News Analysis: Harvesting Gains of Africa Social Impact Summit

When Sterling One Foundation announced its plans to host the Africa Social Impact Summit (ASIS), many believed it was going to end as one of the usual talk shops.

The foundation, however, redefined the expectations of skeptics by changing the narrative of organising summits through the instrument of its deal room which it factored into the summit.

Consequently, the summit identifies five key pillars of interventions to include health, education, climate action, food security and youth empowerment.

The foundation is optimistic that if social impact investors deploy their resources into these key sectors, Africa will be seen to be driving the actualization of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It is pertinent to note that the gains already gathered in the actualisation of the SDGs suffered a twin defeat by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war between Ukraine and Russia.

The summit registered 3,000 delegates from 55 countries including policymakers, academics, investors, Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

Business leaders from the private sector, chambers of commerce, and representatives from the international community also graced the two-day event in Abuja.

Speaking on the outcome of the Summit, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sterling One Foundation, Mrs Olapeju Ibekwe, says the summit is timely.

Ibekwe says the summit is set against the backdrop of the pandemic, the Ukraine war and the uneven recovery experienced across the continent.

She notes the root causes of some of the continent’s woes are brought to the fore by experts and African leaders working across sectors.

According to her, several collaborative opportunities across private/public and third sectors discussions on the various panels at the summit were informative and opening participants who operate in the fields are to take advantage of them.

“These opportunities cut across critical sectors including education, health and climate action, gender empowerment as well as grant opportunities for players across the value chain.

“More interestingly, the summit gave delegates a view of novel approaches to youth empowerment, as our panelists shared what their organizations have done differently, how they have measured their successes and why their approaches have worked” Ibekwe says.

She says “The Deal Room”, which is another exciting part of the summit, organised in partnership with the Impact Investors Foundation, reflects the pan-African nature of the summit.

“We had 13 pitches from impact-driven entrepreneurs from Kenya, Namibia, Ghana and Nigeria, who shared with investors from across the globe.

“And specifically, our four lead investors, Collins Onuegbu of the Lagos Angel Network, Abubakar Suleiman of Sterling Bank, Nneka Eze of Vested World and Olowo Aminu of Cross Boundary.

“Besides, probing further and providing feedback for each of the businesses, the lead investors also made conditional commitments to a number of the solutions pitched pending further conversations.

“So, we are expecting some funds inflow for these businesses to scale their solutions as one of the outcomes of the summit.

“Sterling One Foundation and Impact Investors Foundation teams will work closely with the lead investors and other investors to facilitate the investment conversations and ensure they end in deal,” Ibekwe says.

In his comments, the Managing Director of Sterling Bank Plc, Mr Abubakar Suleiman, says the summit is able to appreciate the concept of using investment to drive social impact to the fore.

“The same way we have all kinds of summits trying to promote business development; we are glad to work with partners to bring people together who are trying to work for the SDGs, to build a better society as the outcome.”

To solve the challenge of poverty, Abubakar says there is need to strive for prosperity and that Nigeria must pay attention to the things that will lead to the growth of wealth as well.

“It is from the wealth that is created from higher productivity that the resources for those that are being left behind would be obtained.”

Abubakar also stresses the need for government officials, NGOs, and private sector businesses to work together to solve the problems of sustainable development.

Also speaking, Patricia Obozuwa, the Vice President, Government Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, Africa, with the Coca-Cola Company, asserts there is need to redouble efforts if the African continent hopes to achieve the SDGs as no one company can do it alone.

She further assures of the commitment of the Coca-Cola Company towards collaborative efforts.

Sanda Ojiambo, Assistant Secretary-General and CEO of the UN Global Compact, in her goodwill message, emphasises the significance of business commitment in advancing the 2030 Agenda for SDGs.

Also, in his goodwill message, the British Deputy High Commissioner, Mr Ben Llewellyn Jones, commends the Sterling One Foundation for its leadership on the summit.

Jones notes that sustainability and climate change action remain priorities of the UK Government and execution will be followed through on them.

In his keynote address, Matthias Schmale, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator (Nigeria), applauds the organisers of the summit and partners for the great work.

Schmale says the theme of the summit is apt, as Nigeria is critically important to the 2030 Agenda.

“The African youth collectively are Africa’s greatest natural resource. The potential of our youth must be nurtured and cultivated,” Schmale says.

In conclusion, it is a true that the Africa Social Investment Summit has come and gone with a focus on investment interventions in five key sectors of education, health, climate action, food security and youth empowerment, as earlier mentioned.

However, a critical appreciation of the interventions center around the future of African youths, which the UN scribe describes as the greatest natural resource of Africa.

As the UN defines youth as people aged 15 to 24 years, statistics show that over 60 per cent of the entire population of Africa is below 25 years of age, making Africa the youngest continent in the world in relation to its population make up.

It is on this basis that all hands must be on deck to forge partnerships with the organisers of the summit to ensure that interventions in these key sectors are achieved for the prosperity of Africa.

Consequently, harvesting the goals of the summit will position Africa on the part to actualising the SDGs by 2030.

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