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Building Resilient Communities – The Sahara Way

Ejiro Gray
By Ejiro Gray, Director, Governance & Sustainability, Sahara Group

A 2021 report issued by UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) showed an index of the least developed countries and their estimated recovery time from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting recession. The report dimensions 46 countries and their estimated recovery period ranging from one year to over five years. Of the 46 countries listed in the report, a whopping 32 are located in sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 10 countries estimated to require over five years for recovery from the economic impact of the pandemic, seven are African countries.  It is therefore no wonder that though Africa is the lowest emitter of greenhouse gases, the continent is the least equipped to deal with the attendant consequences.

Planning a sustainable future includes building the capacity to withstand, adapt to and recover from difficulty and adverse situations. Our communities are regularly faced with threats instigated by natural and human-induced disasters such as floods, erosion, infectious disease outbreaks, deforestation, and emissions resulting in economic instability, increased social inequality and health crises.

The impact of these global issues puts immense pressure on communities around the world especially in developing economies, testing the resilience and adaptability of these communities. For a community to recover from these disruptions while maintaining its essential functions, economic well-being and quality of life for residents, it must demonstrate resilience – the capacity to recover from adversity. However, resilience is developed through infrastructure, economic planning, and political stability.

Resilient communities weather the storms of change to achieve transformation, capable of withstanding communal shock without permanent deformation to their original state. Building community resilience involves intentionally guiding its process of adaptation while preserving critical qualities. This enables the community to be able to deal with crises in the absence of external support and persist sustainably in the face of new, ongoing hardship.

Furthermore, for a community to build resilience and overcome environmental distruptions, it must have strong foundations built to support future generations, ensuring that resources are efficiently utilised, the ecosystem is preserved, and social equity is protected. This is largely accomplished through energy efficiency, social and economic empowerment, waste management, education and capacity building, social development, healthcare services, and diverse partnerships for value creation.

At Sahara Group Foundation, our vision for a sustainable future is rooted in a holistic approach to community development where communities are empowered to thrive, harnessing their strengths to build resilience and secure a better tomorrow.

We understand sustainability to be the driving force for continuous innovation and improvement through the evolution of thought patterns, belief systems, and processes in business and society. To achieve this in society, a multi-faceted approach is required, and we are committed to promoting inclusive development that leaves no one behind. Below are some of the strategies we employ to achieve this vision:

Economic Empowerment & Technological Innovation: We focus on creating opportunities for individuals and communities to achieve financial independence and security. Through programmes such as the Sahara Impact Fund (SIF), Making a Difference Around Africa (MADAA) and the Sahara MAD Challenge, we are supporting small businesses which are providing sustainable solutions to challenges in Africa, with the right skills, mindset, and tools to build and scale sustainable businesses, and access to finance. These entrepreneurs and startups go on to grow their business ventures, build sustainable livelihoods and contribute to their local economies.

Building Educational Capacity and Fostering Innovation: We actively seek innovative solutions to environmental and societal challenges. Our STEAMers programme, an afterschool Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) has built a new generation and army of social innovators and smart technologists empowered with creative confidence across Africa. Exposing the minds of these young students to the possibilities of technology builds their capacity and provides them with a platform to showcase their inventions which are aimed at providing sustainable solutions to societal challenges.

Environmental and Waste Management: Sustainable development is only possible when we, in addition to other aspects, respect and protect our ecosystems and environment. We are committed to environmental conservation and sustainable practices that promote the health of our planet. From clean energy projects to waste management initiatives, we strive to minimize our environmental impact and support communities in doing the same with our Go Recycling project. With the Go Recycling Project, we actively engage residents of local communities to participate in building a cleaner environment through the practice of recycling. Through this initiative, job opportunities are also being created for residents to earn from their waste management.

Partnerships and Collaboration: We believe in the power of partnerships to drive change as building resilient communities requires collaborative effort. By collaborating with governments, NGOs and other stakeholders, we can pool resources and expertise to create impactful solutions. Sahara Group, through the Corporate Foundation and core business, has several partnerships aimed at building sustainable societies. By working together, we can share knowledge, resources, and best practices to create a more sustainable future for all.

According to Peter Drucker, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” In conclusion, our vision for a sustainable future is more than just overcoming challenges—it’s about empowering communities to shape their destinies. Through economic empowerment, social inclusion, environmental stewardship, and strategic partnerships, we are laying the foundation for resilient communities that will withstand the test of time, geopolitics and economic instability.

Ejiro Gray is a lawyer and the Director of Governance & Sustainability of the Sahara Group. She is also a Trustee of the Sahara Group Foundation, the Sahara Group’s vehicle for social sustainability, with a focus on promoting access to energy and sustainable environments, ultimately helping to build sustainable societies.

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