Dr Kofi Annan, a Former United Nations Secretary-General, has advised African governments and state institutions not to give undue advantage to foreign businesses at the expense of indigenous businesses.
He said they should create an enabling environment that would allowed the homegrown businesses to thrive, saying; “government cannot do it alone”.
According to him, if the local businesses had incentives, it would encourage foreign businesses to invest in the national economies of African countries.
“Businesses include all the small and medium-scale enterprises because they have important roles to play… they are the ones that create a lot of jobs and they should be supported,” he advised.
Dr Annan said this when he interacted and answered questions from a section of the public at a fundraising ceremony organised by the Mfantsipim Old Boys Associations (MOBA) in Accra.
He had earlier made a presentation on, “Leadership and Public Service”.
The Former UN Secretary-General said businesses had influence on the communities they operated in, as well as over politicians and so they should use their influence to improve the lot of the people.
“In the private sector you have managerial autonomy which people don’t have in the public sector, “you can hire and fire” with very clear vision and mandate,” he explained, saying; “businesses cannot make profit or succeed in a failed society”.
He said for most business, it was the maximisation of profit for their shareholders and, therefore, often reminded them about the Global Compact, which was established in 1999 that compelled businesses to have responsibility towards the society.
“In January 2008 when I went to Kenya, I met the business community, media owners, youth and religious groups encouraging them to be part of the peace process.
“When I met with them, they told me… we in this room represent 85 per cent of the Kenyan economy… and they ranged from general motors and all sorts of smaller businesses…and so I told them…this is an influence… what have you done to influence society?
“So I asked them…have you engaged the government to see what can be done to help development?…they said; “We don’t talk to the government,” he said.
Dr Annan said by the time he left Kenya the business community had arranged with the government and had agreed to meet quarterly to discuss how they could put their efforts together to develop society.
The astute international diplomat said in spite of some challenges with some African countries’ democratic credentials, he had hope in the younger generations.
“With the general wind of change blowing, the youth are determined to make a change and contribute to the progress of the society”.
He, therefore, advised the younger ones not to rush in life.
“I often pleaded for generational change to have new leadership and some have worked out very well whilst others are in a hurry to make money and sometimes they become as corrupt as the old ones we complained about,” he noted.
Dr Annan said he had hope in the younger generation and urged them to use the resources wisely to accelerate development.
The MOBA annual event known as the “MOBA Ebusuapanyin’s Lunch” is aimed at creating a platform for discourse on issues of national interest.