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    CSR: A Must for Big Firms in Africa

     

     
     
    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2007,
    Interview with Ann Pickard, Shell Exploration and Production Africa

    © Shell Nigeria Ann Pickard with Shell employee in Nigeria.

    Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a prerequisite to do business in Africa. Shell's African Vice President explains.

    Shell's operations in Nigeria have not been without controversy. Its CSR policies, revised in 2003, are starting to bear fruit, says Ann Pickard.

    Q:How does Shell approach pro-community investment in Africa?

    A: We believe that community benefits start with revenue-generation: employment and staff development that is created through profitable investment. Nigeria, which is the most important country for us in Africa, represents a place where we can make these investments.

    At the same time, we are guests in any country. We also have long-term relations with the communities where we operate. We can see what needs to be done, and what we might be able to do to improve conditions locally.

    Q: What does that mean in practice?

    A: For a start, our Country Chairperson and the majority of directors are Nigerian. We are, I think, the only international oil company in Nigeria that staffs so many high-level posts in the country with Nigerian nationals.

    The Shell Intensive Training Programme helps prepare newly qualified Nigerian graduates and technicians for employment.

    Shell Nigeria also offers a number of development opportunities for its staff, within and outside the country. We ensure career growth through job rotation, coaching and mentoring, cross-postings and job exchange programmes. According to our latest figures, 160 Nigerian staff are on cross-posting assignments of longer than one year and another 40 are on short-term assignments in other Shell companies around the world.

    Q: And in terms of community development?

    A: Shell's revitalized Sustainable Community Development programme was developed in 2003. Its primary focus is on economic empowerment, human capital development, healthy living and basic services. The programme places greater emphasis than before on working through strategic partnerships with the Nigerian Government, local and international development organizations, local communities and other stakeholders.

    We hope our contribution will help local communities to take the lead on issues for their own development. In this way, they can accelerate development and employment-generating opportunities in the communities where we operate, and thus reduce poverty. A team of community relations and development officers provides interface support on major projects.

    We work with local communities and through the Niger Delta Development Council, with the United Nations Development Programme on malarial control, as well as with local authorities through Memorandums of Understanding designed to ensure that there is coherence to the various projects we fund. One programme I particularly support is the fund we have started to help people set up small and medium-sized enterprises with micro-credit. These are targeted particularly at women and youth groups. Some 40 projects in 2006 created 3,200 full-time and 1,500 part-time jobs. They included fish-farming, transportation and livestock projects.

    Interview by Peter Hulm.