Private sector can help Africa advance if it shares profits, say participants at UN meeting

18 September 2006

Although the private sector has a key role to play in Africa’s development, safeguards must be in place to ensure that developing countries share in the profits business generates on their soil, according to participants at a meeting today organized by the United Nations charged with promoting development across the continent.

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) held a meeting at UN Headquarters in New York to discuss Bending the Arc, a programme designed to engage the business community in accelerating Africa’s achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Africa, told a press conference after the meeting that “we all agree the private sector has a key role to play in Africa’s future.”

But Firmino Mucavele, chief executive of NEPAD, warned against any “abuse of corporate-social responsibility,” citing the recent dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, that has led to at least half a dozen deaths, as an example.

“This is possible when you are an undeveloped country – when you don’t have the institutional capacity to verify if all the corporations are following procedures, rules and codes,” he said.

Asked why many of NEPAD’s activities were not better known in Africa, Professor Mucavele described it as a slow but growing process.

“We are advancing; not at a rate we would like to, but advancing. We are now in Uganda, very silently solving the problem. We are in Côte d’Ivoire, we are in Chad, in Sudan, already in Mozambique, in Angola, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Things are moving. That’s NEPAD in action.”