Business As A Tool To Transform Society
by Dr Henrietta Onwuegbuzie
Academic Director, Owner-Manager Programme, Lagos Business School
Once upon a time, we used to say Nigerians loved life too much to ever become suicide bombers. We looked upon such acts as foreign stupidities only contemplated by people abroad. Alas! You and I know the reality today. Suicide bombing has become an almost daily occurrence in Nigeria, along with kidnapping and robbery.
How did we slide to the most undesirable situation in our beloved country? The yawning gap between the rich and the poor in Nigeria has been growing over the years, such that in spite of an emerging middle class, 69% of Nigerians (112.59 million) live in poverty. For this impoverished majority, it makes no difference whether they are alive or dead and so they’re willing to do anything to relieve their hardship, even when it means death, if caught.
The pervasive mentality of thinking only of the well-being of one’s family, in spite of being surrounded by suffering, has further hardened this dangerous divide. As someone once said, “A few privileged people in an impoverished society are endangered species”.
How can we expect to be safe when there is deprivation all around us? Perhaps we are blaming the government as we read. The fact, however, is that each of us can make a difference!
Almost every country in the world is presently threatened by the menace of terrorism. This is what has led world leaders to begin to rethink business as usual. There is now a strong global trend towards fostering for-profit businesses with a social mission. These are businesses that seek to solve social problems beyond achieving financial returns. The commonly used terminologies to describe such business models include Impact Investing, Africapitalism, Sustainability, Responsible Investing or Businesses Acting as Agents for World Benefit.
Call it what you may, the overall aim is to ensure that social development does not lag behind economic growth. This ultimately leads to a better society and sustainable development.
Business can therefore become a tool to transform society when problems around us are conceived as a potential profitable business opportunity. Through business, many of us can actively contribute to improving our society.
At LBS, we have made the perspective of business as a tool for transforming society a significant aspect of the training received by our participants, especially MBAs.
Our MBAs are required to start or create profitable business models based on pressing problems observed in the society. In the last couple of years, they have started businesses built around social problems and have discovered the magic of accelerated profitability, while enjoying the fulfilment of lifting others out of poverty and transforming lives. They have therefore transformed potential human liabilities into assets to the society through the various businesses they have started. A number of them have built businesses aimed at taking children off the streets into schools; fought malnourishment and preventable deaths by manufacturing high-nutrient low-cost powders; provided jobs for the physically challenged who supply labour needed for their businesses; started basic business learning in markets such as Oke-Arin and Computer Village, to teach basic book-keeping etc.
The MBA fair will be showcasing many of such businesses, with the aim of attracting investors, encouraging replication and therefore accelerating social transformation and inclusive growth. We aim to use business to create a safer society, such that terrorism and crime become unattractive to most.
Please join us on July 1 as we showcase these ideas and give you an opportunity to invest and partner with them to make a change, while making profits. We look forward to receiving you.