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Live from the SDG Media Zone: A Discussion with Arancha González

Updated: Nov 7, 2018

Businesses are a force for good. +SocialGood Leader and Managing Partner, Mission & Co, Shariha Khalid Erichsen interviewed Arancha González, Executive Director, International Trade Centre about the role of micro, small and medium enterprises in eradicating poverty in this world.

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Shariha Khalid: Good morning. I’m here at the SDG Media Zone and we have an opportunity to speak to Arancha González, Executive Director, International Trade Centre. I would love to hear about the work that the ITC is doing to bring in innovations and working with entrepreneurs to deliver the SDGs.

Arancha González: The economy of this century is a digital economy. However, we need to make sure that we do not repeat in this digital economy the gap that we had in the economy of the 20th century, in the analog. So in the International Trade Centre, we’re working with entrepreneurs to make sure they become more competitive by embedding technology into their companies.

We are also helping tech entrepreneurs and young start-ups in Afghanistan, Libya, Rwanda, Uganda, Senegal, and Kenya to connect to the national markets. They are connecting through technology to customers, and through that, becoming successful entrepreneurs. This is the name of the game. These young entrepreneurs are eager to build up businesses. This is the area where the International Trade Centre is focusing in so far.

Shariha: I heard some great examples that you shared yesterday during the Tech 2030 event and I’m a total believer in the power of innovation and entrepreneurship to really drive the agenda. But if you look at businesses as a whole, what do you think is the potential for business is to drive SDG outcomes locally when they’re operating around the world? Because you know, innovators and entrepreneurs, they come from a different space. They’re always trying to disrupt, they’re always trying to do something new. But ultimately we’ve got the millions of businesses around the world who may not yet be aware about their own potential to deliver on the SDGs.

Arancha: Well, the SDGs are about people, planet, and prosperity. And prosperity is our economy. And our economy is entrepreneurs. And entrepreneurs are 98 or 99% part of micro, small, and medium enterprises. Contrary to what people think, they are not big companies.

The majority of businesses worldwide, the overwhelming majority, are micro, small, and medium enterprises. What we need to do is make sure that the SDGs are also SMEs SDGs. That they feel they belong into the Sustainable Development Goals. That they also have a goal in eradicating extreme poverty and lifting all boats by 2030, which is what the SDGs are about. That’s the message we are sending. And you know, when they look at these Sustainable Development Goals and they see things like decent work, fostering innovation, gender equality, and young entrepreneurship, they feel they have a space in the SDGs. So we need to anchor these SDGs also within the ecosystem of businesses around the world that are small and medium enterprises.

Shariha: That’s really fantastic. And yes, absolutely. If 98% of all businesses in the world are SMEs, we really have a lot of the population of the world there in these sectors that are the ones creating the jobs. What can we do, or what’s our message to inspire these businesses to take action and feel involved?

Arancha: I think the message is a very simple one. You can do businesses and do good at the same time. You don’t have to choose. You can be a great entrepreneur, but while being a great entrepreneur, you can be doing a lot of good on the ground. If you employ, employ decently. If you produce, produce sustainably. If you invest, invest with long-term thinking rather than a short-term profit-maximizing approach. If you do that, you will be helping every country in this planet eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. And you will still be making good money.

Shariha: Thank you so much, Arancha, for that really great message and for joining us here at the SDG Media Zone.

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