Not less than 490 million Africans lived in poverty as of 2021. According to the World Bank projections, Africa will be home to nine out of ten poor people by 2030. There have been efforts to reduce the poverty rate on the continent, but several factors like the teeming population and the COVID-19 pandemic have regressed the progress made in poverty alleviation. The recent Russian-Ukraine war is making things direr. 

Consequently, there is a need for a sustainable roadmap to salvage the situation. To help the continent get back on its feet, Sterling One Foundation will hold the Africa Social Impact Summit (ASIS) – a pioneer gathering of leaders from the private and public sectors, civil society organisations, and the development community to find innovative sustainable solutions to developmental challenges in Africa. 

Building on the 17th United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030 to expedite sustainable development, Sterling One Foundation is in partnership with the United Nations Global Compact, Coca-Cola Foundation, Impact Investors Foundation and Sterling Bank. Education, agriculture, renewable energy, transport and health are core areas the summit focuses on in tackling the root causes of poverty in Nigeria and Africa.

The summit themed “Rethink, Rebuild, Recover: Accelerating Growth for the SDGs” is slated to hold from the 13 – 14th of July 2022 in Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria. The hybrid event would have more than 2,000 global attendants and over 50 leading industry speakers, spread across 54 countries. 

Speaking at a press conference at the Sterling Towers, Marina, Lagos, Olapeju Ibekwe, CEO of Sterling One Foundation, stated that the vision is to tackle the root causes of poverty by working with different impacts investors, social enterprises and non-profits organisations. 

Notably, MD Sterling Bank, Abubakar Suleiman points out that summits should go beyond statements and commitments organisations do not live up to. For example, the $100 billion climate finance fund, pledged by the developed countries in the West for climate finance per year to support climate adaptation and mitigation in developing countries is presently out of reach. The target has not been met. Suleiman explained, “if we had lived up to the commitments we had in previous summits, we probably would not be here. We do not want to be like that and are clear on what we can and cannot do. I remember we committed 100 billion dollars for COP26, but we do not have five billion ready the last time we checked. These are the things we must address. If we are not doing it, there is no point in making those commitments.” 

He argues, “everybody keeps talking about how hunger is a critical part of the Sustainable Development Goals, but you are not going to end hunger by supplying food to poor people. Alleviating poverty is not alleviating hunger. You have to create prosperity and specifically rural prosperity so that those directly involved in agriculture become a lot more productive because as they begin to produce more, the prices of food will go down.”

Suleiman further noted that the summit aims to convince more investors to allocate capital for sustainable impact, not as something they do aside from their business but as something they do as part of the business. “Once we do that, the amount of finance available to drive impact will become limitless. We then ensure those capitals are allotted appropriately,” he concluded. 

Amaka Onyelemukwe Director, Public Affairs, Communications & Sustainability at the CocaCola Foundation talked about the company’s shared interest with Sterling One Foundation on social impact. She cited the company’s sustainability arm, which focuses on areas like water replenishment, food hygiene, and waste management for wealth creation among the youths and women.

“These key into Sterling’s purpose of poverty eradication. We need to come together and pull resources to pull people out of poverty and concentrate on the areas Sterling One Foundation is driving and what they want to do in the next eight years before the SDGs target lapse. That is why we are strategically working with partners with similar focus areas as us and pulling more partners to the table,” she explained. 

According to Soromidayo George, Chairman of the United Nations Global Compact Network, the summit is timely as the pandemic and the present global crises like the war in Ukraine have thrown more people into poverty. She foregrounds that the United Nations Global Compact Network helps companies to embed the SDGs, and principles cutting across labour, environment, anti-corruption, and human rights into their business. She stated, “The partnership with Sterling One Foundation will surely bear the right impact. We want to see an Africa where poverty is at its barest minimum.” 

Chukwuebuka Emebinah, CEO of Impact investors foundation said working with Sterling Foundation is crucial in contributing the foundation’s quota to building an African continent that is fully adaptive to the sustainable development goals. “We have a focus on agriculture, health care, and the education sector. We look forward to identifying verifiable impact enterprises that we can collaboratively fund,” he said.

Implementation beyond words 

Implementation after commitments made at summits is often a challenge for organisations. Ibekwe said conscious efforts are put into picking the persons who possess the knowledge and resources to ensure the committed money gets into the right hands and the right projects to deliver the impacts we want. “We have people like Adesuwa Tokunbo Rhodes, founder of Aruwa capital – an organisation financing women-led startups in Africa,” he said. He emphasised the essence of the investment won’t be predominantly profit-making but importantly, social impact. 

Regarding the finance options for businesses, Efeturi Doghudge, Head Marketing and Corporate Communications, VFD Group Plc, also a partner of Sterling One Foundation, explained that it depends on the peculiarity of the business. “Financing will not be from just commercial capital provided by banks but concessional capital which will come from government, and non-profit organisations. We have businesses seeking equity and those seeking debt financing. Investors might also have a preference different from what the investees want. Instruments that best suit the investor and the investee,” he noted.

Since its inception in 2018, the Sterling One Foundation has played the role of catalyst and convener by providing and facilitating different resources including alternative financing to impact-driven organizations including non-profits to be able to create long-term impact and block gaps in underserved communities across Africa.

With the Africa Social Impact Summit, Sterling One Foundation hopes to create realistic and effective frameworks that will make it easier for African countries to achieve 2030’s Sustainable Development Goals with the help of changemakers who are tackling various challenges and driving behavioural change with their solutions.

The event is open to attendees from all African nations, and foreign players with a keen interest in Africa and will focus on discussions on climate action, circular economy, renewable energy, health, education and gender equality. Click here to register

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