Ethiopian CEOs Talk Education

By Daniel Boyer, Senior Project Coordinator, Global Business Coalition for Education
Twenty CEOs representing several Ethiopian companies convened in Ethiopia’s capital June 12th to participate in a CEO Roundtable on Corporate Sustainability in Ethiopia.  The Roundtable, held during the UN Global Compact’s Annual Local Networks Forum and UN System Private Sector Focal Points meeting, provided a forum for business and other stakeholders to explore opportunities to achieve sustainability in Africa.

The UN Global Compact is the largest voluntary corporate sustainability initiative in the world, representing over 8,000 companies across 145 countries. Making opening remarks, Global Compact Executive Director Georg Kell echoed Kofi Annan’s call 15 years prior for business to embrace human rights. “If investments in environmental and social sectors are neglected” Kell said, “negative externalities will resurface in one-way or another.”

Elias Masilela, CEO of Public Investment Corporation Ltd,, shared his thoughts on corporate sustainability in Ethiopia: “70 – 80% of GDP in Ethiopia can be accounted for by the private sector. This means that any instability to the economy will largely affect the way in which we do business. Responsibility for creating the world that we want to see cannot be left solely to the government in this sense. The way in which we invest, allocate resources and impact society will largely be due to the actions of the private sector as we move forward.”

Education was highlighted during the Roundtable during a special Talkback session, underscoring its significance as a cornerstone investment that impacts multiple sectors, including health, women’s empowerment and economic growth – as well as highlighting the need to improve access to quality education for Ethiopia’s 3 million out of school children.  During the session, companies were invited to participate in the growing global education movement.

Giving testament to education’s importance in corporate sustainability, former President of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce Mulu Solomon asserted: “I was born in a small village, I did not event know Addis Ababa existed. Someone gave me the opportunity to go to school – it was the only thing that showed me what was possible.”

Photo © Global Business Coalition for Education