December 17, 2023
Breakfast Briefing on “Digital Enablement to accelerate the SDGs: Private Sector’s Role” & AGM

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The British Egyptian Business Association (BEBA) organised a panel discussion on “Digital Enablement to accelerate the SDG’s: Private Sector’s Role, this event was in cooperation with Vodafone on the occasion of launching their digital sustainability report.

The panel included the following speakers, H.E. Gareth Bayley, British Ambassador to Egypt, Mohamed Abdallah, CEO, Vodafone Egypt, Nada El Agizy, Director of Sustainable Development & International Cooperation Department, League of Arab States, Maged Ezzeldin, Country Senior Partner & Deals Leader, PwC and Rawhi Afaghani, Deputy Resident Representative, UNDP; the session was moderated by Ayman Essam, External Affairs and Legal Director, Vodafone Egypt.

Ayman Essam introduced the panelists and started by highlighting the importance of the private sector   to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and make the world a better place.  Vodafone Egypt,  is the first telecommunications company to issue a digital sustainability report in Egypt, as part of its commitment to raising awareness both within and outside the company. The report focuses on the company’s sustainability impact and how it addresses the economic, social, and environmental effects of its operations responsibly and sustainably. The opening statement set the stage for a comprehensive dialogue on the role of various stakeholders, particularly the private sector, in driving positive change and addressing global challenges.

Vodafone Egypt’s CEO, Mohamed Abdallah, started by sharing insights into the company’s 25-year journey as a key player in Egypt’s digital transformation and telecommunications infrastructure. Serving approximately 47 million customers, nearly half of Egypt’s population, Vodafone aims to improve lives through platforms such as Vodafone Learning and V-hub. Abdallah outlined Vodafone Egypt’s sustainability strategy, focusing on three pillars: Digital Society, Inclusion for All, and Responsibility towards Our Planet.

One of Vodafone’s notable sustainability initiatives is its commitment to being 100% recycled, utilizing green energy, and striving for net-zero emissions by 2030. Abdallah emphasized Vodafone’s dedication to leaving no one behind, particularly by investing in rural areas and fostering an inclusive environment for employees. The CEO expressed pride in Vodafone’s role in connecting people during both celebratory and tragic moments, highlighting the company’s significance in various aspects of Egyptian life. 

In terms of sustainability, Vodafone Egypt prioritizes its Responsibility towards Society and the Planet. The company actively works to minimize its environmental impact by limiting harmful carbon emissions within scopes 1 and 2. Moreover, Vodafone ensures that 100% of its network waste undergoes recycling, demonstrating a commitment to sustainable and responsible business practices.

His Excellency Gareth Bayley, British Ambassador to Egypt commended Vodafone Egypt’s recent sustainability report, underscoring the importance of sustainability in the private sector. Ambassador Bayley touched on tragic events in Gaza, expressing the UK’s understanding of the situation and advocating for a sustainable ceasefire. He provided an optimistic perspective on Egypt’s policy trajectory, mentioning discussions about IMF deliberations, third-party liquidity injections, foreign exchange movements, and structural reform.

The UK, as the largest foreign direct investor in Egypt, affirmed its continued investment and support, especially during challenging times. Ambassador Bayley emphasized the intertwined nature of commercial and regulatory aspects in sustainability efforts. He highlighted the upcoming UK Africa investment summit as a crucial moment for African countries to showcase their new trajectories and attract investment.

Nada El Agizy, Director of Sustainable Development & International Cooperation department at the League of Arab States, delved into the broader context of private sector engagement in sustainability, emphasizing the significance of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She stressed the importance of SDG 17, focusing on partnership, and noted that achieving these goals requires collaboration with the private sector. Nada commended Vodafone for its sustainability report, viewing it as a crucial step in fostering trust through transparency.

She underscored the need for more companies to produce Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reports, as this builds trust and facilitates knowledge sharing. Nada acknowledged the challenges companies face in drafting such reports and suggested the need for sustainability degrees in universities to address capacity-building gaps. She emphasized that sustainable development cannot be achieved without the active engagement of various stakeholders, including youth, civil society organizations, and parliamentarians.

The Deputy Resident representative at UNDP, Rawahi Afghani, emphasized the critical importance of the “leave no one behind” principle, particularly in the context of digital transformation. He highlighted that digitalization is a key enabler for reaching vulnerable communities and ensuring inclusivity in government services. Rawahi discussed various ways in which the private sector can contribute to governmental efforts, including financial support for digital infrastructure and the concept of blended finance to share risks.

Rawahi underscored the significance of public-private partnerships, stressing that digitalization plays a central role in fostering collaboration between regulators, policymakers, and service providers. He emphasized the need for conducive policies and regulations to encourage private sector involvement, posing a question about the incentives for the private sector to contribute to digitalization efforts. He acknowledged the role of governments in providing incentives such as tax breaks and emphasized the importance of a two-way street where both governments and the private sector actively contribute to and benefit from digitalization initiatives. Rawahi cited Egypt as a positive example in this regard and highlighted the UNDP’s collaboration with the country on SDGs, recognizing the need for similar efforts in other regions lacking such support.

Maged Ezzeldin, Country Senior Partner & Deals Leader, PWC, in response to the question about transcending trends in sustainability reporting, highlighted the evolution from social responsibility to sustainability in the private sector. He emphasized the shift from merely advertising goodwill to a comprehensive approach involving global reporting standards, such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), and other international frameworks.

He discussed the increasing importance of sustainability reporting, especially in light of the global push towards achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. Maged mentioned the significance of unified standards for reporting, and the challenges associated with aligning diverse reporting requirements. He noted the pivotal role of regulators in pushing for sustainability reporting, citing examples from Egypt, where regulations mandate reporting on climate-related financial institutions.

Maged touched upon the integration of financial and non-financial statements in sustainability reporting, pointing out the growing trend of appointing Chief Sustainability Officers at the C-Suite level. He emphasized that sustainability initiatives can yield a positive return on investment, citing benefits such as improved stakeholder perception, access to capital, and the availability of green bonds.

In response to the mention of renewable energy initiatives, Maged praised efforts to bring certified green energy into networks, contributing to a more sustainable future. He also commended Egypt’s potential in renewable energy, especially with its geographical advantage and proximity to Europe. Maged suggested that Egypt’s renewable energy could address not only domestic needs but also become an exportable resource, potentially resolving economic challenges.

In conclusion, Maged emphasized the importance of sustainability in the business world, debunking the misconception that it negatively impacts the bottom line. He highlighted various benefits, including access to capital, risk mitigation, operational efficiency, and governmental support for responsible business practices.

The session was then followed by Q&A from the floor. One of the questions that was raised was about the challenges in telecommunication infrastructure in Africa and Arab regions. They inquired about Vodafone’s vision and future forecasts for more
efficient telecommunication infrastructure to enable digitization.

Mohamed Abdallah, CEO, Vodafone Egypt, addressed the question, acknowledging challenges in Egypt’s telecommunication infrastructure. He highlighted efforts in acquiring additional spectrum and investing in fiber infrastructure. While progress has been made, he emphasized the need for continuous digitization initiatives and collaboration with regulators to enhance the ecosystem.

Another question that was raised was when the ecosystem would see training for carbon credits and renewable energy credits and what are the milestones and plans to be on track for achieving SDGs, considering the global crises.

Rawahi addressed the question about carbon and renewable energy credits, emphasizing the need for a localized approach based on each country’s context. He highlighted the potential of renewables, particularly solar energy, and suggested pushing for advancements in technology to address specific challenges like water scarcity. Regarding SDG milestones, he stressed the importance of pushing on multiple fronts and leveraging renewable solutions to address localized issues.

In summary, the panel covered Vodafone Egypt’s achievements, sustainability efforts, global events, private sector engagement, and the importance of collaboration for SDGs. The Q&A session explored challenges in telecommunication infrastructure, the role of carbon credits, and strategies for achieving SDG milestones. The comprehensive discussion showcased the intersection of private sector initiatives, governmental support, and global cooperation in fostering sustainable development and digital transformation.

Strategic Partner: Vodafone
𝘌𝘷𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘗𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘴: Banque du Caire, CIB Egypt, GSK, Suez Canal Bank, New Era Education, Tatweer Misr
𝘚𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘨𝘪𝘤 𝘔𝘦𝘥𝘪𝘢 𝘗𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘯𝘦𝘳 : Exlnt Communication

Beverage Sponsor :  Coca-Cola HBC


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