The character of a nation, and the issues it grapples with, cannot truly be understood without an in-depth knowledge of its political and socio-economic history. Angola is one such country in Africa struggling to rebuild and meet the people’s needs after a devastating 27-year civil war, the collapse of the oil price in 2014, a number of severe droughts and, finally, the COVID-19 pandemic.
For CSI managers, it means that consultation with communities is of prime importance in identifying needs and aspirations accurately, and complementing government efforts effectively.
Right now, the Angolan government is facing a moment of truth in rebuilding the country. Enlisting the full support of the private sector – through a well-defined CSR mandate – could mean a significant step forward. Some Angolan businesses have never made any real effort towards CSI, while others have been diligently exercising their responsibility but without delivering sustainable results. Somehow, the good intentions of business missed converging with the urgent needs of the people, and this is an area where government needs to play a decisive role.
To turn the tide in Angola from disaster to sustainable development, the current socio-economic needs of the people must be translated into specific CSI goals. This will guide responsible businesses in creating effective CSI policy, while specific legislation related to CSI will spur the rest into action.
Various existing laws and directives partially address these goals. At least 70% of a company’s workforce must comprise nationals and residents. Investors must support socio-economic development, including job creation and the improvement of local people’s qualifications. Multinational companies are expected to support social upliftment programmes. The Petroleum Law requires that companies in the oil and gas industries, the mainstay of Angola’s economy, undertake activities promoting socio-economic advancement while production-sharing agreements require support of CSI projects. The Patronage Law encourages donations and charity activities through incentives and tax benefits. In Lunda South, the provincial government and the diamond company Endiama EP have listed specific CSI areas for mining companies in the province. While helpful, these directives do not apply to all businesses in Angola.
CSR is mostly exercised in the oil, gas, mining, construction, infrastructure, transport, banking, insurance, telecommunications, beverages and agricultural industries. Oil and gas companies largely possess formal CSR strategies and follow the United Nations’ Global Compact principles. Other businesses focus on local economic development and the improvement of living conditions. Encouragingly, there is an increasing focus on some of the government’s national development priorities – people development and economic growth through literacy and higher education programmes, and vocational training.
Other major issues that need to be addressed are the infrastructure losses sustained during the war, inadequate access to quality healthcare and high unemployment and poverty rates of 31% (57% for youth) and 41% respectively.
Besides these, communities also have individual issues. Urban residents are mostly formally employed, while the rural communities undertake subsistence farming or work as street vendors or informal shop owners. In the southern provinces, food insecurity following a recent drought impacts an estimated 3,8 million people while in the north-west, flash floods have affected more than 8 000 people. Other pressing problems in many areas are the need for water and electricity provision and sanitation, and high rates of TB, yellow fever, cholera and Zika virus infection, and especially malaria and HIV/AIDS. These are some of the issues that CSI managers need to investigate before creating their programmes.
The economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic has, of course, been fairly widespread. Nevertheless, specific community needs must be determined through extensive community engagement and involvement, and integration of activities into the local and cultural context. A strong focus on transformative and sustainable solutions will eventually render communities independent. Most of all, an understanding of the rural situation is important, because that is where most of the people live.
Right now, private companies can make a significant difference in rebuilding Angola through partnering with government to provide much-needed resources, technologies, training and employment, and improve access to quality education, healthcare and basic services. For multinational organisations, the challenge is to determine how the present unique realities of Angola can be addressed aside from their global CSI approach.