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On 20th November 2018, the African Center for Trade and Development (ACTADE) and Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) organized a Private Sector Forum on the subject of Corporate Social Impact Investment (CSII). Social impact investors (SII) finance businesses that generate positive social impact alongside financial returns. It is nowadays one of the most proactive and promising approaches for responsible investment. As there is little knowledge and awareness by companies, governmental institutions, NGOs and the general public of the SII, the major objectives of the forum were to promote this approach and to facilitate a public discussion on why CSII is crucial for responsible businesses in order to foster sustainable development in Uganda.
Elly K. Twineyo, chairman of ACTADE, opened the Private Sector Forum and mentioned the increasing relationship between corporate companies: “Part of protecting the image of the company is what you are involved in — having projects that benefit the community and those too, need to be given attention”.
Benjamin Rukwengye, CEO of Boundless Minds, remarked that education in Uganda doesn’t prepare students for the job market and that there are not enough jobs in the country. “I have been a social entrepreneur for 7 years now. And what I can say is that it is very hard to raise money from corporate companies. It is as hard as going through the eye of the needle”, he shared his experiences about challenges with corporate companies to the audience. For him, it is clear that corporate companies in Uganda need to support Ugandan entrepreneurs as entrepreneurs are the future of Uganda.
The keynote address was given by Josephine Kaleebi, a social development practitioner. She indicated the motivations of CSII that are financial return social return and capital to recycle. The reason why there should be corporate social impact investment is among others the moral obligation as a good citizen, the market propensity to consume drive and that it is a fertile investment opportunity. The challenges, she saw, were the lack of SII appreciation as pure financial return overrides social benefit interests and that the mainstream investors could remain doubtful about the success of such projects.
During the panel discussion, Donnas Ojok, programme officer at KAS, mentioned that companies are often investing in social projects out of corporate benevolence. They don’t necessarily address the needs of the people. Also the government should change policies so that there are incentives for CSII.
Benjamin Rukwengye noted an information gap as it is not clear for entrepreneurs where companies are focusing on and how decisions are made to accept proposals. He also said: “I don’t see why we should be convincing Corporate Companies to do CSII because it is in their interests. It is in their interests that we succeed.” Other panelists from different companies that invest in social projects and entrepreneurships indicated the importance of declaring the sustainable impact on communities and that proposals need to align with the values of the company. Another important point is the timing, a proposal should be sent when they are planning the budget. Ojok suggested to the companies to put up an information forum for entrepreneurs so that they know how to access funds.
He also indicated that it is important for companies to know that benefits come over a long period, which is better than short-term benefits, and that companies can do a lot more investment without giving money. An example is Coca Cola who put refrigerators next to street vending carts. During the plenary discussion afterwards, Mathias Kamp, country representative of KAS, mentioned the expectation of the public that companies have a moral compass nowadays. Susan Nanduddu of ACTADE closed the Private Sector Forum and remarked that the conversation over CSII has only started but will continue.
written by Claudia Hell