Last week, Ethiopia hosted the 2nd regional African Forum on Business and Human Rights. This year’s Forum focused on local perspectives and solutions to implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), including in the context of operationalising the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Participants included a range of stakeholders including business enterprises and associations, governments, civil society, Indigenous Peoples groups, labour organisations, international and regional organizations and national human rights institutions. Dialogue touched on critical issues including the intersection between environmental and social impacts and the importance of developing and implementing business and human rights (BHR) frameworks that are appropriate for Africa.
In this post, we distil several considerations for businesses operating in Africa:
- Stakeholders are committed to establishing BHR frameworks tailored to Africa
An underlying theme of the Forum — “For Africa, From Africa” — was the implementation of the UNGPs through African perspectives. Participants discussed the extra-territorial reach of the EU’s proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), through which the EU seeks to play a critical role in global standard setting on human rights due diligence. There was a clear recognition that the CSDDD and a plethora of other EU ESG laws are likely to apply directly or indirectly to businesses and significantly impact many businesses in the region. The EU is currently piloting projects in several African states to develop frameworks to assist states and businesses in preparing for CSDDD implementation and mitigate the risk of the law negatively impacting value chains. Despite this, there was some criticism regarding a perceived limited engagement with stakeholders in the Global South in the CSDDD drafting process and the potential risks and implications that could flow from that, including for example, a concern that costs of meeting due diligence standards could ultimately be pushed down to small-holding farmers and SMEs within the value chain.