In a wide-ranging and important speech in Addis Ababa on 2 December 2013, at the Economist’s High-Growth Market Summit, Saudi business leader Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi laid out his vision of what responsible capitalism should mean in an African context.
Praising the Government of Ethiopia for being a leader in creating the conditions for successful private investment, the Mr Al Amoudi emphasised the critical importance of linking business enterprise to the material health and welfare of the African people at large. He noted that his Horizon and Agriceft companies had already created 48,000 permanent and seasonal jobs and provided housing and social services for around 180,000 Ethiopians. Ethiopia, he said, was on the path to becoming “a prosperous, highly educated country that can stand on its own feet as a centre of production and as a regional partner in international trade.”
Referring to his own investment in Unity University, he explained his focus on the issue of human resources, and the critical need to develop educational systems that can supply the managers and technicians that both private and public sectors need to create a vibrant economy and to govern well.
Investment, in his view, should build capacity for the people. He gave examples of his own commitment to investing in agriculture through Saudi Star and his strong commitment to healthcare, not only through manufacturing low cost pharmaceuticals but also through direct philanthropic collaborations with such organizations as the Clinton Foundation and ICASA in the fight against AIDS. The commitment to education must go further, he suggested, giving examples of a mix of strategic investment in training his own workers and managers and of strategic philanthropy in the development of Ethiopia’s first steps in space research.
The theme of his speech was the interplay between the state, private enterprise and philanthropy in a model which could build sustainable growth for Africa, one that was based on traditional values, like the Muslim zakat and the African village community, and that ensured that no one was left behind. He asked foreign investors to build capacity in welfare and education alongside their market-driven projects and closed by saying that “we must all — government and the private sector — work together if we are to reach our goals of a more prosperous Africa where all of its people, from every nation, can achieve their full potential.”