I haven’t written much lately, as I have been nursing a nasty summer bug. Any how before all that happened I had the chance to attend a networking event organised by the good folk at Business Fights Poverty . This was one of a number of events that they have put on since January 2009 and the idea was to bring together practitioners, academics and other interested people from the business world to discuss how business can contribute to poverty alleviation in developing world.
The event on 14 July considered the subject of doing business in areas of conflict, and the topic we were invited to consider was
Peace and economic growth are closely related. How can policy makers maximize the impact of private sector for both peace and development?
At this stage if you are like me you may wonder and in fact ask whether
- Business has any role to play in bringing about peace in areas of conflict
- What business opportunities could possibly exist in war torn areas
- What about safety implications?
It would appear that to a certain extent your fears/ concerns would not be unfounded as we soon found out from the guest speakers on the night Diana Klein from Peace, Building issues programme, International Alert, Andrew Bone Head, International Relations De Beers and Lisa Curtis, Adviser, ManoCap. What is important to note is that they also provided solutions to some of these concerns, and if all else fails there is INSURANCE
I found Diane’s presentation especially interesting. According to Diane business can thrive in conflict areas so long as they comply and are not seen to be contributing to the unrest. One of the ways in which businesses maybe unknowingly contribute to the unrest would be to employ foreign workers Diana went on to say!
I found this interesting as not so long ago our Prime Minsiter here in the UK was quoted to have said something along the lines “British jobs for British workers” in response to strikes in the oil industry here in UK. That being the case is there any wonder that folk in the developing countries would take to the streets in similar circumstances?
On the issue of compliance, I recalled a situation in Uganda where Mehta an Asian owned business group was allocated some land in Mabira Forest an ancient forest in Uganda and the locals didn’t agree, here is what happened next .
What is interesting about this forest is that many years ago it was a 7 mile forest with numerous species of tress and you could not see beyond a few yards, today the locals have moved in and started subsistence farms, and there are holiday chalets for hire, but the locals were up in arms over the thought of their forest being given away to a foreign business company. If you are a company what do you do in a situation such as this?
I understand that, that wasn’t the end of the story and here is the latest discussion on the matter
At the event there was a man whose job involves getting Palestine and Israel to do business together! He had an interesting tale about getting all sides to work together as well as the results that ahve beena cheived thus far. Earlier this year I wrote about the experiences of an olive farmer on my other blog
So do you think there are business opportunities in areas of conflict?