Adding Value in Developing Countries

Guest blog by Kathryn Beaven, DP World

It’s widely accepted that businesses can and should play a positive role in the communities where they operate. How it happens can change depending on the location and the business sector but the desire to be a good corporate citizen remains.

But what does that mean? As a major global trade enabler with over 36,000 employees across six continents, DP World is committed to building a vibrant, secure and resilient society wherever we are. We know that every country is different, from their regulations and laws, to their culture and the needs of people. Yet while different approaches are taken, sustainability remains at the heart of everything we do.

One example of how we do it is our work in Somaliland. We recently announced a 30-year agreement to develop a multi-purpose project at a natural deep-water port in Berbera, on the country’s northwestern coast. The country has a complex cultural and political history, affected by ongoing civil war, poverty and high levels of unemployment. Its poverty rate is 73% and only one in three people have access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

So we need to tailor our efforts there accordingly. Our investment of up to $442 million in the region will include modernisation of the port and the development of a free zone to create a new regional trading hub, with the aim of attracting more shipping lines to East Africa.

Our presence in Somaliland will also mean jobs. We have over 700 permanent employees there with a source of income for families and dependents. But we are also ensuring we provide career opportunities, and the skills to work in a modern industry. 

Outside of our day-to-day business, we are giving back to the community and addressing some of its issues. Somaliland has suffered a major drought for the last three years, leaving more than 500,000 people in need of aid and over half the country’s livestock dead.

So we’ve rolled up our sleeves, and already delivered 4.5 million litres of water to 15,000 local families. More recently, we’ve pledged a USD $2 million donation to ensure a long-term, sustainable solution to water availability and improved healthcare in Berbera. It will involve drilling four water wells in Berbera and another three in the Sahil region. In addition, we are supporting improvements to Berbera’s General Hospital and the region’s Mental Hospital. Elsewhere, we have provided food baskets for 2,000 families during Ramadan, reaching around 12,000 people.

If we are to ensure sustainable impact, we must be part of the communities we operate in. That means engaging with other stakeholders in the community. In Somaliland, we visited a wide range of people and organisations, including 12 local schools, the Maritime Academy, Berbera Hospital, and local authorities such as the Berbera Governor. Through ongoing dialogue, we are forging these important relationships.

Developing operations in locations like Somaliland is a long-term process, and we’ll adapt to change over time. While we have a global sustainability programme, it’s only through local action that we will create a sustainable impact for the benefit of local people and for their children in years to come.

Kathryn Beaven is Director of Global Sustainability, DP World