Christoph Eder, corporAID

Issue 92 - Fall 2021

Christoph Eder, editor-in-chief of corporAID magazine
Christoph Eder, Editor-in-Chief

The Austrian Federal Chancellery launched one at the beginning of August new price. The award is given to young African companies that contribute to the global goals for sustainable development with their business model. The award is named after the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, who has since passed away. Annan was a Ghanaian, he initiated the UN Global Compact, among other things, which, together with companies, wants to make globalization more sustainable. The Kofi Annan Prize for Innovation in Africa, as the award is called, goes back to the high-level Europe-Africa forum that took place in Vienna at the end of 2018 during the Austrian EU Council Presidency. 

As part of Austria's development efforts, the new award is a further sign that the diverse and unique role of companies in creating wealth around the world is also attracting interest in this country. And it shows that the political exchange with African states, which is usually not at the top of the list of priorities in domestic politics, can bear fruit. Incidentally, African-Austrian is one of them SME Investment Facility, with the Ministry of Finance and the Austrian Development Bank, have been providing equity capital and financing for investments in Africa for over a year. The first projects have already started and others are in the pipeline.

In reality, these are good approaches, but they still represent a promising perspective rather than good practice. And even if you have the Business partnerships, with which the Austrian development agency ADA supports projects of Austrian companies with added value in terms of development policy, is also taking into account: real partners are currently just as little domestic companies as those in developing countries. 

On a large scale, it begins with the fact that the original development contribution of successful companies is not understood enough at a strategic level and makes profit not confident, but rather suspicious. And it ends on a small scale with the fact that companies have to appear as petitioners for funding instead of as partners on an equal footing with whom they jointly strive to contribute to global sustainable development.

Perhaps the chance of the new initiatives lies precisely in the perspective. Because even if an award like the Kofi Annan Award is currently not very compatible with Austrian development cooperation, completely new images of the role of companies in Africa and elsewhere can arise around successful African start-ups. And thus contribute to bringing business and development together in the minds of local decision-makers.

Photo: Mihai M. Mitrea