Professor Kenneth Amaeshi and George Ferns of the University of Edinburgh suggested four social strategies that may help African business owners become better change agents in society. According to Amaeshi and Ferns, the strategies can be modified to suit the nature and peculiarities of the business and its role in achieving impact. The strategies include:
Philanthropic Change: In this case, wealthy business owners usually set up foundations that are distinct from their business to carry out social change initiatives. These initiatives address specific dire social problems to achieve measurable results with sustainability in mind. The example given by the researchers is the Dangote Foundation which shows how an African business elite can achieve social impact through philanthropy. The Dangote Foundation is associated with the Dangote Group, which is a construction and manufacturing corporation led by Nigerian billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote—Africa’s richest, and a notable philanthropist. In 2016, Dangote donated $10 million to the victims of Boko Haram in the north-eastern region of Nigeria.
Corporate change: This approach lies in senior executives building sustainability and ethical business practices into the corporate culture. Social change championed by companies often translates into executing corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes which may also improve the firm’s profit. According to the researchers, South Africa’s Nicky Oppenheimer is a notable corporate change agent. The heir of the De Beers diamond company and Africa’s second-richest person was influential in Beers’ current corporate sustainability strategy. The company’s CSR program is expansive, and has included an organization-wide HIV/AIDS prevention program, the construction of several primary and secondary schools, and a number of large-scale infrastructure projects. These projects are intended not only to benefit local communities, but also De Beers’ financial performance.
Visionary change: This involves restructuring economic systems and social institutions to alter the trajectory of society for the better. This strategy requires an incisive knowledge of how multiple systems are interrelated and how they can work best to achieve their full potential. According to the researchers, Tony Elumelu, founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, is an example of a visionary change agent. His vision is called Africapitalism, the economic philosophy that the African private sector has the power to transform the continent through long-term investments, creating both economic prosperity and social wealth. The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, which is run by the Foundation, is committed to giving $100 million to 10,000 emerging and existing African entrepreneurs for a ten-year period.
Change-based leadership: Alien to Africa, this strategy does not distinguish between daily business operations and intentions to stimulate large-scale social change. Instead, it involves completely joining business strategy with social change endeavours. Change leaders often consider CSR and philanthropy as ineffectual forms of charity. In Western contexts, business elites who have adopted a change leadership strategy include Al Gore (co-founder of Generation Investment); John Mackey (co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods); and Richard Branson (B Team and Virgin).
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