Feb 2021

Rethinking the Role of Africa’s Business Sector With UNDP

Published February 2021

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Africa recently hosted a research webinar on the Economics of Mutuality for its network of economists. 76 people from 46 UNDP Africa country offices attended.

The speakers were Jay Jakub, Economics of Mutuality Chief Advocacy Officer, and Colin Mayer CBE, Peter Moores Professor of Management Studies, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford. The host was Raymond Gilpin, Chief Economist and Head of Strategy and Analysis, UNDP Africa.

The discussion centered around how rethinking the role of Africa’s business sector, particularly the non-formal sector, is vital if African countries are to recover stronger and more sustainably from Covid-19, and if we are to accelerate attainment of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

The Economics of Mutuality Maua project in Kenya was examined as a key case study. It launched in 2013 in collaboration with Wrigley East Africa. It unleashes the benefits of entrepreneurship in challenging business contexts through implementing an innovative business model design that engages the non-financial capital present, but typically hidden, within impoverished areas that lack infrastructure and investment.

Maua combines the business goal of creating a new route to market with the social goal of improving the income and wellbeing of impoverished communities by expanding the distribution of Wrigley products through local micro-distributors and solving a key ‘last mile’ challenge.

In a typical day, uplifters and hawkers gather products from participating stock points. Uplifters distribute to kiosk owners and other small-scale vendors. Hawkers sell directly to the consumer. Both uplifters and hawkers are free to also sell non-Wrigley products.

The right cross-sector partners make this business model possible by tapping into cultural and social assets. Citizen sector organizations, including NGOs and academic institutions, offer a deep understanding of community needs, dynamics, and social networks.

Maua has achieved the following outcomes:

  • Consistently adding to the business top line and bottom line: accounts for ~15% of MWC Kenya NSV

  • Higher growth and stronger resilience (in spite of Covid 19) than any other parts of the Kenya business

  • Creating holistic value via economic opportunities and tangible social benefits for 1000+ entrepreneurs (+85% retention rate)

  • Has been rolled out to other emerging markets (eg. Egypt, Philippines, and India)

For more details and analysis, click the button below to read the academic case study produced in partnership with Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.


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