Lafarge Confab Participants: Nigeria Needs Intense Public, Private Partnerships to Achieve SDGs

Khaled El Dokani , Country CEO of Lafarge Africa Plc

Bennett Oghifo

The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has presented an extraordinary moment that requires keen collaboration to find creative and innovative ways to build more equal, inclusive and resilient societies.

The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on SDGs, Princess Adefulire, stated this in her keynote address during the first of four sustainability webinar series by Lafarge Africa.

Adefulire, who was represented by her Senior Technical Advisor, Dr. Bala Yusuf, re-affirmed Nigeria’s commitment to achieving the SDGs in a post-COVID era, adding “We must urgently build-back, if we are to be on track to achieve the SDGs by 2030. The theme of this Webinar ‘The Decade of Action: Advancing the SDGs in a post pandemic era’ “is suitable, timely and a clear manifestation of your collective commitment to the achievement of the SDGs in Nigeria and Africa at large.

She laid the framework for discussions, stating that in September 2015, World Leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a successor development framework to the Millennium Development Goals. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development envisions a present and a future that is economically sustainable, socially inclusive and environmentally resilient. This vision is expressed through the 17 SDGs; 169 targets and 230 Key Performance Indicators. Put it simply, the SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, safeguard the planet and ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity by the year 2030.

“We need the expertise and financial resources of all – the public and private sectors, development partners, scientific community, and the wider civic society. It is only then that we can forge productive partnerships that can deliver the 2030 Agenda for sustainable Development.”

The four webinars in terms of Lafarge Africa’s Sustainability webinar series began on Wednesday, August 19 and will end on the 9th of this month. The first week of the webinar had thought leaders and speakers focus on ‘Environmental and Social Governance: A transformative approach toward accelerating the SDGs’; the second, which took place last week, was on “Co-creating value through best practices in Private Public Partnership and impact assessment for the SDGs”; the third will take place tomorrow and the theme is “Corporate Social Investments, Shared Value and National Development – Which Way Forward?”; the last webinar will take place next week and its focus will be “Roadmaps to Progressing the SDGs: opportunities in Circular Economy and Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics.”

Last week’s webinar, which was the second, had in attendance thought leaders and speakers including, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, represented by his Technical Adviser, Mahmud Mohammed; His Highness, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, UN SDG Advocate; Sanda Ojiambo, Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact; Magali Anderson, Chief Sustainability Officer, LafargeHolcim; Professor Chris Ogbechie, Professor of Strategic Management, and Deputy Dean Lagos Business School, and Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, Communication, Public Affairs, and Sustainable Development Director, Lafarge Africa, who were moderators. The host was Khaled El-Dokani, Country Chief Executive Officer, Lafarge Africa.

The Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on SDGs said one of the most effective ways to building resilient societies was by strengthening existing partnerships between the public and private sectors and other critical stakeholders. “We have seen classical demonstrations of these partnerships in the fight against COVID-19. The Lafarge Africa Sustainability Series is in line with our idea of the Private Sector Advisory Group on SDGs, which is to create a strategic platform for galvanising ideas, mobilising expertise and financial resources in support of the achievement of the SDGs in Nigeria.”

She said financing sustainable development was not just about mobilising capital for specific projects and programmes. “It is equally about ensuring the organised private sector becomes adapted to financing for sustainable development, by altering the way in which private finance operates so that its own processes are both sustainable and support sustainability.”

Making reference to the Nigeria iSDG Report (2019), she said funding remained a critical challenge to overcome. “As such, there is need to work fast in scaling-up efforts to expand the fiscal space for SDGs implementation in Nigeria. In this ‘Decade of Action’, there is need to look into ways of mobilising additional resources and minimising wastage in the application of scarce public resources. There is need to draw on non-traditional sources of public finance – Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), impact investments and strategic Bonds as appropriate.”

She said funding alone is insufficient to guarantee the attainment of the SDGs in Nigeria, quoting the recent IMF Report (2020) on SDGs spending in Nigeria which noted that “…beyond resources, improving coordination and strengthening governance is critical to delivering on the SDGs. Progress will require a whole-of-government approach, supported by strong coordination between the federal, state, and local governments.”

As carefully enumerated in Nigeria’s 2020 Voluntary National Review Report, going forward in a post-COVID era, we need to; Judiciously use the re-aligned National Statistical System (NSS) to effectively track and monitor the implementation of the SDGs on annual basis. This will inform targeted SDGs’ interventions across the country, she said. “Consciously use the Nigeria iSDG simulation model to develop the next National Development Plan (2021-2025) and support the domestication of the Planning Model across the 36 states; Design and implement the Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFF) for the SDGs. This will provide a snap-shot of all the existing and potential financing sources for the SDGs in Nigeria, and unlock innovative financing mechanisms to support the implementation of the SDGs.

She said there was need to work closely with state and non-state actors to cascade and strengthen advocacy for the SDGs across the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria; Effectively mobilise and engage all the key segments of the society – the United Nations system; diplomatic community; organised private sector; civil society; academia; philanthropists; foundations and concerned citizens – in a ‘whole-of-society’ for the achievement of the SDGs.

Welcoming the distinguished thought leaders and speakers to the Lafarge Africa Sustainability Series with the theme: The Decade of Action: Advancing the SDGs in a post pandemic era, Mr. Dokani explained that the Sustainability Series was a four week long engagement which “will focus on what we need to do collectively to achieve more measurable impact and accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals. It also affords an opportunity to share best practices for adoption in Nigeria and agree collectively how we can jointly progress the SDGs from the decade of action.”

Outlining the plan, he said during the period, participants would discuss the role of Environment and Social Governance, partnerships, corporate social investments, impact assessment, opportunities in circular economy and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and their importance to nation building.

The Country Chief Executive Officer said, “As board members of the Private Sector Advisory Group founded by the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs and the Global Compact Nigeria Network, Lafarge Africa continues to strengthen its impact across various spheres of the human endeavour.”

Chairman, Lafarge Africa Plc., Ade Adefioye, who declared open the Sustainability Webinar Series, said economic and social governance is fully embedded in the organisation’s operations and value chain, in line with their commitment to Sustainability. “It is the platform on which our enterprise is built.”

He said, “With the impact of COVID-19 and more than before, our commitment to Sustainability is absolute,” adding that the webinar “is one of the ways we want to further entrench economic and social governance.”

Delivering her speech at the second webinar last week, the Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact, Sanda Ojiambo stated that COVID-19 has really set aside progress in terms of meeting the targets of the SDGs, such as eradicating poverty, reducing inequality, among other key goals.

She said with the pandemic, it was clearer now that “we have to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals,” noting that the crisis has reversed some of the progress already made but that “there is a glimmer of hope, because we firmly believe that if the COVID response is done correctly, and if it is guided by the SDGS, the recovery from COVID can put us on a more sustainable and inclusive path and really drive us to the human face to the global market.”

She said it was imperative to have stronger business partnerships and driving sustainable, inclusive and gender-equal societies, and called for enduring public-private-partnerships. “My comments are call to action for all of the companies present and all the organisations present in the private sector to leverage partnerships and achieve a greater sense of drive towards the SDGs.”

She said as business steps up in the call to action for the SDGs, government continues to play a key role, critical in advancing inclusive and sustainable business through public-private engagements. “Government has the potential to provide an enabling environment in which sustainable companies can compete with others on a level playing field and indeed flourish.

“It is in this spirit that we have invited the government of Nigeria to join the UN Global Compact Government Group, which will then provide a platform for closer strategic dialogue. The government’s participation will allow us to respond more coherently and more directly to the country’s sustainable development challenges. We look forward to this becoming a reality.”

During the thought leadership segment of last week’s event, His Highness, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, UN SDGs Advocate congratulated Lafarge for the work it has done on SDGs.

Sanusi, the only Nigerian on the 17-man list of Advocates appointed by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said “We have a situation in Nigeria that bothers everyone. People talk about COVID and talk about pre-existing conditions, I would say Nigerian as a country, and many African countries already had pre-existing conditions, economic conditions before COVID hit.

“When you have a country where in some parts like Zamfara, for example, over 90 per cent are living in extreme poverty, you have a country where in terms of the population of poor people, we have now overtaken India as the poverty capital of the world, and this was before COVID hit.

“When you read all the forecast of the World Bank that another five to 10 million people might be thrown into extreme poverty as a result of COVID, we begin to realise the enormity of the problems that we have. The challenges that we have as a nation around insecurity, herdsmen-farmer clashes, Boko Haram, banditry, most of them have roots not paying sufficient attention to SDGs.

“I really think that this is a time when we need to have a conversation. When you look at the Economic Sustainability Plan, in terms of its being a fiscal, and monetary response to crisis, it meets all the criteria as a classical project, but we don’t see the SDG component stressed and there is a great opportunity that as we spend, that we do not just think of reversing recession but also laying the foundation for a new type of economy.”

Thus, he said “When we talk about broadband, we should tie broadband to how we can use technology to deliver education, healthcare, maximise the value from our investment. Right now, we are not taking full advantage of the technology that we have and the infrastructure that we have for economic development.”

He said it is very important to have good collaborations and that this should not be left to the government. “It is truly important for all stakeholders to get together. This is something that can no longer be left to the government, the government doesn’t have the balance sheet, the balance sheet is stretched.”

According to Sanusi, “So much of government’s revenue is already spent on debt service, there is very little scope for increasing taxes at this point, so the private sector, NGOs, partners will have to come in to address some of the most serious issues, especially around skills, around education, healthcare. We have not paid enough attention to certain elements of the SDGs. Malnutrition is a big problem when you look at the numbers. In a state like Kano, for example, 58 per cent of all under-five children have chronic malnutrition, and this is typical of the North-east and North-west and very large parts of the county.

“Now when you have one in two children having chronic malnutrition, you can imagine what is going to happen in the next 15 to 20 years when they become young people with all the cognitive skill implications of malnutrition. That is a future that we’re building.”

The representative of the Minister of Education, Mohammed Mahmud, said technology has to play key role in education. He said the Federal Ministry of Education has developed Ministerial Strategic Plan (MSP) and that it has been mainstreamed into the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP).

He said in achieving the 2030 agenda, “We are looking at programmes that give access to a home-grown feeding programme to increase enrolment, which this government has put forward since 2015; reducing out-of-school children is a major pillar in the strategic plan, and looking at the population of Nigeria, 50 per cent is under 25 years,” which is the reason they should focus on education.

The Chief Sustainability Officer, LafargeHolcin, Magali Anderson stated that the company’s core value is sustainable development.

She said, “We have been reducing our impact on CO2 by about 27 per cent since 1990. It is an effort that we understand very well,” adding that the company dedicates a lot to research and development to reduce their carbon footprint and to get the result they want.

Anderson said, “About 50 per cent of our resources today and 40 per cent of our patterns are into low carbon, circular economy and others,” stating that the company could produce cement with construction demolition waste, build homes with compact earth and cement known as Durabric, earth stabilised block.

A more sustainable alternative to traditional burnt clay bricks, Durabric is a compressed earth stabilised block made of local earth, sand, cement and water. Affordable and aesthetic, Durabric also addresses the rapid deforestation faced by many developing countries as it does not require firing.

Through an innovative mix-design, Durabric does not need firing and thus addresses the causes of deforestation in Sub-Saharan Africa. By providing training to local construction workers, it builds local capacity creating a positive social impact.

Participants at the webinar series, which ends next week, are discussing “A Decade for Action: Accelerating the SDGs in a Post-Pandemic Era”.

According to the Communication, Public Affairs, and Sustainable Development Director, Lafarge Africa, Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, “Lafarge Africa Plc is committed to its ambitions by leveraging its Sustainability Strategy, which is fully aligned with the LafargeHolcim’s strategy based on four pillars: Climate and Energy, Circular Economy, Environment and Community”

On Climate and Energy, “Our commitment to reducing emissions is undeterred. In 2019, we reduced our dust emissions at kiln stack by 28% and reduced net CO2 per tonne of cementitious material by 1.3% to 535 kg/t (compared to 2018). We are 100% compliant to the Environment Protection Authority, and all of our quarries have rehabilitation plans which we continue to implement.

“Circular Economy, Co-Processing: Eliminating waste in production in Nigeria, We continue to use waste materials and by-products from other industries as alternatives to finite natural raw materials and fossil fuels in the production of cement. Through co-processing, Lafarge Africa is eliminating waste in production and solving the challenges associated with waste “Our Geocycle function drives the use of alternative fuels such as biomass (agricultural waste) and non-degradable parts of pharmaceutical drugs and condiment wrappers in our kilns in Sagamu and Ewekoro. Other plants are in the early phases of adopting the Geocycle plan with customized waste options across each regions ranging from tyres and plastic to municipal and industrial waste.”

The company also has the Environment as one of its sustainability pillars, she said. “We are committed to reducing our environmental impact by ensuring all our operations comply with environmental laws, regulations and standards applicable to our products and operations, and we continuously subscribe to leading industry initiatives. Most of our plant operations are EMS certified to ISO 14001:2015. Through this and many interventions, we are contributing to environmental sustainability.”

They are also big on Community, stating, “LAP’s processes and structures are designed to ensure that we do not diminish the social, economic and ecological processes that are necessary to promote sustainable communities. To this end, we continue to engage and partner with our various communities to ensure we are delivering stakeholder value

“We benchmark our efforts and initiatives against the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and partner with organizations and agencies to complement the Federal Government of Nigeria’s efforts to create value for our shareholders, customers, employees, and communities.”