The Africa Social Impact Summit (ASIS) organized by Sterling One Foundation in partnership with the United Nations Global Compact Network Nigeria held at the Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, has identified education, health, climate action, food security and youth empowerment as key sectors for social impact investors to partner on to drive the achievement of most of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as set by the United Nations (UN) in 2015.
The two-day hybrid premier edition of the summit had over 3,000 registered delegates from 55 countries including policymakers, academics, investors, development finance institutions (DFIs), non-governmental organizations, business leaders from the private sector, chambers of commerce, and representatives from the international community.
Speaking on the outcome of the Summit, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sterling One Foundation, Mrs. Olapeju Ibekwe said that the Summit was timely against the backdrop of the pandemic, the Ukraine war and the uneven recovery experienced across the continent, noting that the root causes of some of the continent’s issues were brought to the fore by experts and African leaders working across sectors, with several collaborative opportunities across private/public and third sectors discussed on the various panels at the summit, opening participants who operate in those fields 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” she said.
She added that ‘The Deal Room’ which was another exciting part of the Summit organized in partnership with the Impact Investors Foundation reflected 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 VestedWorld and Olowo Aminu of CrossBoundary.”.
Ibekwe noted that “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.”
“The 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 deals,” she stressed.
Also speaking, Chief Executive of Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman, remarked that the Summit was able to appreciate the concept of using investment to drive social impact to the fore. He said, “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.”
He added that it is important to recognize that to solve the challenge of poverty, there is the need to strive for prosperity and that Nigeria must pay attention to the things that would lead to the growth of wealth as well because it is from the wealth that is created from higher productivity that the resources for those that are being left behind would be obtained. He stressed the need for government officials, NGOs, and private sector businesses to work together to solve the problems of sustainable development.
Speaking on how to drive collaboration towards the SDGs, Head, Strategy, Investment Management & Corporate Performance, VFD Group, Olu Salami remarked that, “the spirit of collaboration that was seen during the COVID response needs to be maintained.” While responding to a question about the role of private sector entities in improving the quality of education across Africa, he expressed optimism that the similarities in approach as seen from what some of the organizations in the room had shared will become the focal point for these organizations to begin to pool resources, quit working in silos but spread, and deepen their impact.
His enthusiasm for collaboration was shared by Executive Secretary of MTN Foundation, Mrs. Odunayo Sanya who visibly showed interest in learning what other foundations were doing across education and health and how they can work together to scale such solutions that have been proven to work, through her questions to other panelists.
Vice President, Government Affairs, Communications & Sustainability, Africa, with the Coca-Cola Company, Patricia Obozuwa used her keynote address to stress the need for redoubling of efforts if the African continent hopes to achieve the SDGs as no one company could do it alone. She further assured of the commitment of the Coca-Cola Company towards collaborative efforts.
Sanda Ojiambo, Assistant Secretary-General & CEO of the UN Global Compact, in her goodwill message, emphasised 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 commended the Sterling One Foundation for its leadership on the summit and noted that sustainability and climate change action remained 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), applauded the Sterling One Foundation and expressed deep pleasure on the timely gathering of business enterprises, thought leaders, impact investors, and development practitioners who share a common goal of realising the development aspirations of people across the continent and achieve not just the UN 2030 Agenda but the African Union 2063 Agenda too.
“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.” he noted.
ASIS, which attracted about 4,000 participants from 55 countries, was convened by Sterling One Foundation in partnership with the United Nations Global Compact, and other partners for African regional inclusive development in a bid to provide an opportunity for the private sector and impact investors to design market-led solutions and accelerate impact investment into Africa to achieve the SDGs 2030 with focus on Climate Solutions, Circular Economy, Agriculture, Renewable Energy, Health, and WASH.
It was planned to foster effective collaboration by all players in Africa’s development sector, including governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and the development community to ensure an all-inclusive approach to the achievement of the UN SDGs.