The Power of Ghanaian Corporate Philanthropy

Content Manager • 18 November 2017

The SDG Philanthropy Platform in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Reach for Change launched the Ghana Impact Investing Network and the National Accelerator Program in Accra on 16 November 2017

Over 20 CEOs of large Ghanaian companies teamed up to discuss how to improve an enabling environment for corporate philanthropy. During a two-hour closed-door session which was attended by Mr. Ken Ofori Atta, Minister of Finance, philanthropists discussed how their passions and interests to help Ghana society thrive could be combined with the government plans for the national development.

Ghana economic progress of the last decade has created many wealthy individuals. In the first decade of 2000, the country experienced 15% of economic growth year by year, mostly driven by natural resources such as oil and gold. The country is also seen as a “beacon of democracy” with strong social capital and political stability. Investment trends are favourable, especially since the new government of President Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo came on board and has been diversifying relations with the West as well as China. No doubt there are many social and economic challenges. Poverty and hunger are prevalent in the northern regions, unemployment is relatively high and women’s share in the economy, especially in non -agriculture – low.

The corporate leaders who came were clear about their aspirations for the country– to move Ghana beyond aid, to become a prosperous country by 2030. This coincides with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Minister of Finance expressed that “SDGs should become DNA of the country”, guiding the society and economy in the way forward. Mr. Ken Ofori Atta reiterated the need for partnership between business, society and the government to achieve this. He wore two hats at the event: as a philanthropist and a founder of Databank foundation, and the head of the country’s finances. The levels of national savings and capital formation are still low. Social entrepreneurship (SE) can help to grow the private sector the country wants - with revenues, jobs and social impact. But the SE sector needs a strong infrastructure - and here -- ethical corporate leadership can help to expand it. The Databank foundation, among other things recognizes ethical business leaders and encourages grow business with social purpose.

The event launched the National Accelerator Program, a hub that will grow, mentor and provide financial support to socially minded businesses linked with the SDGs. Corporate foundations were invited to adopt an SDG(s) and extend support to small social businesses with grants and mentorship. Amma Lartey, CEO of the Reach for Change who runs the Accelerator said that her wish was to grow the kind of social entrepreneurs who succeeds in the country and beyond – across Africa. Dynamic conversation focused on concrete ideas – investing in water, ICT, cocoa growing communities.

However, the challenge for philanthropy in Ghana is much bigger, remarked Christine Evans-Klock, the UN Resident Coordinator. The real deal is to involve private sector solutions to the SDG at scale. “We need business investments which drive the kind of innovations that move the needle on the SDGs and secure jobs for the people”, she said. Corporate Ghanaian philanthropy is the connector between the SDGs and the markets, by providing the patient capital to test the market opportunities at scale.

Corporate philanthropy also needs help with the kind of enabling environment which motivates philanthropists to invest. Today, the legislative framework is limiting. There is no definition of philanthropy in the country’s legal framework. Instead, philanthropy register either as an NGO, a limited company or an individual trust as vehicles to deliver activities. Registration is done at two different offices, each requiring separate documentation. There has not been a dedicated institutional support from the government. However, it may change and the current government promised to make philanthropy easier in invest in by individuals and organizations. This is important in the SDGs era when governments must increase domestic resource mobilization significantly.

The commitment of the Ministry of Finance was clear and enthusiastic. Ghana Impact Investing and Philanthropy Forum and the National SDG Accelerator have been launched. What's next?

The discussion with the corporate leaders centered around three core ideas:

  1. Networks, networks - let’s collaborate!

Participants stressed the existence of many thematic networks such as Executive Women Network to Cocoa Network. These networks enable sharing of practice and coordinate. The Ghana Impact Investing and Philanthropy Network will offer a voice of Ghanaian philanthropy, a space for exchange, learning, innovations and representation. And there is a need to connect all of them.

  1. Influence

Philanthropists are influential – no doubt. People in the room run multimillion companies, exerting huge power on the local and regional markets, politics and society. For example, Mike Nyinaku, CEO and a founder of the Beige Foundation of the Beige group raised a point that his dream is to create financial inclusion for ALL Ghanaians. He is working with banks, NGOs and others to make it possible. Young, entrepreneurial and running a regional business with a purpose -- he is a role model for many young Ghanaians.

  1. Capacity Building – everybody’s business

Manager of one of the Ghanaian pension funds observed an acute need to create a pipeline of bankable projects with clear social value and viable financial bottom line. Securing a pipeline of steady supply of businesses ready for growth and investments is a HUGE challenge. The national Accelerator is an important step in that direction and we need more. The society needs capable NGOs, businesses, banking, government who come together and deliberately support the development of strong and thriving social entrepreneurship in the country.

Philanthropy is not new to Ghana. It is an expression of the Ghanaian people lifestyle. Everybody here, rich and poor, give. However growing strategic philanthropy that contributes to realization of the national development plans and achieving of the SDGs needs a strong infrastructure that enables philanthropists to make large social investment decisions. And these two types of philanthropy, traditional or “horizontal” and newer or “vertical” must co-exist.

Since 2015, the SDG Philanthropy Platform in Ghana has been supporting leadership of philanthropy's leadership to drive implementation of the SDGs. The establishment of the Ghana Impact Investing and Philanthropy (GIIPN) network has been a milestone achievement for sustainability of the initiative. Moving forward, our aim is to strengthen the network capacity to serve its members, through for example sharing relevant experience from other countries where SDGPP is present, notably Kenya, India and Colombia. The event featured many of the CEOs pledging support for concrete SDG aligned initiatives as part of the Accelerator program.

We look forward to working with our local partners to involve more corporate leaders.

Is your organization interested or already aligning its work to the SDGs? Sign up to our community today and share your initiatives, ideas and events with us. We want to hear from you!

Author Karolina Mzyk Callias is Foundations Specialist at UNDP and Global Team Leader for the SDG Philanthropy Platform.