Why does development matter for commodity traders? How do they contribute to development in countries where they source commodities?
These were some of the questions discussed during the last dinner of the Swiss-Africa Parliamentary Intergroup organised in partnership with STSA on Wednesday, 3rd May 2017.
Consumer demand, transparency towards creditors, engagement with NGOs to find common ground on what sustainability means, young talents requesting to work for responsible companies are justa few of the drivers that encourage companies to promote responsible business conduct.
In order to address social and environmental issues, commodity traders work on multiple approaches combining certifications, engagement with suppliers to teach them to produce according to various standards, collaborating with industry (professionals) associations like STSA to advance on a standard of good governance, and developing partnerships with NGO's in the field like for example with WWF.
Commodity traders play a crucial role in developing countries. Take the example of coffee producers in Burundi, a country with severe political instability and hit by an economic embargo, a major humanitarian crisis and facing the risk of genocide.
With the Kahawatu project, coffee traders have engaged in Burundi in the dissemination of good agricultural practices, teaching coffee producers how to better use fertilizers and herbicides, to organize themselves in producer groups to become bankable and access credit and to diversify their cultivation.
The results are undisputable, with a significant reduction in producing costs and an increase in yields. Available financial ressources increased by 70’000$ (savings & loans) for Burundi coffee producers thanks to Kahawatu, a real game changer.
But traders are not satisfying themselves with sustainability projects. They want to go beyond and engage in the creation of rural prosperity. Traders are critical vectors of development and can help to better focus development aid….but development aid needs to move to a more commercial basis, the only one to be fully sustainable.
This view was fully supported by the Ambassadors of South-Africa and Mali, who expressed the necessity to work with companies relying on a commercial approach rather than philanthropy only and to rethink development aid. It is only through the implementation of sustainable economic systems that Africa will develop.
Mrs.Claudinah N. Ramosepele (Ambassador) and Dr. Isabelle Chevalley (National Councillor and President of the Swiss-Africa Parliamentary Intergroup)
The idea of the creation of a Swiss Development Bank was largely debated among participants from the Swiss parliament. Such an institution would make sense as it would allow Switzerland to focus its development efforts, ensure transparency on the aid distributed, apply desirable responsibility criteria, support SMEs which struggle to access financing and exert control over the development projects financed.