Dambisa Moyo is an international economist and commentator on the global economy. She was born in Zambia, and holds a PhD in economics from Oxford University and a master’s degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Dr. Moyo authored the 2009 New York Times best-selling book Dead Aid which made waves by challenging current thinking on foreign aid to Africa. A former consultant to the World Bank, Moyo worked at Goldman Sachs for eight years. In April, she joined Barrick’s Board of Directors and brings a wealth of expertise in the Africa region, development and finance. Dr. Moyo recently spoke to the editor of Beyond Borders about her new role and perspective on business and development.
BB: In your book, Dead Aid, you argued that western aid fosters poverty and dependency, stifles entrepreneurship and weakens African governments. What can the West do instead?
DM: Very simply, create jobs. Africa continues to be disconnected from the rest of the world. There are about one billion people living on the African continent and that’s roughly 20 per cent of the world’s population. But Africa conducts less than two per cent of the world’s trade. That’s just unacceptable. Over 60 per cent of Africans are under the age of 24 and the only way to have Africans integrated into the world economy, but also to meaningfully improve their lives, is by creating jobs. In the long-term, aid is not a sustainable model. What the West needs to focus on, rather than pity and sympathy for poverty issues in Africa, is to very aggressively help integrate Africa into the rest of the world. By that I mean encouraging trade, but also investing in Africa.
BB: Where does the mining industry fit as part of the better way for Africa?
DM: Absolutely central, absolutely critical. As many people know, mining and minerals are a very large part of African economies. They are very largely natural resource based, and so the ability for companies, both domestic and international, to help African countries exploit those resources in a sensible, sustainable way is at the heart of many economies. To illustrate, a country like Zambia, which is where I’m from, earns most of its export income from the mining sector. So it’s essential for investment to occur in that sector, not only because countries and governments are able to earn money, but also because it creates jobs.
BB: Aaron Regent, Barrick’s CEO, has stated that one of the best ways to reduce poverty in developing regions is to give someone a good paying job. Clearly, you’re both in agreement.
DM: Yes. If nothing else, create jobs. Anything else is a band aid solution. People love to focus on assistance for education and health care in the developing world – and this is highly laudable – but you cannot create development solutions without participation in economies. Long-term, structural and sustainable solutions to reducing poverty require job creation.
BB: You have just joined Barrick’s Board of Directors. What attracted you to Barrick?
DM: I am excited to be a part of the Barrick board. It is a company that has a fantastic track record of working in the developing world and Africa. I have consciously made a decision to work with global companies that do business in Africa. And the fact that the Equinox acquisition gives the company a presence in Zambia, my home country, is certainly a positive. Barrick’s scope is truly international. My colleagues on the board represent every region of the world and bring an enormous breadth of experience.
BB: How do you see your new role?
DM: My role is primarily to support management in the execution of their duties and that includes generating shareholder value, but at the same time, doing it in a sustainable way. In addition to full board responsibilities, I am also on the Environmental, Health and Safety committee of the Board.
A big part of the mandate of this committee is to look beyond shareholder matters and focus on company performance and interactions with other stakeholders, including the communities in which we work, governments we engage with, NGOs and employees.
BB: Do you think that Westerners tend to project their own norms and standards on developing nations and have expectations of how things should work?
DM: The short answer is yes. They do. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is only an issue when Westerners don’t live up to their own standards. As a girl growing up in Zambia, we looked up to the West, to how they observed human rights, including women’s rights. But as I have travelled abroad, I have seen how some Western governments interact with governments that are corrupt, that are not defenders of human rights. My message is: don’t preach, lead by example. Western value systems should mesh with actions.
BB: How can global companies limit harmful impacts in developing countries, even if unintentional?
DM: It is in the best interests of business to do the right thing. There will always be challenges, whether related to cultural differences or security and human rights. These are the unintended consequences of doing business. The key is to focus on relationships; to avoid an “us versus them” mentality. And when issues arise, which they inevitably will, the company is already embedded in the culture and not seen as outsiders.
BB: Last year, Barrick spent $42 million on community programs with governments, NGOs and development organizations. These programs address challenges like child and maternal health in Peru, access to water in Tanzania and other quality-of-life concerns. Is this kind of private-public sector model the way forward?
DM: Absolutely. It is essential. Governments and NGOs need to understand that for-profit businesses aren’t there to do harm. They are there to conduct business and, in the process, help create jobs and improve livelihoods. There is a tendency to think of companies as evil and willing to take advantage of people, whereas in practice many businesses try to do the best that they can. Too often the solution from NGOs is that is ‘company X is doing a bad thing, they should shut it down’. But that kind of short-sighted response causes enormous harm and puts people out of work. The most effective NGOs help business do a better job.
BB: How do you define corporate social responsibility?
DM: I tend to be a bit cautious about tags like CSR and avoid applying simplified or narrow definitions. You know it when you see it. It’s about doing the right thing. We are in the business of creating value for our shareholders and maximizing the opportunities of business in a socially responsible way.
Too often, CSR is something separated from the day-to-day business of operating a company. But it goes to the heart of business and cannot be seen as distinct from it. It means a happy, healthy workforce where people are motivated and productive and contributing to the economy. It is also about ensuring that governments, communities and NGOs and other stakeholders also see benefits. If we cannot do this, then we will fail to generate benefits to our shareholders and we will also fail to sustain our business, whether it’s Chile, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Papua New Guinea or the U.S.
BB: Women are under-represented on the boards of major corporations. Why do you think that is and is it starting to change?
DM: Of course, there has been a history of women being underrepresented in these roles. I see really two reasons. Historically, boards have been an outgrowth of networks and women have traditionally not been a part of those networks. The more attuned women are to this, the more they become a part of those networks, the more women we will see on boards. The second reason is due to self-selection, because women traditionally have had to bear many of the family responsibilities. But many companies are becoming more accommodating in this area. I genuinely feel that qualified women who raise their hands will get noticed.
BB: Gender violence is a global problem that the company is confronting in developing regions. What can we do to alleviate the vulnerability of women, particularly in regions where resources for law enforcement are more limited?
DM: This is a very difficult thing for me to hear, but I think business has a huge role to play. As a global company, we need to create an environment where women, even if not directly working for Barrick, can raise the alarm when violence occurs. We have a clear human rights policy at Barrick. We really need to get the message out that if women, even men or children, experience this kind of abuse, we will do something about it. We should be absolutely clear that human rights abuses will not be tolerated. Longer term, the more job opportunities available to women, the less vulnerable they will be to violence. UN Special Representative John Ruggie talks about how companies can play a more important role than even governments. We have a lot of scope to do something about these problems.
BB: In 2009 TIME magazine named you as one of the world’s most influential people. You’ve been ranked among the likes of Hillary Clinton and Christine Lagarde, the new chief of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). You must feel a great responsibility for this kind of influence.
DM: Yes, it is a huge responsibility. I was incredibly honored to be included on that list, amongst leading women and men in business and the political sphere. I feel most responsible for women and strive to be worthy of this recognition. Being a part of business is a critical area where women haven’t traditionally had prominent roles. We can hopefully send a signal to young women that it is possible to have influence and contribute to the global dialogue.
BB: Where do you hope to see Africa 10 years from now?
DM: I hope we can change how Africa is discussed and how Africans are viewed. It would be great for Africans to be considered equal partners on the global stage. This really requires changing the perception of Africa. This needs to happen to bring about change on the African continent. If you look at India or China, those countries have more people living in poverty, but no one feels pity for them. Of course, Africans also have a responsibility and cannot play the victim.
Everyone at Barrick should feel proud that we have an opportunity to change the perception of Africa and improve its economy. Whether it’s talking to peers or at a cocktail party, we can say we are making major investments in Africa and helping to unlock the potential of these economies by doing business.
There’s been too much focus on the negative. It’s time to change the narrative about Africa. We can make that shift.