Instead of expecting host countries to bend their long-held cultures and values, multinational companies investing in Africa have been urged to adjust culturally to the norms and traditions of their hosts.
Adjusting to the culture and traditions of host countries, according to Sir Nigel Boardman – a retired Senior Partner at Slaughter and May (S&M), a leading London-based law firm – is not only respectful but imperative and central to creating mutually beneficial opportunities and peaceful co-existence. Against this background, Sir Nigel stressed that the onus lies on multinational companies seeking opportunities to learn the history and culture of the host community and its people – thus enabling them to adapt better and not impose their foreign culture on the people.
“Multinational companies should behave as good citizens and perform the social function expected of them in their investing countries,” he added.
Sir Nigel made this call in his lecture at the second edition of the Kojo Bentsi-Enchill Annual Memorial Lecture, held in Accra under the theme ‘Investment in African Natural and Other Resources: What should governments and investors do to ensure success?’.
He further emphasised the need for multinational companies to treat the local workforce well, urging government to also ensure strict labour laws that protect the workforce – noting it is in the best interests of investors to treat the factory-hand well, as that will serve as the best advocate for their presence in the communities.
The lecture, hosted by Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa & Ankomah, was in honour of its late founding partner Kojo Bentsi-Enchill, who was a well-known legal practitioner and pioneer in the digitisation of Ghana’s law reports, journals and other legal materials.
He founded the law firm in 1988 with his law faculty colleague Divine Letsa, and led the firm to local and global prominence and recognition before he retired in 2020.
The retired senior partner at S&M encouraged companies to recognise the legitimate interest of governments, because the state has responsibility to oversee natural resources on behalf of its citizens.
“Investors should not be corrupt or be involved in corrupt activities while trying to invest in the natural resources of any country,” he said.
He said governments also need to provide stability and certainty for multinational companies to invest, grow and develop their businesses. Additionally, he mentioned that the investment of a multinational company in a country should be seen as a collaboration between the investor and local communities.
“Government needs to have a team that looks at the legislative aspect of ease of doing business in the future, and this will make the country attractive to investors,” he added.
On the issue of government procurement power, Sir Nigel Boardman called on authorities to encourage the use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology in procurement processes for bidding contracts.
Chief Executive Officer-Ghana Chamber of Mines, Dr. Sulemanu Koney, on his part mentioned that there is a need to look further than procurement in considering government policy. He said value enhancement, value addition and value creation should be considered in partnership with the mining industry.
Advisor on Mining to the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Benjamin Aryee, said the government and industry players have to understand that the sector needs partnerships and balancing of competing interests to grow and develop.
He said the mining sector could be a critical sector that links other sectors of the economy for growth. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to link the mining sector to other crucial sectors of the economy,” Mr. Aryee said.