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Catalysing systems change through sustainability leadership

On 2nd May 2017, we convened a policy dialogue at the Durban ICC to explore how sustainability leadership can address inequality and poverty alleviation in Africa. The event brought together delegates from industry, academia and industry to review the role of sustainability leadership in addressing inequality, systems change and expanding inclusion to address current and future development challenges. The significant outcomes from the dialogue are summarized below.

A key outcome highlighted was the realisation that there was indeed a sustainability leadership crisis in Africa. This stems from a lack of clear understanding and clarity about what sustainability leadership entails and how it can effectively be carried out. The conversations at the dialogue stressed the importance of partnerships as key to driving sustainability leadership. There is also a need for accountability and an active citizenry in seeing that leadership is adhered to and checked. A key take home on this subject was that leadership is not a title.

On the issue of financial inclusion, a key outcome was the need to improve regulation pertaining to financial inclusion in Africa. The discussion identified lack of adequate regulation to support the uptake of fintech in Africa. Numerous examples were given on how lack of regulation can be detrimental to the use of fintech. African governments should adopt legislation quickly to keep up with the ever increasing pace of innovation. Lastly the conversations identified the need to take into consideration culturally sensitive models as a way of increasing financial inclusion

The discussion around social entrepreneurship as a driver of systems change uncovered numerous pertinent challenges that need to be addressed. The participants emphasized financing, political environment and a lack of opportunities as affecting social entrepreneurship. They also recommended partnerships and working as collective as key to driving systems change. A quote following from this session was, “there is no us without us.”

Furthermore, regarding technology in education, a key outcome from the conversations was that there is a myriad of opportunities that exist in this space especially in as far as capacity building is concerned. The participants identified opportunities that lie in agriculture, early childhood development as some areas for innovation. However, they also highlighted challenges that exist for instance lack of support for uptake.

The renewable energy sector was identified as one of the key solutions towards solving the energy crisis that in Africa. The conversations highlighted that African innovators need to explore ways to expand access to energy on the continent. However, renewable energy legislation requires community development and localisation. The focus should not only on job creation but on the development of small businesses in localities.

Special thanks go to the event sponsors; Green Economy Coalition (GEC), Asciona Energy, Barloworld and Old Mutual without whom this dialogue would not have been possible.