This article was co-authored by Caleb Nnamani (TechCabal) and Muktar Oladunmade (TechCabal)

On Tuesday, July 5, the African Social Impact Summit held a press conference at  Sterling Towers, Lagos, Nigeria, ahead of the summit proper, which will hold on July 13 and 14 at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja. 

The summit brings together key public, corporate, and development-sector stakeholders from across the world to engage in regional inclusive development discussions to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals and mobilise impact investments into vital African economic sectors. 

The theme for the inaugural summit is “Rethink, Rebuild, Recover – Accelerating Growth for the SDGs”. 

Speaking at the press conference were Olapeju Ibekwe, CEO, Sterling One Foundation; Abubakar Suleiman,  MD/CEO, Sterling Bank; Nwamaka I. Onyemelukwe,  director, public affairs, communications & sustainability, Coca-Cola Nigeria; Efeturi Doghudje, head, marketing & corporate, VFD Group Plc; Ebuka Emebinah,  matchmaker, Impact Investors Foundation (IIF); Soromidayo George, board chair, United Nations Global Compact Network Nigeria.

Olapeju started the press conference by stating that the summit was a timely initiative of the public and the private sector to accelerate the SDGs, especially after the impact of COVID-19 in Nigeria. She added that the summit will have a deal run to attract investors willing to fund scalable solutions. She mentioned that one of the goals of the summit is to drive inclusion, adding that 2,000 people from 50 countries were going to be in attendance.

The CEO of Sterling Bank went on to implore everyone present to live up to their commitments referencing previous commitments that weren’t achieved. He said that the bank feels impacting society is their corporate social responsibility and that they intend to bring this responsibility into their mainstream operations. He also stated that although it might be difficult to achieve this, he is ready and willing to take on this challenge. 

Coca-Cola’s representative, Onyemelukwe, went on to say that to achieve the SDGs, there must be a collective effort to pull resources together to make a difference. She added that the community needs to be sustainable, and referenced how Coca-Cola is providing water to impoverished communities to counter drought. She concluded by saying that if sustainable communities are built then businesses will become sustainable.

George said that the summit was timely in the sense that the impact of COVID-19 and the current global financial crisis is a factor in the increasing rate of poverty in Nigeria. She added that we all had to take care of communities and work to see them prosper.  

Emebinah, the representative of the Deal Room partner, IIF stated that they hope to support entrepreneurship, and they look forward to identifying verifiable companies. He added that their priorities were profit, purpose, and partnership. VFD Global, through their representative, also added that they were committed to transforming lives, and this commitment is echoed by their decision to partner with companies to achieve the SDGs. She added that as a proprietary investment company with investments in 40 companies, they were particularly interested in health and education. 

In an engaging session after the key speeches, representatives from the different organizations took turns to answer questions raised by journalists present at the press conference.

Ibekwe defined the reason behind hosting a summit, clarifying that partnerships were essential for the realisation of the SDGs. “The 17th SDG goal is to get partnerships for the goal. For us to do that, we need to get them all in a room, speak to them, appeal to them, and let them see the why. If we just sit in our offices and think we can make a lasting change, then we’re deceiving ourselves. We need to drive collaboration,” she said. 

The Sterling One Foundation CEO also described how the summit intends to empower female entrepreneurs in the development space. “We are going to have a panel dedicated to women empowerment. One of our partners, Adesuwa Okunbo Rhodes of Aruwa Capital, focuses on empowering women-led organizations,” she said. 

“These organizations will, in turn, work on solutions that impact more women, down to the rural women. We have been intentional in picking the resource persons for our panel.” she further explained.

Emebinah, in answering questions raised about the funding style, said the goal of the exercise is tied to sustainable fundingThe idea behind this summit is to find the most promising entrepreneurs and finance them in the most sustainable way. Funding will come from a combination of commercial and concessional sources. As for the funding instruments, the investors and investees will sit together to come up with mutually beneficial instruments, which could be debt, equity, or both.”

For  George, the summit is a means of getting businesses to rethink their processes around impacting communities. “We want to get sustainability ingrained into the DNA of businesses, not to set aside one lump sum,” the UN representative asserted. 

“Now is the time for us, through this summit, to bring investors together and collaborate in such a way that draws people away from the poverty-characterized bottom of the pyramid” she further opined.
Interested participants who cannot make it to Abuja for ASIS are advised to attend the event virtually through the registration link on the summit’s website.

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