All over the world, private companies, investors, and individual philanthropists give back to society in many forms. Some, like Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, create charity foundations that sponsor solutions to problems bedeviling United States (US) and international society. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has funded agriculture and health initiatives throughout the world. As we write, the Gates Foundation is probably the biggest single donor to ongoing research studies on malaria and Covid-19 vaccines.
The Jimmy Carter Centre is a leading governance charity promoting democracy in the world. The Bill Clinton Foundation and Madonna’s Raising Malawi are supporting health programmes in Malawi.
Local companies have also been doing their best. For example, for decades the National Bank of Malawi has supported business and other students at the University of Malawi. Standard Bank (Malawi) limited has supported sport in Malawi for some time. Carlsberg Malawi, predecessor of Castel Malawi, used to sponsor afforestation in Malawi through its annual Make Malawi Green with Green campaign. For decades, Carlsberg Malawi also used to sponsor student street parties.
In Chikwawa, African Parks is sponsoring the education of children of families surrounding the Majete Wildlife Reserve. Islamic Relief Malawi recently built 150 modern houses for poor people in Chikwawa. Vizara Rubber Estate in Nkhata Bay provides free clinic services to people from surrounding villages such as Chipuzumumba and Chombi. In Mangochi, Sunbird Nkopola uses its Club Number 1 initiative to encourage pupils at Koche Primary School to work hard.
Nation Publications Limited, through its annual Mother’s Fun Run mobilises financial and material resources to make medical supplies and equipment available in public health facilities to improve maternal health.
Recently, Thomson Mpinganjira announced the formation of their charity foundation to support young entrepreneurs in Malawi. The bank Mpinganjira founded, FDH, has been supporting students in the University of Malawi among other philanthropic activities.
Press Trust sponsors cultural activities in Malawi, among others. There are many examples of corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts worldwide and in Malawi.
The aim of such giving back, called CSR, is to ensure that society benefits from the fruits of corporate institutions and people that have made wealth through use of natural, human and other resources in their locality.
However, CSR in Malawi calls for an urgent national policy or law to regulate the quality of such projects. We have travelled the length and breadth of Malawi and we have seen CSR projects that look more like insults rather than assistance to society. It is questionable whether investing in weekend drinking festivals for university students is the best way to use a company’s social responsibility funds. Such money, says Prof Dr Joyce Befu, MEGA-1, could be invested in building hostels or buying learning materials for students.
In South Africa, through their corporate social responsibility programme, companies sponsor university programmes and research. Here in Malawi, banks could sponsor Banking and Management programmes in universities while big and successful churches could sponsor research in religious and development studies. Investors like African Parks could sponsor university research programmes in wildlife and agriculture. The many construction and engineering companies, such as Built Environs, Motor Engil, and Plem Construction, could sponsor engineering research programmes.
Such investment has a long term impact because the research will assist in improving standards and informing policy. Certainly, building a small pit latrine at an impoverished rural school is good and welcome; but something much more serious can be done if the host country, Malawi, tells the corporations what to invest in as part of realizing the national development goals.
That is what countries such as India, China and Indonesia in Asia; Burundi, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, South Sudan, and Tanzania in Africa do. We, Malawians too, can. The CCJP has also made a similar call before. n