CAD helps UNICEF and the business community in Mali collaborate to reinforce community and government efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for children.

The Guardian, 11/06/2012, by Fernando Casado

The economy of Africa is growing. According to the African Economic Outlook for 2011, the continent rebounded in 2010 and is set for 3.7% growth in 2012. West Africa in particular has a higher projected growth figure of 5.9%.

While it is still one of the world’s poorest countries, Mali has experienced consistent economic growth in the past decade with an average annual rate of 5%. However, this is not enough to lift half of the country’s inhabitants, living on less than a dollar a day, out of poverty. With the majority of the population aged under 18, it is children who bear the brunt.

Eight out of ten children in Mali live in poverty. They lack access to health care and have a poor diet. They miss out on education and the opportunity to develop to their full potential. This all too familiar story of lost opportunity not only has a direct impact on families and communities, but on the country as a whole. Mali’s future economic growth and development will depend on its capacity to invest in children today.

It is in this context that a group of well-known companies in Mali, representing key industry sectors of the economy, have partnered with UNICEF, Save the Children and the Aga Khan Foundation to support the Government’s efforts to achieve the Millenium Development Goals for children. The initiative, the Private Sector Platform for Children, will be launched in 2012. It has the aim of increasing the positive impact of companies’ core activities on children’s lives in Mali.

Formed by a group of business leaders committed to child rights, and stemming from the study “The impact of the private sector on children’s rights in Mali” conducted by the International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF), The Partnering Initiative and the Centro de Alianzas para el Desarrollo, this unique grouping will lead by example to show how business can respect and support children’s rights, not only by preventing harm, but by taking an active role to do good. The group will meet on a regular basis and operate as a child focused corporate social responsibility (CSR) think tank. Actions will be focused on national priorities and key issues facing children.

For UNICEF, this initiative is further recognition of the key role the private sector is able to play in children’s well-being, beyond philanthropic activity. By incorporating children’s rights at the heart of corporate social responsibility policies, there is a commitment to respect and promote children’s well-being in the everyday management of business activities.

As the business environment is improving and more industries look to invest in Africa, Mali may have the model for going beyond the traditional bottom line.

Katarina Johansson Mekoulou is partnerships and resource mobilisation specialist for UNICEF Mali

Copy on this page is provided by UNICEF, supporter of the Children: the next business agenda hub

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