UK and African Business Leaders come together to advance the SDGs through the AfCFTA

London, United Kingdom

LONDON, 17 January 2020 — On the margins of the UK-Africa Investment Summit, the United Nations Global Compact convened a selected group of high-level representatives from Government, business and the UN to a High-level Investment Roundtable. The Roundtable focused on the critical role that the private sector can play in supporting Governments to unlock private investment across the African Continental Free Trade Area, enabling a sustainable and prosperous future for the continent.

High-level representatives from Government, business and the UN at the High-level Investment Roundtable (Photocredit: UN Global Compact/Xander Casey Photography)

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will soon establish a single African free trade market of 1.2 billion people and a US$2.5 trillion dollars combined GDP. It is building new impetus to create an enabling environment for a vibrant African economy that delivers prosperity and development. At the same time foreign investment partners such as the UK are strengthening their economic partnerships with African nations as part of a drive to ensure the continent’s growing demand for investment is met with technical expertise and innovation.

With this boost in cross-sector partnerships between businesses, investors and Governments, the UN Global Compact hopes to facilitate the process of improving business environments and market barriers in order to unlock wide-scale, sustainable investments across African countries to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Africa We Want.

Mr. Andrew Stephenson, United Kingdom Minister of State Africa, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Trade delivers opening remarks (Photocredit: UN Global Compact/Xander Casey Photography)

In his remarks, Mr. Andrew Stephenson, UK Minister of State, stated that the “UN Global Compact is a key engine for driving change in business behavior. And I am proud of the work the UN Global Compact does and has already achieved. To have more than 10,000 participating companies in over 160 countries representing nearly every sector and size is a truly fantastic achievement. As we enter the 20th Anniversary of the UN Global Compact, the revamped UN Global Compact Africa Strategy aims to expand the work of the organization in Africa and mobilize a greater movement of responsible businesses to help advance the continent’s sustainability agenda and national development goals. We are pleased to be part of this journey and look forward to seeing the UN Global Compact expanding in Africa.”

One company who is at the forefront of this journey to expand the work of the UN Global Compact across the continent is Standard Charted Bank. Speaking at the event, Mr. Christopher Kirigua, Executive Director and Regional Head Africa, Sustainable Finance Standard Chartered Bank stated the importance of ensuring that these large bankable projects erupting across the continent are coupled with sustainable infrastructure that invest in human capital within African communities to ensure “market continuity” for more equitable and prosperous African economies, improving quality of life for all.

Christopher Kirigua - Executive Director, Regional Head of Public Sector & Developmental Organisations, East Africa, Standard Chartered Bank Kenya Limited (Photocredit: UN Global Compact/Xander Casey Photography)

Melanie Hawken - Founder & CEO - Lionesses of Africa (Photocredit: UN Global Compact/Xander Casey Photography)

The event was a resounding success and demonstrated that the private sector is indeed a vital partner in accelerating the achievement of the SDGs in Africa. Moreover, the UN Global Compact and its Local Networks across Africa are well-placed to mobilize the private sector to realize the objectives of the AfCFTA through responsible business.

At the closing of the event, Ms. Flora Mutahi, CEO of Melvin Marsh International and Member of the UN Global Compact Board, encouraged the UN Global Compact to host a series of similar intraregional dialogues among African business stakeholders as the organization worked to further expand its reach across the continent, uniting responsible business for a better Africa and world.

UN Global Compact Africa Hub

The newly launched UN Global Compact Africa Hub, supported by the DFID RATE Programme will work with companies to translate the principles-based approach to business into concrete actions and policies on the ground. With support from the Global Compact Local Networks, the Africa Hub will offer concrete guidance and tools for participating companies to align their business operations across Africa with the SDGs and address local business and sustainability challenges which, over time, can create more equitable and prosperous economies, improving quality of life and the business environment across Africa.

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