Chinese corporate social responsibility initiatives in Africa have multiplied and become more diverse over the past decade, providing increasing opportunities for social and economic development across the continent, a report says.
“Today, in addition to the subsidiaries of multinationals, local Chinese companies in Africa are beginning to engage in corporate social responsibility initiatives,” says the report, titled “Sino-Africa Cooperation-Corporate Social Responsibility Guide”, published by the China-Africa Business Council last week.
“This includes specialized training and initiatives that promote the local dissemination of know-how.”
Over the past 30 years, the number of Chinese businesses investing in Africa has grown greatly, and this has led to remarkable changes in trade, infrastructure and development across the continent. It has also led to people-to-people exchanges between Chinese businesses and African communities in which they operate, thereby creating a localized connection between the two.
The report cites a Chinese company in Tanzania as an example of social responsibility initiatives that have not only changed the lives of women but also contributed to sustainability goals being reached by preserving the environment.
“In 1999, China-Africa Agricultural Investment Co Ltd came to Tanzania to develop a sisal farm. Now, after over 20 years of arduous reclamation and management, this 2,000-hectare wasteland has become one of the largest sisal fiber manufacturers in Tanzania.”
In addition to providing employment opportunities for the poor and women, and providing medical insurance for workers and family members, thus benefiting thousands of locals, the company provides interest-free funds to support microfinance projects for women, and provides financial support for local employees to invest in crop planting, livestock and poultry breeding, motorcycle leasing and distribution of agricultural materials.
The sisal farm pays more than $80,000 to locals each month, the report says, which not only enables families to feed and clothe themselves and reduce poverty, but also enables them to buy houses, have children educated, expand local consumption and promote local economic development.
“Chinese companies in Africa are integrating their expertise, innovation capabilities and business management strengths as social capital to address social or environmental problems in poverty-stricken areas in Africa. They continue to aim to achieve this by means of business ethics, promoting environmental protection, support for charities, donations to social initiatives and protection for disadvantaged groups.”
To maximize the impact of their activities in the communities in which they operate, the report advises Chinese businesses operating in Africa not only to come up with their own local strategy but also to develop initiatives that are relevant to the environment they are operating in.
“When operating in Africa, it is key not to only come up with an ‘Africa strategy’ but also keeping in mind that various regions of Africa will present varying needs. For instance, a strategy around environmental sustainability issues may vary from one country to another.”
For example, in a country such as Kenya, the strategy can focus on preserving the country’s rich animal resources, while in Burundi, with far fewer animals, a focus on coffee farming would be appropriate.
By assessing excellent corporate social responsibility practices globally and throughout Africa, the report urges Chinese firms operating there to continue fulfilling their social responsibilities better and to accomplish the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.