“A sustainable business model is one that addresses a real need. It incorporates the intelligent use of technology to tackle challenges, while creating value and generating revenue for the business,” says Selim J Edde, VP government relations at SAP MENA.
The German software giant has recently been involved in a number of CSR initiatives across Ghana, aimed at leveraging sustainable business and technology models to help create transparent agricultural value chains in the African country.
CNME caught up for a quick chat with Christian Merz, director of Internet of Services, SAP Research Karlsruhe and Edde today to discuss the adoption and growth of sustainable business models in the MENA region.
“While a short sighted approach would be to look at technology to enable sustainable operations through reduced energy consumption, carbon emissions and the like, SAP works towards capitalising the latest innovations for larger socio-economic development,” says Merz.
“The increasing rates of local unemployment has been one of the significant challenges that governments in this region have been trying to address. Over the last few months, government bodies across the world have realised the numerous socio-economic benefits associated with using technology to drive and shape smaller agricultural industries such as the date industry in KSA and coffee trading in East Africa. Therefore, in a sort of natural progression, SAP is witnessing keen interest from these bodies and is actively studying avenues for potential application of technology to help create pockets of small yet significantly self-reliant industries in the MENA region. We have a lot to look forward to in the year ahead,” said Merz.
According to Merz, SAP Research is activitely engaged in creating strong business cases for the use of innovative technology to not only encourage fair trade but also to benefit the lives of often neglected sectors of the agricultural community, such as cashew nut farmers and processors in Ghana.
Edde added that in order for these CSR initiatives to be successful SAP has to carefully create a strong ecosystem of partners including the right government and regulatory bodies, NGOs and microfinancing corporations.
“Governments are fast realising that technology is a game changer, both for a small and medium businesses and for the economy at large. Through the intelligent use of technology in the shea nut and cashew nut value chains in Ghana, the government was successful in enabling transparency across the entire length and breadth of the chain while creating more employment opportunities for the masses,” says Edde.
Edde and Merz site the example of The Shea Value Chain Reinforcement Initiative, by SAP, PlaNet Finance, Grameen Ghana and Maata-N-Tudu.
“The program successfully brought together 1500 women into groups and a registered network after providing them the necessary training for running a sustainable shea nut and butter processing business. A Stanford University study focused on analysing the results of the initiative found that it had resulted in an increase of the women’s income through their shea nut activities between 59% and 82%,” Merz said.
The SAP Research team involved in the initiative established a software package called the “Rural market connection” that was used to manage and process orders, and allow buyers to interact directly with rural women to create traceability and transparency along the value chain.
In addition to this, SAP also helped develop a microloan management software to help microfinance organisations gain timely information about their loan portfolios.