How government and business can make a difference in their communities

Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for two-thirds of the global impoverished population, and this gruesome statistic will only worsen without intervention from local government and the private sector. Apart from the large-scale projects that could uplift these communities, there are short-term and easily actionable options available for these sectors to explore.

The measures African states and businesses can undertake to accelerate development does not have to be expensive long-term projects but, if executed correctly, they could have positive long-term effects. Currently, poor communities have to rely solely on the government to offer them the services and infrastructure they need to access basic services, which ties up government resources in such a way that little change is possible. Through the help of privately-owned businesses, poor communities could become more independent from the government, freeing up resources that could, in turn, bring more change to other communities.

Causes of poor economic infrastructure

Economic infrastructure refers to any physical structures, facilities, or systems that contribute towards a functional society. This includes schools, healthcare systems and facilities, access to digital services, roads, bridges, power supplies, and water and sanitation supplies. When this infrastructure is missing or inadequate, it greatly hinders the social development of a community.

Poor infrastructure is caused by a lack of government funds, insufficient provision of resources, inefficient developmental labour, and the lack of proper maintenance. The only way to overcome these obstacles is to enable these communities to help themselves. Any investment, big or small, will make a difference.

How can businesses give back?

Businesses thrive in economically stable communities; therefore, it is in their own best interest to invest in them. These investments could range from small-scale, easily actionable activities or long-term investments and partnerships with the public sector.

Donate your time

Businesses could encourage their employees to donate their time to the community. This time could be spent building or maintaining valuable infrastructures such as schools or clinics. Creating a community garden for women’s shelters or other organisations could create a good source of income or sustenance for the community. 

Businesses should host skills workshops within their communities where locals could learn valuable skills such as computer literacy or more technical skills. Skills workshops are a way to invest in your community whilst possibly inspiring members to become entrepreneurs or pursue even more skills. 

Donate your resources

Most businesses have valuable resources that could be shared among the community in an attempt to uplift the local economy. These businesses have decent access to wi-fi that could be shared with the community. Local restaurants and businesses should offer free wi-fi for the community to close the resource gap and enable them to run a business online or simply engage with others in a way that uplifts the community. 

Businesses should host or sponsor fundraiser events like fun runs or soccer tournaments where all proceeds will be pumped back into the community. All businesses should address the issues within their community to meet their own corporate social investment goals.

Donate your money

When businesses do not know how to prompt equality in their community or don’t have adequate time, knowledge, or other resources to donate, they can simply offer financial support through small donations to schools or political ward leaders and ensure funds go towards building the community.

How can the government give back?

The slow-moving wheels of bureaucracy can be sped up through proper infrastructure planning and prioritisation by local committees and councils.

Identify needs

Through infrastructure planning, local government could create a sustainable way forward for impoverished communities. By setting up committees and infrastructure councils and specific functions for these committees, the government can ensure that the correct needs and gaps are identified for every community according to their specific infrastructure acts or bills.

Prioritise projects

Infrastructure creation or maintenance should be prioritised based on urgency and the resources available. Where projects require additional funds or resources, local committees could reach out to local businesses for assistance. 

Channel funds

Municipalities should work hard to procure adequate funds for the projects identified. These funds are necessary to uplift the community and build or maintain the basic infrastructure that will improve their quality of life.

Final thoughts

As a development finance institution, DBSA has an infrastructure planning approach that assists local governments to identify and prepare for potential projects within their communities. We mobilise the creation of necessary infrastructure and digital transformation to enhance municipal revenue. Poor infrastructure and poverty go hand-in-hand, and we ensure that adequate funds for infrastructure development are allocated to develop Africa economically. These government efforts partnered with efforts by businesses will build the African economy and uplift the impoverished communities.