South Sudan Business Round Table
South Sudan Business Round Table
On 11th September Integrity was invited to join a panel of experts discussing opportunities and challenges for businesses operating in South Sudan.
Organised by the South Sudan Business Association, the event was hosted by British Expertise. CEO Anthony Ellis and South Sudan Country Director Melyn McKay joined the panel to present Integrity’s perspective.
As a private company operating in South Sudan, we experience first hand the challenges felt by businesses working in this environment. Simultaneously, our work enables us to advise other organisations navigating the complex political and social issues, which impact the private sector. This privileged position has given us unique insight into the South Sudanese business environment and how to work within it.
Through our own experiences and conversations with private sector leaders, we have identified four key challenges:
1) Little to no quality market research
2) Lack of infrastructure
3) Unclear national legislation (and state-by-state interpretation of this legislation) that makes it impossible to predict costs month-by-month or site-by-site
4) Significant capacity gaps.
In Integrity’s experience, many of the factors that in other environments might fall under the umbrella of ‘corporate responsibility’, are absolutely core to operating successfully in South Sudan. Issues such as community relations, business ethics and stakeholder engagement are essential for any company seeking to work successfully in a country that is still rapidly developing its own systems and processes.
Regardless of formal corporate responsibility mandates, we find that most private companies in South Sudan do want to contribute meaningfully to the development of the country. Unfortunately, there are few guidelines available to help business leaders ensure that they have a positive impact on development and stability. In lieu of such guidelines, Integrity recommends that, at a minimum, any intentional CR activities should be aligned with the mission, vision, values and strategy of the business to ensure sustainability and quality execution.
In addition to this general advice, Integrity has identified three key areas that businesses wishing to operate successfully in South Sudan need to take into account:
1) Each company should develop a clear strategic understanding of their impact on South Sudan, both positive and negative, to make sure they have fully understood the context into which they are involving themselves and the particular part they play. This may involve using innovative research methods to overcome the particular challenges of knowledge gathering on the ground.
2) It is essential for companies to take the time to understand their stakeholders broadly, recognising who they are, what their interests are and how the company might affect them. Only then can a business effectively engage with individuals and groups in a way that mitigates risks and builds opportunities. In particular, better stakeholder engagement at all points of contact would help to promote business interests, clarify the legislative environment and build understanding within the Government of South Sudan.
3) Working alone is much harder than collaborating to find solutions; companies have much to share with the international community, including governments, donors and charities, when it comes to working in conflict-affected and post-conflict environments. They also have much to learn and as a group, could support each other to identify a framework for responsible (and profitable) operations in post-conflict and fragile states.
Integrity is planning a dialogue in Juba with private sector and NGO representatives in order to identify opportunities for collaboration to mutual benefit. If you are interested in participating, please contact our South Sudan Country Director Melyn McKay at [email protected].