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Business & human rights in Africa: Time for a responsibility revolution

A regional overview

Cassava farmer, northern Tanzania. credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT), via Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0This overview was prepared for the United Nations' first regional forum on business & human rights in Africa, 16-18 September 2014 in Addis Ababa, and submitted to the UN Working Group on business & human rights.

Investment in Africa is booming.  Citizens are increasingly confident to demand accountability from their leaders, and from companies that they work for, buy from, supply, and live near, in their communities.  The number of people in poverty is declining; more children are in school and fewer children are dying before the age of five.  But the huge potential for advances in human rights will not be realised with business as usual.  Hunger and illness; exclusion of certain ethnic groups, women and LGBT people; lack of transparency and accountability; insecurity and violent conflict continue to plague many African countries – including some that are most successful at attracting investment.  Transforming the business model to integrate respect for basic rights throughout companies’ practices will drive more inclusive growth so business will contribute decisively to improving people’s lives and avoid involvement in abuses.  The time therefore could not be riper for the United Nations’ first-ever Africa Regional Forum on Business and Human Rights, being held 16-18 September in Addis Ababa.

In this briefing, we analyse 429 approaches to companies regarding their human rights impacts in Africa.  In over 50% of the responses, companies offered only general responses rather than specifically addressing the concerns.  66% denied the claims, rather than acknowledging them in whole or in part, or committing to investigate them.  Overall, very few companies committed to changing their conduct, only doing so in 9% of the responses that we obtained.  One exception: Unilever committed to improving its policies and practices three out of four times that we invited it to respond.  Since 2011, only 4% of responses we have received referred to the UN Guiding Principles.  

Key issues: 

  • New investments in oil & gas and agriculture: Opportunities and risks.  
  • Digital revolution in Africa: Freedom of information or tool of oppression?
  • Mining, oil & gas: The troubling history of the “resource curse”, unresolved
  • Promising initiatives & the need for action

[Executive summary in French available here]

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14 September 2014

Executive summary: "Business & human rights in Africa: Time for a responsibility revolution"

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Download the full document here

14 September 2014

Full report: "Business & human rights in Africa: Time for a responsibility revolution"

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

[refers to African Minerals, AGIP (part of Eni), Amesys (part of Bull), Areva, ASDA (part of Walmart), Barclays, British American Tobacco, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Coca-Cola, Danzer, Ernst & Young, Etisalat, ExxonMobil, FinFisher, Gamma Group, George Forrest, Hacking Team, HP (Hewlett-Packard), Huawei Technologies, Intel, Japan Tobacco International, LINKdotNet, Lonmin, Lundin Mining, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions, MTN, Nestlé, Nevsun, Noor Group, Orange, Paladin Energy, PepsiCo, Philip Morris International, Samsung, Shell, Sime Darby, Sinovatio, SOCO International, Sustainable Oils Cameroon (part of Herakles Farms), Tenke Fungurume (joint venture Freeport-McMoRan, Lundin, Gécamines), Tullow Oil, Unilever, Vale, Vodafone, Wilmar International, WISCO (Wuhan Iron & Steel), Zain, ZTE]

[Executive summary in French available here]

Download the full document here

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Author: Centre de Ressources sur les Entreprises et les Droits de l'Homme

Il semblerait que l'Afrique soit au seuil d'une ère de croissance économique soutenue grâce à la découverte de nouveaux gisements de pétrole, de gaz et de minéraux [et] aux perspectives d'une expansion agricole...La croissance et la réforme démocratique mènent déjà vers un progrès réel dans les droits de l'homme dans plusieurs pays...Mais l'énorme potentiel de progrès dans les droits de l'homme ne sera pas exploité si on continue comme si de rien n'était. Les gouvernements et les entreprises devront faire des changements décisifs dans la manière d'opérer pour atteindre la prospérité partagée, la croissance équitable et la protection ainsi que la réalisation des droits de l'homme en Afrique...Transformer le modèle d'affaires pour intégrer le respect des droits fondamentaux...créera une croissance plus inclusive de sorte que l'entreprise contribuera...à améliorer la vie des personnes et évitera une implication dans des abus...Dans ce bulletin, nous analysons 429 approches vis-à-vis des entreprises...concernant leurs impacts sur les droits de l'homme en Afrique...Dans plus de 50% des réponses, les entreprises ont donné des réponses à caractère général au lieu de parler spécifiquement des préoccupations. Parmi celles qui ont directement abordé les allégations, 66% les ont nié, au lieu de les reconnaître en totalité ou en partie, ou de s'engager à mener des enquêtes à ce sujet...[T]rès peu d'entreprises se sont engagées à changer leur conduite, seuls 9% de celles qui ont répondu ont pris cet engagement... Depuis...2011, seuls 4% des réponses que nous avons reçues font référence aux Principes Directeurs.

Questions majeures : Nouveaux investissements dans le pétrole, le gaz et l'agriculture: Opportunités et risques... Révolution numérique en Afrique: Liberté d'information ou moyen d'oppression? ...Mines, pétrole & gaz:  L'histoire troublante...de la "malédiction des ressources"...Initiatives prometteuses & nécessité d'agir 

[bulletin préparé à l'occasion du Forum régional africain sur les entreprises et les droits de l'homme]

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