We have all witnessed the buzz of media and celebrity-driven attention about the African continent in the context of lost hope, opportunity and social responsibility voyages. Vanity Fair’s July issue on Africa includes a plethora of celebrity cover photos (21) and profile interviews such as Brad Pitt with Desmond Tutu. Movies like The Last King of Scotland, Tsotsi and Hotel Rwanda demonstrate the harsh realities of African politics and suffering.
However, not enough is being done to address the issues facing Africans.
Some celebrity efforts are to be commended such as Oprah Winfrey opening a girl’s school in South Africa, and Madonna’s non-profit Raising Malawi.
While it is all well and good that celebrities have done a good job calling attention to Africa and creating individual social responsibility models, corporations should do the same.
I spent an impressionable childhood in Kenya. Aside from the beauty, people and wildlife, I witnessed the slums, poverty and under-nourished infants. Africa wasn’t on the map when I came to America 18 years ago. Top line Kenyan issues include a corrupt government and the demand for ivory diminishing what was once a healthy elephant population. Mr. Wainaina’s individual tale – ‘Generation Kenya’ http://www.vanityfair.com/ - illustrates Kenya’s rocky road.
Americans’ are increasingly traveling to Africa on safari, have life changing experiences and are in awe of it's beauty.
Today, many corporations are eyeing the continents resources - or - already have business interests – including operations, customers and employees. We need to better educate the public about the realities and opportunities of Africa. Also, enlist help to mitigate the extreme poverty, disease, threats to wildlife and tourism, and infant mortality.
Corporations, aside from donating funds, have the resources, on-site support, products and services to support programs on a fundamental level. These include providing shelter and care to orphans, saving newborn lives, education, drinking water, medical supplies, job creation and transportation.
It is timely for corporations to add Africa to the CSR agenda, engage stakeholders, and align with their cause-related marketing programs. Following are some top line realities about these issues and suggested organizations to support:
HIV/Aids, TB and Malaria: There are 25.8 million HIV/Aids sufferers in Africa and 8,000 people die every day - http://www.businessfightsaids.org/
Poverty: More than 70 percent of the continent’s poor people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for food and livelihood. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 218 million people live in extreme poverty -http://www.irr.org/
Education: Ten African countries report adult literacy rates of less than 30%. In America, the adult literacy rate is 99% - http://www.oprahsangelnetwork.org/
Infant Mortality: Twenty-two African countries have infant mortality rates higher than 100 per 1,000 live births - http://www.savethechildren.org/
Wildlife: In 2006, as a result of poaching and mass slaughter in the 1980s, there are only 30,000 elephants in Kenya, down from 70,000 in the 60s - http://www.savetheelephants.com/
Corporations need to realize the longer term benefits helping combat a continent in suffering, supporting timely causes in countries where they operate, as well as ultimately protecting their business interests.