We’re not the world

If you’re like me, there’s probably nothing you’d like to forget more about the ’80’s than the music. OK, so I’m often accused of being a music snob. But still. Never Gonna Give You Up. Maneater. We’re Not Gonna Take It.

There was also Live Aid. A purging of self-indulgent guilt from an especially gilded time. We did good, didn’t we? We bought concert tickets around the world. Watched the making of the video. Subscribed to MTV.

Despite the altruism, there are some that would like to forget Live Aid as well. To some, it put irrevocable contexts around African nations that have mitigated their growth and defined narrow (patronizing?) solutions that these countries are struggling to overcome still.

Africans are victims in need of aid. They’re mired in corruption, disease, and war.

We still need rock stars and movie stars to help guide our conscience. Give (what you can, or billions). Save (adopt). Help (conspiRED).

So can the core attributes of business—bringing innovation to market, empowering people to take risks and receive rewards—contribute? Can business be an agent alongside NGOs, nonprofits, health care, and the legal system to enact social change?

People like Dambisa Moyo are challenging the stereotypes. Organizations like TED have a digital dog-ear dedicated to Africa. And mainstream media dedicate a resource here and there to the issue.

The most obvious places where this type of work is actually executed is occurring in small, niche corners of business like micro finance, mobile phones to rural areas, and battling malaria and AIDS.

newmontinghana_1But Newmont would have you think that a behemoth open pit mine can play a similar role.

After all, Newmont’s social license to operate in Ghana (more on that in a following post), and thus their ability to return profits to their shareholders, depends on being invited into places like Ghana. Which requires them to be good citizens. And a big part of that is to return sustainable value to Africans.

Exploitive? Innovative?

[EDIT: This issue is nothing new for places like Ghana. Here’s a history from TED.]