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It is time for businesses to show human face

By Judy Njino
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020 00:00 | 2 mins read
An elderly man undergoes a COVID-19 nasal swab test. Photo/Courtesy

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused major disruptions, damage and loss in the lives of millions around the world.

For Kenya, the situation is no different and is further hampered by inadequate and constrained healthcare systems, densely populated urban centres and insufficient infrastructure. 

Since the first cases across Africa were reported, governments took decisive action such as  schools  and businesses closure, limiting  public gathering, enforcing lockdowns and running massive public health campaigns. 

The business community also heeded the call and stepped up to the challenge by forming coalitions that are mobilising resources to support efforts by governments to fight the pandemic.

With so many stakeholders working towards the same goal of managing the crisis, business can come together in an unprecedented fashion and respond to to the pandemic with effective solutions to support those most in need. 

Across Africa, companies are joining business coalitions and donating millions to support the Covid-19 response and deliver to those most vulnerable in the region.

However, it is important that companies look beyond simple financial contributions and take an active role in ensuring that these business coalitions are doing the needful to  reach the most vulnerable. 

To ensure this is done effectively in Kenya, a responsible business coalition on Covid-19 must incorporate the following key measures to ensure an inclusive and sustainable response to the crisis. 

First, it is important for business coalitions to recognise that those in the informal economy are more devastated by the measures to combat the virus.

The coalitions should create makeshift social safety nets for these workers by directing funding to the provision of free access to basic healthcare and hygiene, food and nutrition and personal protective equipment to out-of-work informal sector  employees and those still forced to work during this time in order to survive. 

Second, business coalitions should ensure that a portion of funding is directed to provide healthcare and hygiene support to those most vulnerable which will directly impact women who are disproportionately represented in these sectors.

The funding can also be used to offset the disproportionate financial burden women face in health emergencies by creating sub-funds specific to supporting women-owned businesses, entrepreneurs and funds to go towards in-kind childcare contributions. 

Third,  all companies as part of any successful and responsible business coalition should commit to and apply the Ten Principles of the United Nations Global Compact to their actions and ensure a principles-based approach to the crisis.  

Fourth, no business coalition should just be for business only, but rather inclusive of other stakeholders, particularly those that can ensure that the coalition is identifying and prioritising the most vulnerable and in need of support.

Beyond the government and civil society, coalitions should look towards more innovative approaches and invite others to join that business may not normally engage with. 

Last, a responsible business coalition builds trust with the community through consistent and transparent communications and policies.

Especially when mobilising resources, it is important for coalitions to be proactive in their response to accountability inquiries, ensuring effective management of resources and transparent communications and accounting as to how those in need are benefiting from their efforts. 

To tackle the pandemic in Kenya, business can connect and jointly address the human, health and economic costs of Covid-19. 

Now is the time for companies across Kenya to step up and show true leadership in the face of a previously unimaginable crisis. —The writer is Executive Director, Global Compact Network Kenya — [email protected]

Judy Njino

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