Sunday, March 26, 2006

 

A Force for Good?

How do people feel about the intervention, or rather involvement, of South African companies in Africa? Or do most people see this as a means of pure self interest on behalf of the companies?

This has been one of my key interests for the past year and a half after I have completed a course in South African Corporate Foreign Policy. In the 21st century it has become crucial for business and state to sort out new challenges by figuring out how to work together in order to make their relationship work to benefit both the company and the state.

The responses to these challenges have to take into account the necessity to provide a better life for those who are living in the chosen country. The relationship between the state and the companies are ever changing, especially in Africa and specifically South Africa. Reminiscent of what we have learnt from Mr Kapelus from the AICC, corporate governance are one of the aspects to make life better for those who are affected by companies. In other words, there is an increasing need or demand for companies and states to be more transparent, accountable and regulated. Of course there are global institutions that are there to provide information and regulations for companies to measure their accountability (like the World Trade Organisation), but this is a whole different area that I would rather not get into due to my lack of patience and enthusiasm with these types of global organisations. However this topic is definitely open for discussion if anybody wants to dare go there.

In this day and age it is unavoidable for companies not to think seriously about the implications of their actions on their own personal reputation. This brings me to the actual point I would like to make. The increase in activities by South African companies is heavily debated. It is beyond a doubt that South African companies play an enormous role in Africa. It helps with African development and increases growth. But most of all, this growth and development of Africa also serves the interest of South African companies.

Mr. Metcalfe tried to explain to us the other day how Nepad is a way to improve the relationship between companies and states and how FDI can be generated when Africa becomes a safer investment zone. This is still a wait and see process. Some companies still face challenges while others have gained from these interventions. However, there is still the problem of some companies exploiting African nations and raking in the profits.

Consequently it is highly important for companies to assess their corporate foreign policy towards African nations. I feel the majority of South African companies are a force for good in Africa and that most African states, NGOs and other stakeholders should be open to their involvement in their countries. This will eventually show the rest of the economic world that Africa can be a safe environment to invest in. I do realise there are many other aspects to consider and not just the hope of generating more FDI, but shouldn’t this be the point of departure for the development of Africa? Am I being too ignorant and optimistic or is there some concurrence on this subject matter?

Comments:
Good Celeste,
I also like this topic and i will be sharing my view soon. Thank you for opening the debate.
Cyrille
 
Great Cyrille. I look forward to your ideas on this matter. Celeste
 
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