generate enough revenue.

Moreover, as Albert Einstein stated, no problem can be solved from the level of thinking it was when it was created. For a real change to occur, there has to be a new culture. In solving specific social problems such as health care and in order to overcome the resistance to change, a cognizant factor is building solutions that leverage on existing technology stakeholders already have, which removes the obstacle of requiring a large investment of money before the innovation can be scaled successfully.

Femi Longe, Co-Founder, Co-Creation Hub

Simply, collaboration is key in growing start-ups therefore, all sectors, especially the academia should do more to collaborate. There are three levels of trust required in partnerships and collaborations which are the institutional, social and interpersonal trusts and all three play a role in business decisions.

Professor Kenneth Amaeshi, Director, Sustainable Business Initiative, University of Edinburgh Business School

To achieve successful inclusive business ideals, there is also an urgent need for information – research, exposure, and training (both local and international) on the organizational level. On the personal level, sacrifice, focus, perseverance, resilience, and persistency are key to enterprise growth and development for entrepreneurs. Moreover, every aspiring entrepreneur should prepare for opportunities and maximize them.

Finally, every Nigerian, has a role to play in promoting inclusive and sustainable businesses and development by engaging the government and demanding good policies.

 

 

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