Sahara Group: Inverting Narratives through Sustainable Development

As a multinational organisation, Sahara Group’s commitment to collaborating with the United Nations and other partners to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is an affirmative response to a universal call to action. It is a mandate to join all stakeholders to among others, work towards ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring that people across the globe – regardless of who or where they are – enjoy peace, capacity development and prosperity.

The SDGs are globally acknowledged as a robust road map for social development. The Sahara Foundation (Sahara Group’s Corporate Responsibility Vehicle) exists to ensure that our business activities are underpinned by sustainable development actions both now and in the future. Sahara Foundation works closely with national, regional and global stakeholders to ensure that the SDGs are intrinsic to and influence the strategy for all Sahara Group’s businesses across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Incorporating the SDGs into our businesses gives us the capacity to thrive as a sustainability driven going concern today, whilst also strengthening our process design, strategy, succession planning and viability for future growth and expansion.

Sahara Group’s work as a promoter of sustainability with Vision of Hope in Lusaka, Zambia and Salma Kikwete Secondary School in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania are just two examples of how we partner with various stakeholders to provide capacity building opportunities to some of the most vulnerable groups in Sub-Saharan Africa.

 Goals 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality) and 10 (Reduced Inequalities) are central to our work with Vision of Hope. By providing access to vocational skills through the establishment of an industrial size kitchen, the facility supports displaced young girls who are housed by the Vision of Hope (VoH), Lusaka (a care home for young girls who are victims of violence in their home countries).

 Currently, 46 young girls from neighboring countries are housed in the home and the intervention provides the girls with the skills and tools to get better; develop vocational skills in etiquette, catering, hoteling and hospitality management which will in-turn drive self- reliance. 

Vision of Hope has become a safe space and a sanctuary for girls, including their children in some cases. It enables young mothers go to school or take up an apprenticeship in arts and craft whilst their infants and toddlers are looked after during those important educational or vocational hours.

 The above underscores the fact that social development can be accelerated through collaborative efforts that identify key needs and smartly deploy expertise and resources to meet the needs in a timely and sustainable manner.

At Salma Kikwete Secondary School, Tanzania, Sahara Foundation has been able to shift the narrative positively by working in concert with the local community on gender equality and quality education. This partnership has bridged the gender equality gap by giving male and female students access to restroom facilities that enable them have uninterrupted time in school thus furthering their education and improving their life chances.

Prior to installation of new toilet facilities, most of the girls were unable to attend classes during their menstrual cycles because there were no conveniences designed to accommodate them. This lowered the attendance rates of female students – a situation that gave their male counterparts an edge in terms of access to uninterrupted learning sessions.

The conveniences provided have significantly narrowed the gap by improving female classroom attendance across the year and leveling the playing field for these bright young girls as they grow into adolescence.

Sahara Foundation’s success stories in promoting sustainable development are further enhanced by the opportunity to work with a diverse network of international multilateral agencies.  As a member of the board of both local and global PSAGs (Private Sector Advisory Groups) and a strategic partnership with the United Nations through the Regional Bureau of Africa based at the UNHQ, Sahara Foundation is able to work with NGOs, governments and the private sector to design solutions for some of the most urgent challenges to global sustainable development.

 In addition, as a steering committee member of the Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) of the World Economic Forum, Sahara Group is involved in efforts geared towards designing corruption out of the societies and countries where it is impeding economic growth and development. Sahara Group’s partnership with PACI has provided a platform for us to address goals 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) and 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) across various borders and business interests.

The inexorable spread of globalisation has also increased awareness about the importance of preserving the planet and being accountable for our individual and collective actions as global citizens.

More will be demanded of businesses by regulators, host communities, governments and employees. Businesses which espouse corporate citizenship and predicate decisions based on a social purpose will rightly be rewarded with patronage from socially conscious consumers. Sahara Group is already pushing for greater awareness of the dangers of climate change whilst urging the promotion of recycling and renewable energy through the #SaharaGreenLife initiative.

Sahara Group is gratified to utilise its agency and partnerships with a cross section of multiple stakeholders (Goal 17: Partnerships to achieve the goal) to continuously identify gaps, bridge them and invert negative narratives on the state of global sustainable development across the globe.