The Private Sector Advisory Group of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Fund, UNSDGF, the first in Africa, is to be inaugurated in Nigeria with a mandate to mobilise private sector organisations willing to partner on ventures to help achieve the SDGs.
The Executive Director/co-Founder, Sahara Group, who is also a member of SDGF’s Advisory Board, Tonye Cole, speaks on the role of the group and how it would inspire renewed public-private collaboration to promote inclusive growth and development in Nigeria. Excerpt:
PT: What’s the origin of the Advisory Group?
COLE: Following challenges by the United Nations in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Fund, SDG-F, in New York decided to inaugurate the private sector advisory group, PSAG, made up of 13 private sector organisations from across the world, to support the effort to find sustainable solutions to identified global problems.
The private sector was invited as a critical partner following observations by the UN that in many countries private companies carried out thriving corporate social responsibility projects with little or no involvement of the host governments.
PT: What has the group been doing since its inauguration?
COLE: Some of the key milestones of the PSAG since it was introduced include a workshop with various private sector organisations in Nigeria to create awareness on their role in the achievement of the SDGs; launch of a flagship project between the UN SDG-F, Sahara Group and Kaduna State government to achieve certain SDGs.
The group has also set up a local PSAG in Nigeria to coordinate public-private sector partnerships towards achieving the SDGs, while reporting same to the UN headquarters towards improving the global SDG ratings of the country.
PT: How would the PSAG advance the quest for the SDGs in Nigeria?
COLE: The group will guide the global counterpart and provide strategic support to achieve better development results in coordination with the private sector in Nigeria.
The group will assist in identifying areas of common interest and promote the sustainability of global public goods. The primary objective of establishing productive public-private partnerships with the private sector by offering suggestions on how to work more effectively with one another at the national level.
Besides, the group will work closely with the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs to ensure that the global goals are achieved in Nigeria. We strongly believe that the achievement of the group’s objectives will improve Nigeria’s global SDG ranking as well as the standard of living of numerous underprivileged Nigerians through the provision of sustainable solutions to basic problems.
PT: Which are the key partners driving the project in Nigeria to ensure effectiveness and sustainability?
COLE: The presidency’s involvement through the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs shows the high premium placed on the initiative by government. But, the caliber of key partners is also important. The list include Sahara Group, Growing Businesses Foundation; Lagos Business School, British American Tobacco Nigeria Foundation, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers Limited; United Nations Development Programme, Unilever Nigeria, Airtel Nigeria, Guaranty Trust Bank, General Electric, Dangote Group and Channels Television.
All partners, working in collaboration with the presidency are confident the event will lay a solid foundation for sustainable public-private partnerships in Nigeria as we continue the quest to achieve the SDGs.
We intend to extend invitations to other committed and SDG-driven organisations to have wider geographical and cross sectoral representations. We believe the formal inauguration of the group in Nigeria will give impetus to ongoing and new initiatives aimed at accelerating socio-economic growth and development.
The focus of the group will be to increase public-private sector participation through advocacy and awareness; promotion of the development of practical and effective business models; improvement of capacity building for stakeholders; midwifing relevant dialogues between public and private stakeholders to provide alternative viewpoints and opportunities to engage.
The group will also determine deserving recipients of public-private ventures and allocate resources to projects that will promote inclusive economic growth.
PT: What does the project mean to Sahara Group as a member of the SDGF’s advisory board and arrow head of the PSAG in Nigeria?
COLE: We at Sahara Group feel quite privileged to serve on the advisory board of the SDG-F. We treasure every activity and project we have been involved in across the globe. As a sustainability driven organisation, the project means a lot for us. Through our various personal and CSR initiatives implemented through Sahara Foundation, we have touched the lives of many beneficiaries and provided local solutions to global challenges in nine countries across the world where we operate.
Sahara is passionate about empowering people and providing opportunities for individuals, small businesses and communities to thrive and attain goals beyond imagination. If we could record such great success on our own, imagine the success potential that could come when organizations with a common goal come together to work with the government.
This is why we are passionate about the group. We believe it is a step in the right direction to achieve the SDGs. Through this newly set up vehicle, Sahara Group will continue to serve as an anchor that brings various players together for the benefit of Nigeria.
PT: Are there structures in place to integrate the PSAG in Nigeria with similar organisations around the world?
COLE: Absolutely, that is the plan. We have direct lines to the global PSAG. Our local group is a mirror of the global group. As the first to set up a local PSAG in Africa, Nigeria will encourage other member organisations to establish local chapters in their respective countries.
The ultimate aim of the local PSAG is to promote cross sectoral collaborations to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs. We expect that there will be a lot of collaborative efforts with the global PSAG to explore how global social issues can be solved locally.
PT: What special requirements are there for corporate organisations or individuals seeking to be part of the group in Nigeria?
COLE: The PSAG is open to other committed sustainability driven private sector organisations and business leaders from various industries across Nigeria. However, there are restrictions as to how many members that can be accommodated at every point in time.
PT: Laudable projects like the PSAG sometimes receive mixed reactions as people tend to believe their usefulness will be short-lived. Why would make the PSAG project different?
COLE: Given the level of enthusiasm and commitment of all stakeholders to the vision of the project, I am confident that the PSAG has come to stay. With direction from the global PSAG as well as the support of sister groups in Africa and global development agencies, we can expect so much in terms of creativity, efficiency and sustainability.
The support from the Presidency and Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDG’s will also drive the initiative and encourage more participation from other stakeholders.
It is also important to note that the PSAG is strategically aimed at utilizing SDG 17 (partnership) to drive the adoption and implementation of the SDGs. Hence, the cross sectoral and cross border partnerships are the strength of this group which make it different from others.
PT: As part of its 20th anniversary activities, Sahara Group said it would establish an extrapreneurship hub to provide opportunities for young entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. What’s the hub up to?
COLE: The Sahara Hub, www.saharahub.com, is a technology powered convergence of youth and young adults to inspire innovation.
Through the extrapreneurship framework, Sahara will promote a common ground for shared expertise and capacity to help young entrepreneurs enhance their craft and businesses. This will ultimately enhance wealth creation and preservation. Over the next four years (2017- 2021), Sahara Foundation plans to directly impact 12 million Nigerian youth and create value through the identification, development and maintenance of relevant stakeholders through which beneficiaries can grow and sustain businesses.
This will be achieved through skills acquisition training, mentoring and access to a network of committed stakeholders.
The hub is expected to attract the most innovative entrepreneurial projects and connect them to the global village of social investors.
This platform will provide resource materials, inspire networking and collaboration on a mass scale for local, regional, national and global beneficiaries. The multiplier effect we hope to generate with the new model are the boundless opportunities young business owners would be exposed to within the various hubs.
Our dedicated web portal will be available for leading business individuals and organisations to guide and link budding extrapreneurs. We are particularly excited about the fact that this is a sustainable approach to empowering youth and engendering economic growth and development.