Monday, July 25, 2005

GBF: In The Business of Growing Businesses

Growing Businesses Foundation (GBF), began its operations in October 1999 as a non-governmental, non-profit organization. Given the then increasing socio-economic imbalance in Nigeria where issues of relating to massive poverty, corruption, unemployment, poor public amenities and decreasing educational standards, it was GBF's intent to respond to these issues.

The GBF approach would be to foster corporate and individual social responsibility and to promote sustainable economic development in Nigeria. Its mission clearly states that is its direction: "To enhance collaboration amongst businesses, non-profit organizations and governments; to promote the healthy economic development of communities and channel resources towards projects with sustainable wealth-generating potential."

With a central theme of "Investing in the Poor," GBF has adopted several institutional objective:

- To demonstrate that small-scale entrepreneurs are creditworthy, with a view to solving two key problems in micro-enterprise: the lack of access to commercial credit for micro-loan programs, and the limited availability of loan funds.

- To establish professionally managed investment vehicles innovative enough to attract significant long-term investment, and create a revenue base to support the Foundation's mission of sustainable wealth generation and economic development.

- To implement such programs that simultaneously empower small-scale businesses and design ways for companies to operate profitably whilst sustainable developing communities and

- To design innovative programs that assists with the institutionalization & recognition of Micro-finance Institutions (MFIs) and small to medium scale enterprises (SME's) as key players in the financial markets.

GBF also advocates for the creation of an enabling policy and regulatory environment in which sustainable economic development can occur.

Rev. (Prof.) Obiora Ike, Chairman of GBF is quoted as saying:

"Poverty is not God-determined. It is man-made. It is not a fortuitous, self-inflicted condition, but rather a result of processes at work within the society. If we so desire, we can eradicate poverty." And that is the basis for GBF's vision.

The Core Values of GBF include the Global Sullivan Principles of corporate social responsibility as well as several other specific values that are stated as follows:

We believe in the compatibility of business with ethics, of profitability with social responsibility, and in the power of philanthropic individuals and companies to positively impact people's lives.

We believe that mutually-beneficial relationships can be built through collaboration amongst companies, governments, individuals and communities towards a more equitable and just society that promotes the prosperity of humanity, and in the promotion of business relationships built upon trust and respect for mutual interests.

We seek to take proper account of social, cultural, ecological and economic sustainability in our world by striking a healthy balance between protecting the integrity of nature and tradition against promoting change, towards positive human and economic development.

We strive to be good stewards of all the resources entrusted to us, openly accountable for our work, systematic in evaluating our effectiveness, professional in managing our funds and responsible in our outlays and overheads.

We seek to draw upon and reinforce the hope so often present in the lives of the poor that, in spite of all setbacks, a change for the better is possible. It is hope and determination that provide the dynamics for realizing our vision.

The Core Focus of GBF is in six areas.

Micro-Finance is one of GBF's core activities. And the limited availability of loan funds for small-scale entrepreneurs is being addressed aggressively by the organization. As of the end of 2004, loans had been disbursed in twelve (12) states of the federation and N 151,541,157 had been extended as non-collaterized credit to Two Thousand Three Hundred and Fifty (2,350) loan beneficiaries covering four of Nigeria's six geo-political zones.

Market Linkages have been established to bridge the gap that exists between the informal and the formal sectors. This is done by locating markets for local products and providing rural communities with access to goods and services that will promote their development. For example, GBF is working with a non-governmental organization for the mentally ill in Abia state, to explore ways off marketing their pottery to the private sector as corporate festive seasons gifts.

Networking and partnership building In one such partnership (among a great many), GBF has offered its services - in collaboration with PricewaterhouseCoopers - in the form of business advice and strategic planning to NGOs, to enhance their credibility and facilitate their integration into the formal financial sector.

Capacity Building is the other core activity of GBF. Here the organization works with skills acquisition and training institutes to equip entrepreneurs with skills to improve their production and efficiency. GBF has also organized conferences to sensitize private sector organizations to issues of corporate social responsibility and link businesses with projects aligned to their area of social concern.

This type of capacity building can be seen in the collaboration of GBF with the Catholic Institute for Development Justice and Peace (CIDJAP) to create the Micro - Enterprise Development Co-operation (MDC). Believing the promotion of development involved building capacity as providing access to capital, GBF and CIDJAP formed the MDC "To provide a platform for evaluating international best practices in micro-finance, and building self-reliant, sustainable financial intermediaries capable of nurturing micro-enterprises and growing these businesses into viable, socially responsible and culturally rooted small and medium scale enterprises".

To promote Corporate Philanthropy GBF organizes an Annual Corporate Social Responsibility Conference with the main objective of raising awareness on the viability of Small and Medium Scale] Enterprises [SMEs]. Participants in these conferences are drawn from the public and private sectors. It is hoped that this will inspire and encourage corporate and individual citizens of Nigeria in promoting the cultural, social and environmental prosperity of rural communities.

The Research done by GBF is extensive and continuous. Interacting with small and medium scale enterprises, Micro-finance institutions, community banks, credit unions and cooperatives GBF has collected data engaged in financial analysis, monitoring the disbursement and repayment of loans, evaluation of projects and impact assessment.

There are many examples of how GBF carries out its Core Focus and I strongly encourage you to visit their web site to see a concentrated effort on bringing about business development and corporate social responsibility.

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