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Businesses called to actively support conflict prevention in East Africa

23 July 2015, Zanzibar – The Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN) and the Global Peace Foundation (GPF) in collaboration with the Government of Zanzibar, the East African Community (EAC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) convened a business leaders roundtable, “Addressing the nexus between Business and Peace,” on July 22, 2015 in Zanzibar.

GPLC 2015 East Africa - Group Business - Photo credit: CEWARN
Business leaders roundtable group photo at East Africa conference in Zanzibar.
Photo Credit: CEWARN

The seminar formed part of the agenda of the GPF’s Global Leadership Conference 2015 with the theme “Promoting Peace security and Sustainable Development in East Africa: A Call for Moral and Innovative Leadership.”

The Business leaders’ roundtable seminar that brought together senior representatives of IGAD, EAC, COMESA, the African Union, political analysts and business leaders was presided over by the Secretary General of EAC, Ambassador Richard Sizebera. Ambassador Sizebera stated that there is sufficient data from the region that illustrate conclusively the nexus between peace, business and development and cited statistics on the economic cost of the recent crisis in Burundi as well as the toll the threat of terrorism is having on the tourism industry in Kenya.

Dr.Edwin Kaganda speaks at business roundtable at Global Peace conference.
Dr. Edwin Kaganda speaks at the business roundtable.
Photo Credit: CEWARN

The seminar was comprised of a series of expert presentations that made a strong case for a more proactive and direct support from the private sector in conflict mitigation in the East and Horn of Africa region due to the strong mutually reinforcing relationship between of thriving businesses and peace.

CEWARN Director Mr. Richard Barno stated that the East and Horn of Africa regions have huge development potential which is being undermined by violent conflict. He also recognized the huge potential business has in terms of finances, expertise and influence that can be tapped into for peace building and conflict prevention. He added that businesses have a key role in promoting human security through delivery of basic public services and promoting inclusive development. He further highlighted the untapped potential of partnerships for peace with privately owned media given media’s critical role in peace efforts and conflict mitigation.

Speaker from business roundtable at global peace conference in Zanzibar.
A speaker discusses the potential of economic development in East Africa.
Photo Credit: CEWARN

Mr. Barno stressed the need for the private sector to engage proactively in democratization, governance and conflict mitigation initiatives – and not shy away from investing in conflict prone areas. He also underlined the need for investment in early warning mechanisms that are crucial for timely response to violent conflicts.

Other issues raised in the seminar included the need for the private sector to empower the region’s large youth population as a strategy of averting violent conflicts. The Seminar also recognized existing frameworks in IGAD, EAC, COMESA and the African Union for engagement with the private sector that can be leveraged to have businesses directly support peace building and conflict mitigation/ resolution programmes. These frameworks include the IGAD Business Forum, the East African Business Council, COMESA’s Trading for Peace and Youth Entrepreneurship Programmes as well as the AU’s African Solidarity initiative that has been conceived as a mechanism for mobilizing resources within the continent to support countries emerging out of conflict.

Mrs. Beatrice Hamusonde Comesa speaks at Business Forum GPLC 2015 East Africa
Mrs. Beatrice Hamusonde Comesa present ideas of solving corruption in business
communities within East Africa. Photo Credit: CEWARN

Experts present at the seminar also raised the need to address the negative impact businesses could have on peace through acts of corruption and illegitimate business activities related to extractive industries; private military and security companies and financing terrorism among others.

The key outcomes of the roundtable included a recommendation for the convening of an EAC/ Horn of Africa Private Sector Summit as well as the scaling up of CEWARN Peace Dividends (amenities that serve as connectors for communities affected by conflict) to benefit more citizens in the Horn and East Africa regions. There was also consensus that a special focus should be paid to small and medium enterprises as avenues for promoting the peace agenda.

This report was generated by Ms. Tigist Hailu, PR and Communications Officer, IGAD’s Conflict Early Warning and Response Mechanism (CEWARN) of IGAD Tigist.hailu@cewarn.org