In Malawi, Catholic leaders aim to help corporations be responsible

In Malawi, Catholic leaders aim to help corporations be responsible

Part of the Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine in southern Africa, October 2007. Credit: Peter Waggit/IAEA via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).
Part of the Langer Heinrich Uranium Mine in southern Africa, October 2007. Credit: Peter Waggit/IAEA via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

.- Amid Malawi’s booming industry in mineral extraction, the country’s Catholic bishops and NGO partners hope corporations will help the wider community benefit.

“The role of uplifting poor masses is beyond government alone,” Martin Chiphwanya, an official with the the Malawi bishops' conference, told a workshop for civil society organizations in Lilongwe, the nation's capital.

He said civil society organizations have a role to engage business firms, “especially those whose activities impact on the environment such as mining firms”, so that they will view corporate social responsibility “as an important component of maintaining good rapport in communities.”

“It is important that companies should attend to the interests and issues of the wider community by taking into account issues of corporate social responsibility,” added Chiphwanya, who is acting director of the Malawi bishops’ Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace.

Mineral products, primarily uranium and thorium ore, and precious metals account for 2.8 percent of the value of Malawi's exports, or $41.9 million.

Daniel Kamanga, who facilitated the workshop, said that at present there are no legal provisions or policy regulating companies’ corporate social responsibility activities in Malawi. This means these activities are rarely done in consultation with the communities and some activities do not reflect the needs of the people.

There is no “community ownership” of these development activities, and corporate investors appear to be more into marketing activities and media coverage.

Another Catholic justice and peace commission official, Success Joel Sikwese, said civil society organizations are now demanding more action from government to incorporate corporate social responsibility into anticipated legislation.

The workshop was organized by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace as part of the Tonse Tipindule mining governance project, which is funded by national and international Christian and Muslim groups.

Tags: Catholic News, Catholic Social Teaching, Business ethics, Malawi