The 2019 edition of the Sustainability and Social Investment (SSI) Awards is set to come off at the Movenpick Hotel, Accra on November 29, 2019.
The Business and Financial Times (B&FT) sat down with Ambassador Pedro Luis Despaigne González, the Cuban Ambassador to Ghana, in an exclusive interview to discuss topics such as sustainability, social investment, healthcare delivery, Cuba and Ghana relationship and others.
Cuba, for more than a decade, has trained some of the best medical minds in Ghana and continue to send medical doctors to help Ghanaians in the delivery of quality healthcare. Cuba sees this programme as part of its sustainable and social investment in its allies, especially colleague developing countries.
The Sustainability and Social Investment (SSI) 2019
This year’s edition of the awards, on the theme: ‘Celebrating impact brands and their sustainable legacies’, is expected to be bigger and better as it will see the unveiling of the Sustainability Plaque. It will also reward businesses that creatively approached CSR and those who are creating new standards, committing their organization to make social responsibility an integral part of their business.
The awards is an initiative endorsed by the Ministry of Education, National Road Safety Commission among others and it is aimed at identifying and publicly recognizing the impact made by companies, CSI/CSR foundations, NGO’s, individuals and other implementing agencies through exemplary success in voluntarily improving the quality of life of people and communities.
The purpose of the SSI Awards among others is to create awareness and encourage companies in delivering high impact CSI/CSR projects that aligns with government’s focus on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to adopt multi stakeholder approach which leads to excellent outcomes.
The award categories include Best Company in Charity Giving, Clean Water Provision Project, Climate Change Education & Mitigation Project, Community Development & Infrastructure Project, Community Support Project, Disability Support Project, Disability Employment, Economic Empowerment, Educational Sponsorship Projects, Educational Sustainability Programme, Employee Volunteering Initiatives, Environment Sustainability Project, Financial Inclusion Project, Girl Child Education and Empowerment Project, and Good Governance & Transparency in Sustainability Reporting.
Others include Best Company in Livelihood Empowerment Projects, Partnership for Community Development Project, Post Disaster Rehabilitation Support Programme, Eradicating Streetism, Promoting Arts & Culture, Promoting Road Safety, Supporting Local Content, Promoting Agriculture and Agribusiness, Promoting Gender Equality, Promoting Good Health and Wellness, Promoting Good Sanitation & Hygiene Practices, Promoting Good Waste Management Practices, Promoting Voluntary Blood Donation, Promoting Workplace Diversity & Inclusion, Providing Educational Facilities and Providing Health Facilities.
Some include Best Company in Providing Sanitation Facilities, Recycling Education & Practices, Skills Development Project, Social Enterprising Project, Specialty Healthcare Support Project, Stakeholder Engagement Programme, Supporting Agribusiness, Supporting Educational Institutions, Supporting Educational Projects, Supporting Government Institutions, Supporting Health Institutions and Facilities, Supporting SMEs & Start-ups, Supporting Sports Development, Sustainable Development Project, Women Empowerment Project, Youth Empowerment Project, and Best Health Awareness Education Program of the Year.
The rest include SSI Foundation of the Year, SSI Project of the Year (Education), SSI Project of the Year (Environment), SSI Project of the year (Health), SSI Project of the Year (Socio-economic), SSI Team of the Year, SSI Innovative Project of the Year, and SSI Health Advocate of the Year.
A total 55 companies and nine individuals have been nominated for awards. The nominees include Abii National Savings & Loans, Access Bank, Accra Brewery, Accra Recycling & Compost Plant, Advans Ghana Savings and Loans, Allianz Ghana, Anglogold Ashanti, ATV, Baj Freight and Logistics, Barclays Bank, Blue Skies, Cargill Ghana, Chirano Gold Mines, Ecobank Ghana, Electroland, Ernest Chemist, First Atlantic Bank, Ghana National Gas Co., Ghana Shippers Authority, GNPC Foundation, GNTV, Gold Fields, Golden Star Wassa, and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA).
Others are Kaiser Global Health, Karpowership Ghana, Kasapreko, L’oreal West Africa, MainOne, McDan Foundation, Melcom Care Foundation, Mohinani Group, MTN Ghana Foundation, Nasco, National Investment Bank (NIB), Nyonkopa Cocoa Buying Co., Odotobri Rural Bank, Old Mutual Ghana, Opportunity International Savings and Loans, Puma Energy Ghana, Road Safety Management Services, Silver Star Auto, Sinapi Aba Savings and Loans, SMT Ghana (Volvo), Svani Limited, Tobinco Foundation, Total, United Bank for Africa (UBA), Vodafone, Volta River Authority, Wapic Insurance, Westblue Consulting , Wilmar Africa, and Zoomlion.
B&FT: The business community gets ready for the 2019 edition of the Sustainability and Social Investment Awards. We will therefore be discussing sustainability and social investment but how are you doing and what’s your take on the Ghana-Cuba relationship?
Ambassador González: Seeing the way we are working and improving the relationship between Ghana and Cuba, I am very happy and impressed with the progress made so far.
B&FT: When it comes to sustainability and social investment, how do you understand these similar phenomena?
Ambassador González: Sustainability is something that you can do having all the resources including the material and human capability to do anything you want to do. It is important to know how to do things and have the resources to do things.
We are talking about globalisation and it is not possible to think about only you as a country that have everything and can do everything. Social investment, therefore, is to prepare society to be able to do all that you have the capacity to do. Under-developed countries have resources but the challenge is management of such resources and this include human resources. If you have your population prepared to face challenges and lead initiatives, nobody can stop you from achieving your aim.
B&FT: Would you advocate for a stronger focus on human resource development rather than natural resource development?
Ambassador González: I do not believe we have to put one above the other but we cannot forget, and there are a lot of examples across the world, that when you have your resources capable and prepared, everything can be done. You cannot start talking about capacity building when people are 20 or 30 years old. You start building their capacity when they are very young and are in kindergarten. This is how you prepare for the future.
For me, the development of both natural and human resource together is the best for any country. Natural resource is something that life has given to any country but human being have also been given to countries and so both have to be very well connected. Once you have integrated these two aspects, the institutions of the country will develop and the country will see growth. Everything is a comprehensive task any country must embark on.
B&FT: What initiative has this embassy undertaken when it comes to sustainability and social investment in Ghana?
Ambassador González: I am not the first ambassador of the Cuban Embassy in Accra, Ghana, I am actually the 11th here and the relationship between Ghana and Cuba began in 1959. There is a policy and principle in the Cuban Foreign Affairs where ambassadors continue the works of their predecessors. There are some sectors we are good at and the health sector is one of them and it is the sector we are cooperating with Ghana.
I believe that it is better to teach people how to fish that provide them with the fish and that is what Cuba is doing. We have educated and trained around 3,000 Ghanaian doctors in Cuba who are in this country providing the best of healthcare.
This is a sustainability and social investment project from Cuba to Ghana and as an ambassador, it is my duty to make sure this operation runs smoothly. Last August, 221 Ghanaian doctors were received from Cuba after the completion of their training and in 2019, we have received 200 more to study medicine. Also, we are putting together a project to fight malaria in Ghana and West Africa.
B&FT: Let us discuss the 2019 Sustainability and Social Investment Award. It seeks to reward individuals, corporate organisations and institutions like yours for contributing to the growth of society. What is your take on this ceremony?
Ambassador González: This is a laudable event and I will be attending. It is part of what we are doing in Ghana and we are happy there is a reward system that encourages people to continue working for the country. We agree with this. As an ambassador, I am happy to see how Ghana is growing economically and socially but there are challenges ahead. Cuba stands ready to support.
To me, it is good that feel and know that what they are doing is very important and recognised for that. Once you encourage people, it pushes them on but winners must see the award as the basis to work harder.
B&FT: The theme for this year’s award is ‘Celebrating Impact Brands and their Sustainable Legacies. How does this resonate with what you are doing when it comes to the cooperation between Ghana and Cuba?
Ambassador González: Touching on the theme, I believe we can see it through the prism of the relationship between Ghana and Cuba. Currently, we are working together with the government of Ghana to prepare Ghanaians to be able and capable to work towards reaching the objectives of the government and what the population deserves.
We are also putting in place a project as part of the government’s One District, One Factory (1D1F). Fighting malaria is very important for the country and I have been following what Ghana is doing in this regard and I had the opportunity to talk directly to the President in this regard and Cuba has the capacity to corporate in building a factory that produces bio-products that can fight mosquitoes in the larvae stage.
As one of the flagship projects of this government, we are working together to make it possible. The factory will be established in the Northern Region. In a few days we will be signing the contract for the commencement of the project. It will be a Ghana-Cuba private sector led project. So a Cuban company will work hand-in-hand with a Ghanaian company but will handover completely to the Ghanaian company.
This factory will be producing different types of products to fight mosquitoes in the larvae stage and will have the capacity to produce products for the well-being of the country. In Cuba, we eradicated malaria in 1972 and as part of our social investment we are sharing this technology with other developing countries, in Africa especially, that are fighting malaria.
B&FT: Corporate organisations tend to see CSR through donations, provision of schools and adoption of hospital wards at best. Is that enough? What more do you think can be done?
Ambassador González: There are different ways of seeing the way corporations should conduct their social responsibility activities. I believe that companies should follow what their heart directs them and as an intelligent people, I believe you know exactly what you want from these companies. As an ambassador from Cuba, I cannot tell you about how other countries and companies operate, just what we do and continue to do here. Cuba has donated scholarships to Ghanaians that allowed Ghanaians to study beyond the medicine.
In our new ways of corporation, doctors are being trained. But we are not only about doctors but also engineers, technicians and other expertise. When you see what Cuba has done for Africa, we are talking about thousands and thousands of trained experts. With political will, we can strengthen this relationship. In 2019 we have received the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo and Vice President, Mahamudu Bawumia. This shows the importance of the cooperation between the two countries.