Stakeholders at the just-concluded Africa Business Ethics Conference (ABEC) have made a case for strong institutions and regulatory reforms to enforce ethical standards. These, they said, would engender a level playing environment for businesses to thrive.
According to them, weaknesses in key institutions undermine the ability to fight corruption and address challenges hindering economic growth.
Meanwhile, Vice-President Prof Yemi Osinbajo, has urged the government and the business community to synergize to tackle corruption and prevent it from undermining the continent’s ability to achieve sustainable growth.
Osinbajo, represented by Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Social Investment, Mrs. Mariam Uwais, stated that the conference’s theme aligned with the three focus areas of Buhari’s administration in ensuring security, combating corruption and rebuilding the Nigerian economy.
He reaffirmed the government’s commitment to improving governance by entrenching transparency, fighting corruption, reinforcing security, improving the public service and strengthening coordination with subnational governments.
“The new social pact to end poverty in all its forms, ensure economic growth, economic diversification, value addition, productive employment envisioned by the Addis- Ababa action agenda states that sound economic, social and environmental policies including good governance at all levels are necessary to achieve our goals.
“The agenda further emphasises that the rule of law, fighting corruption at all levels and in all its forms, civil society and independent media, among others, also play an important role in this regard”, he added.
A former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, advocated financial inclusion strategies that would spur business development for sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
With the public sector reforms tackling corruption, he noted, more ethical business culture is required.
Moghalu also advised on the need to transit from shareholders’ capitalism to stakeholders’ capitalism to improve the inclusive economy in Nigeria.
“We are talking about the workers becoming part owners and sharing in the profit of the company as a way to improve an inclusive economy in Nigeria.
“Financial inclusion contributes to business ethics in a number of ways which can be seen in the steps that the CBN has taken.
“They include the introduction of non-interest banking, microfinance policy and electronic banking to bring more people into the financial system.
“Electronic banking activities which contribute to environmental sustainability are very traceable and help to increase the ethical culture and component of doing business in Nigeria, unlike cash.
“It promotes business ethics as it facilitates equitable access to economic opportunities and advances inclusive economic growth and not just Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, which we often think is growth.
“We are talking about the growth that is efficient in improving the efficiency of labour, in the context of being diversified across sectors, in the context of distributing the effects of economic growth between the wealthy and the poor,” he said.
Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr Muda Yusuf, urged the organised business community to be more effective in their roles in combating corrupt practices.
Yusuf also appealed for more government reforms to adequately address and reduce corruption in the country. He said that the more difficult it became to be ethical, the lesser the number of players in the formal sector.
The LCCI Director-General said corruption issues in the private sector were centred on smuggling, counterfeiting, piracy, under-invoicing, contract inflation, compromising due process, among others.
“All these create unfair competition detrimental to the development of the private sector. Sometimes, when we talk about issues of corruption in the public sector, a lot of these things happen in agreement with the private sector.
“The private sector players should support government agencies with capacity, intelligence to engender an ethical, level playing field for businesses to thrive.
“We must push for regulatory reforms that address the atmosphere of corruption, promote free-market principles and push for adequate remuneration of staff to address vulnerability to corruption,” he said.