THE CSR OF MTN-CAMEROON IN DOUALA 1 MUNICIPALITY: POLICY AND PRACTICES
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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a contemporary concept in the business world that has captured worldwide attention and requires a new resonance (echo) in the world economy. The main objective of the study is to examine the extent to which MTN-Cameroon applies CSR policy in Douala 1 Municipality in line with the universally prescribed guiding principles of CSR. To achieve the objective, in-depth interviews using interview guides, observation, conversation, and documents including audio and audio-visual materials were used to gather data. The sample size for this study constituted 20 key informants selected from a target population of 89 made up of governmental and local community stakeholders. The research approach was purely qualitative. Data analysis was done following content analysis procedures (Audio recording of interviews, transcription of each interview into Microsoft Word, transfer of transcripts into Microsoft Excel 2016, a combination of all transcripts into a single sheet, coding and identification of themes and, analysis and integration into Thesis. Findings reveal that to an extent, MTN-Cameroon has a CSR Policy in the domains of education, health and culture in Douala; and to a certain degree; community stakeholders are involved at the initial state when the project is introduced in the community. However, MTM-Cameroon has to invest more in its social responsibilities to be able to meet its set objectives of CSR. Also, findings reveal that the corporation does not yet see the need for the participation of the local people during the policy implementation process. As such the participation of the local people is lacking. The study, however, does not rule out the social responsibility of this corporation but forwards some recommendations for MTN-Cameroon. MTN-Cameroon should evaluate its CSR accomplishments within short intervals so that it will be able to strike a balance between its stated objectives. The corporation should give room for the involvement of the local people during the implementation process. MTN-Cameroon should augment the 1% percentage allocated for socially responsible initiatives.
Recent decades (1990s to present) have increasingly witnessed a great number of informed citizens critically analyzing the impacts of business activities on society (Sen, 2011). This has brought changes in social expectations and an emphasis on inclusive growth, social equity and affirmative action. Firms have been increasingly called upon to adopt strategies beyond the financial aspects of their operations and consider the social and environmental impact of their business activities. As a result, businesses are under increasing pressure to engage in activities which are described as CSR (Sen, 2011).
The CSR debate has also gained importance on the policy agenda, with pivotal global institutions such as the United Nations Organization (UNO), the World Bank and the European Union (EU), as well as business associations such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), donor agencies, civil society organizations (CSOs) and, not least, nation states throughout the world increasingly engaging in the debate on the role of business in society (Azizi, 2017). Although different companies are expected to have and define clearly their CSR policies and objectives of their policies, implementation and practice of these policies are also expected to be in line with the universally prescribed principles of CSR (UNGC Progress Report, 2017). In this context, many companies have modified their policies and activities and engaged into CSR (Iatridis, 2011). Company’s responsibilities and trustworthiness in the eyes of customers and the population is now being used as a parameter to position the companies against its competitors (Ezana, 2014). Thus top level managers are paying due attention to their activities, actions and respective impacts towards the environment and the society. Being a strategic issue, a firm’s social policies require active involvement of the entire company, top management in particular (Varadarajan and Menon (1988) cited in the work of Esana, 2014).
Increasingly, there is awareness on the relevance of CSR to both companies and society (Sen, 2011). Hence the number of informed citizens in recent decades critically analyzing the impacts of companies in their immediate environment is in the increase. Despite this awareness, there are considerable discrepancies between corporate rhetoric and practice (Iatridis, 2011). This contradictory evidence leaves company policies and practices on CSR not really implemented. On the one hand, firms increasingly seek to realign their business practices to meet CSR expectations existing in the society. On the other hand, the sincerity and effectiveness of these actions often raise qualms as firms are frequently accused of using CSR as public relations ploy (Iatridis, 2011). Furthermore, businesses’ engagement in CSR to tackle social and environmental challenges throughout the world, and particularly in developing countries, still remains inconclusive. While an increasing number of studies on the characteristics, drivers and relations between CSR and social development have emerged in CSR literature, the diverse contextual settings in the developing world still remain unstudied, which calls for further studies (Azizi, 2017). There is therefore, the need to study corporate policies, implementation process (of corporate policies of particular companies) and involvement of local communities where they operate in both developed and developing countries. It should be noted that CSR is not an abstract concept. CSR is driven by the following actors: International Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, the States (Government), Business Corporations and local communities.
In the late 1880s at the introduction stage of industrialization, it was broadly debated upon, whether companies should take up social responsibilities (Carlsson and Akerstom, 2008). Advocates of socially responsible companies wanted to introduce some form of social business ethics with the aim of getting companies to assume social responsibilities; on the other hand, critics argued that companies should not be forced either by law or moral conventions (Carlsson and Akerstom, 2008).
CSR has been popular in North America for many years (Matten and Moon, 2008). Most recently, the concept has spread to Europe and has become trendy for companies to engage in CSR (Jenkins, 2005). Following the inception of the concept of CSR in the United States by Berle and Means (1932) and its later development by Bowen (1953), CSR was seen as a tool to control the misuse of corporate power in bigger organizations and to redirect them to produce social goods. But this has been abused by company misconduct and financial scandals which have created a business environment of uncertainty and distrust in the market and among stakeholders (Härkönen, 2017). Currently, it is imperative that businesses need to manage their relationship with society and surrounding environment so as to achieve and meet its core business objective which is profit maximization.
If there is a rapid CSR growth in Europe and USA, CSR practices are new in Sub-Saharan Africa. Only a few subsidiaries of multinationals (Bolloré group in Côte d’Ivoire, Total in Nigeria, Anglo-American in South Africa and Areva in Niger, Orange Cameroun and MTN-Cameroon) try to internalize this “social technology” in their activities; even though on the ground, the reality is sometime different (Boidin and Djeflat, 2009). But it should be however noted that some CSR practices remain ambiguous sometimes. Renouard (2008) identifies some ambiguities which limit the impact of CSR actions. The first ambiguity is to make sustainable development exclusively a communication concept, as evidenced by the organization of some companies where the same director handles both the communication and sustainable development components. The second ambiguity concerns the gap between the statement of firms and the opportunities or willingness to implement appropriate programs. The third problem is the fragmentation of topics: in some multinational companies, environmental issues are raised on one hand, and the measures relating to health, governance, and other societal activities on the other (Renouard, 2008 cited in the work of Boidin and Djeflat, (2009). In some cases, the social commitment of multinationals in Africa seems to be “the tree that hides the forest”. (Boidin and Djeflat, 2009). To these two authors, CSR practices in Africa would be more of an advertising tool in order to appear in line with the aspirations of the community rather than a tool to promote key issues such as compliance with environmental standards, the fight against poverty, compliance with labor laws and inclusive social dialogue. Specifically, CSR is more responsive to the logic of sharing and distribution of rent, rather than a desire to correct developmental trajectories (BoidinDjeflat, 2009). According to Esana, (2014), the actual practice of CSR in the developing world is not a wide spread phenomenon. Even though most of CSR issues are included in the various laws and policies of the country their implementation is inevitably lagging behind. (Esana, 2014). One can observe that Cameroon is plagued by many developmental challenges. Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon is one of the cities in Cameroon experiencing developmental setbacks compared to other cities in Sub-Saharan Africa. (United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, 2018)
According to the New Zealand Ministry for Environment, successful towns and cities are competitive, thriving, creative and innovative; livable and environmentally responsible. But this is not the case of Douala compared to cities like Johannesburg and Cape Town (South Africa), Tunis (Tunisia), Nairobi (Kenya), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Kumasi (Ghana), Kigali (Rwanda) among others ( Ojo, 2014). However, most large businesses in Cameroon such as Nestlé, CAM IRON, ALUCAM, MTN, Diageo, Rodeo, Perenco and Orange Cameroon have undertaken discretionary measures to improve the living conditions of local populations (Rampersad and Skinner, 2014). In addition, ten companies have been identified in Cameroon as being socially responsible. Among these are: ENEO which is the hydro-electrical company in Cameroon, Guinness Cameroon S.A (GCSA) a brewing Company, Les Sociétés Anonymes des Brasseries du Cameroun (SABC OR BC) another brewing company, ORANGE Cameroon which is Telecommunication Company, and MTN-Cameroon which is another telecommunication corporation (Tita and Tanjong 2017). These two authors in their research further found out that MTN ranks third among the ten leading socially responsible companies in Cameroon. Increasingly, the employees, consumers and the local communities are expecting a lot from businesses operating in the country and local areas. Nevertheless, Rampersad and Skinner, (2014) argue that, although there are instances of community focused good practice being taken forward by companies, as it stands, exemplarity appears to be lacking.
MTN (Mobile Telephone Network) is a South African Company established in Cameroon in the year 2000 with its headquarter in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon. MTN, a provider of communication services offering cellular network access and business solutions became operational in Cameroon in that same year and since then, this telecommunication network has gone viral in all the ten regions in Cameroon with their regional offices located in the capital cities and towns of the different regions in Cameroon. Since its arrival in Cameroon in February 2000, MTN has significantly increased its market share and remains a major force in the Cameroonian telecommunications sector (Chinje, 2015).The MTN group is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange under the Industrial Telecommunications-Mobile telecommunications sector (Chinje, 2015). According to an official financial statement published by MTN Group revenues generated by MTN-Cameroon on the segment, data and digital services increased by 15%. The statement revealed that out of the subsidiary’s 7.1 million subscribers, a little more than 4.4 million are internal users; 3.5 million of these are active users (MTN Group Report, 2017). In 2016, MTN announced that it has exceeded the symbolic threshold of 10million active subscribers. The last subscriber to round the figure to 10 million connected to MTN network on the 17th June, 2016 in Ndogbong, Douala (MTN Business Report, 2017). Furthermore, MTN Group Report (2017) reveals that MTN has notably equipped the country with a-state-of-the-art and an extended communication network which democratizes access to telephony, contributed towards the development of the remotest areas and improved the competitiveness of businesses. Thus, with the rapid urbanization of Douala, it is essential for socioeconomic transformation, wealth generation, prosperity and development (World Cities Report, 2016) and with its increasing consumption of the variety of MTN’s products, MTN practices and policy of CSR is the focus of our study.
The integration of CSR into business processes has been very uneven around the globe; from an apparently greater commitment to CSR in the advanced Corresponding nations of the west (Europe and North America), to a reluctance to assume such initiatives in most African countries (Molen and Chofor, 2017). Business right from the onset of capitalism has successfully delivered a responsibility to the society for centuries; however, making a profit is generally perceived as a capitalist objective (Idowu, 2012). Hence, Multinational corporations from time immemorial have focused mainly on profit maximization. The quest for profit maximization consequently erodes the friendly relationship existing between the companies and their operating environment or community. At the dawn of the millennium, CSR has gained grounds in both developed and developing countries as many multinational corporations started imbibing the concept in order to create a friendly business environment. Despite the good awareness, intentions, and the CSR approach, CSR is still largely conceived in the context of voluntary or philanthropic responsibility initiative as a result of enlightened entrepreneurship exercised by owners of organizations, with the corresponding responsiveness, processes and outcomes modest at best Jamali and Mirshak, 2006). In addition to that, firms are usually accused of using CSR as Public Relations ploy due to their ineffectiveness and lack of sincerity in CSR practice (Iatridis, 2011).
MTN Cameroon is one of those MNCs which has appropriated the concept of CSR and appears to be the third in terms of CSR practices in Cameroon. According to the MTN Sustainability Report, the framework for CSR initiative focuses on education, health, culture and any other two areas determined by the local priorities (MTN Integrated Business Report, 2006). In the domain of education, MTN constantly shows its commitment to education through its involvement in education initiatives. MTN uses its ICT expertise and resources to improve access to education just as in healthcare, and other domains like business enterprises (MTN Sustainability Report, 2006). Health wise, MTN looks for ways to provide the most vulnerable and needy in society with access to healthcare. The interventions MTN is a part of range from arranging free cataract operations to providing access to basic medical support through mobile clinics. Through its HIV/AIDS initiative, MTN aims to promote dialogue on the subject and those affected by the disease (MTN Sustainability Report, 2006). With regards to Arts and Culture, MTN Foundation’s Art and Culture Portfolio aims to support for MTN schools art awards (MTN Sustainability Report, 2006). Previous research has revealed that areas or communities sheltering large multinationals like MTN, deserve to witness social (education and health), economic (job creation), infrastructure (road construction, pipe-borne water) and technological development (Bilinga, 2015).
Ndzi (2015) argues that most companies in Cameroon do not have written CSR policies; majority of the large companies do not have either CSR policies in place or a team that deals with Corporate Social Responsibility issues. What about the case of MTN-Cameroon? In what way is MTN-Cameroon different from the other multinational Corporations in Cameroon? The researcher is then interested in checking if MTN Cameroon has well-defined CSR policies and if they do; are they fully implementing them.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study is guided by the following research questions:
What is the extent to which MTN-Cameroon is applying CSR in its policies and practices?
What are the policies that have been conceived by MTN Cameroon regarding CS R in the domains of education, health and culture (Art and culture) in Douala 1 municipality from the year 2000 to present?
Secondly, to what extent has MTN been able to implement its corporate policy in education, health and culture in Douala 1 municipality over the years?
Thirdly, to what extent are community members involved in policy implementation process especially in the domain of education health and culture?
1.5 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
This study is guided by general objective and specific objectives.
The main objective of the study is to examine the extent to which MTN-Cameroon applies CSR in its policies and practices.
Firstly, this research sets out to ascertain/identify the policies that have been conceived by MTN Cameroon regarding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the domains of education, health and culture (Art and culture).
Secondly, this study shall assess the extent to which MTN-Cameroon has implemented CSR policies in the domain of education, health and culture.
Lastly, this study is aimed at determine the level of involvement of the local community in policy implementation especially in the domain of education health and culture.
Geographically, this study is limited to Douala 1 municipality in Wouri Division in the Littoral Region of Cameroon. The reason for choosing Douala 1 as the study area is because MTN-Cameroon’s head office is in Douala 1 specifically in Akwa. Therefore, the research seeks to examine the extent to which MTN-Cameroon has impacted the population here through its social responsibility initiative. This study covered a period of one year that is from November 2017 to November 2018. This was fieldwork period during which the researcher lived in Douala to gather data. This study is limited to investigate CSR in MTN Cameroon with a particular focus on the policies put in place and the practices in terms of the implementation and involvement of the community in the process of MTN’s CSR. This study focuses on the dimensions of education, health and culture aspects of CSR.