NEW YORK-Having earlier pledged to increase its focus on the continent of Africa, IBM announced that it will double the number of emerging leaders it sends on pro-bono assignments to Africa during the next three years.
At its THINK Forum here, known as THINK: A Forum on the Future of Leadership, IBM said as part of the company’s Corporate Service Corps (CSC) program, aimed at developing IBM leaders and providing skilled assistance to local governments and non-government organizations in emerging markets, IBM will send about 600 employees to Africa through 2015. The THINK Forum is an IBM conference to mark the company’s Centennial that convenes more than 700 emerging leaders from government, business, academia and science from around the globe, and examines how models of leadership in business, technology and society must evolve to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
In a meeting with the press on the news, Stanley Litow, IBM vice president of Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs and president of the IBM Foundation, said IBM has sent more than 1,200 IBMers through the CSC program and about 300 have gone to Africa. But IBM will double that to 600 over the next three to four years as the company reinforces its commitment to doing business in Africa, he said.
“The world is discovering Africa’s potential, and IBM is uniquely poised to help the region meet its growing demands. IBM’s Corporate Service Corps program helps lay the groundwork with communities by strengthening relationships with government officials and local partners, while providing IBM employees with a unique leadership development experience,” said Bruno Di Leo, general manager of IBM’s Growth Markets Unit, in a statement. “As IBM targets more growth and emerging markets, leadership programs such as the Corporate Service Corps are vital to help train our employees on growth market environments and development opportunities.”
As part of IBM’s Africa commitment, a team from IBM will work on a global health project, the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative, which is aimed at reducing cervical cancer deaths in Africa and Latin America, IBM said. The Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative is a cause championed by the George W. Bush Institute and its partners – the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and UNAIDS, IBM said. The IBM team will create a business plan for the technology that enables the participating organizations to achieve shared objectives such as treating and preventing cervical cancer and raising breast cancer awareness.
Litow said the increased CSC efforts in Africa will give IBM “an expanded understanding about the big geographies in Africa.” Moreover, “This model is the leadership development model for the 21st century” at IBM he said. “This gives IBM a way to understand Africa like no other company can.”
IBM has installed Mark Dean, an African-American engineer, IBM Fellow and company vice president, to oversee the company’s push into Africa as the chief technology officer for IBM Middle East and Africa. Dean, who holds more than 20 patents – some of which are for the IBM PC – is based in Dubai.
Do Well by Doing Good’
Litow said the Corporate Service Corps program provides local communities with the services and expertise of IBM’s top talent. It cultivates future IBM leaders from all parts of the globe to offer pro-bono business and IT consulting in growth markets. Since the launch of the CSC in 2008, nearly 1,400 IBM employees have been dispatched on more than 120 team assignments in 24 countries, including Brazil, Cambodia, Chile, China, Ghana, India, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Nigeria, Poland, Morocco, Tanzania and Vietnam. Competition to participate in the program is steep. Litow said between 8,000 and 9,000 applicants vie for spots in the CSC but IBM only takes about 500 per year.
IBM currently has two Corporate Service Corps teams on the ground in Morogoro, Tanzania, working with the country’s postal system, and a team in Limpopo, South Africa, assisting in the development of an education strategy in conjunction with the Limpopo Department of Education. Other IBM Corporate Service Corps teams are due to arrive in Ghana and Kenya in October.
“Expanding the Corporate Service Corps will differentiate IBM by providing us with a next generation of skilled leaders while helping nations around the world solve their most pressing problems,” Litow said in a statement. “This is a model that increasingly our clients will be emulating. Given that IBM anticipates 30 percent of its geographic revenue will be tied to emerging markets by 2015, the Corporate Service Corps allows IBM to do well by doing good — especially in Africa.”
Litow added that IBM enterprise customers such as FedEx, John Deere and Dow Chemical have instituted programs similar to IBM’s CSC program.
In addition, taking notice of IBM’s success, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently announced it is working with IBM to increase U.S.-based international corporate volunteerism, which Washington, DC-based CDC Development Solutions (CDS) estimates has risen from just 280 employees dispatched in 2006 to 2,000 employee volunteers in 58 nations this year. Now IBM, USAID and CDS are providing corporations of all sizes with strategies needed to make their own international volunteerism projects more effective.
Also, a new survey shows that the Corporate Service Corps is helping IBM employees develop leadership and problem-solving skills. Nine of every 10 participants in the program said their international corporate service experience provided them with an excellent leadership opportunity, while helping them better understand IBM’s role in the developing world, increasing their cultural awareness, and making them more effective at their jobs. And Litow said eight out of 10 said the program increased the likelihood of them continuing their careers with IBM.
IBM officials said Corporate Service Corps projects reinforce the transformation of Africa, which is building out its technology infrastructure, civic and social institutions in light of a growing middle class. In Nigeria’s Cross River province, IBM teams developed programs to provide free health care to mothers and young children, as well as one that provides financial assistance to disadvantaged households to spur entrepreneurialism, Di Leo said.
In Ghana, IBM teams have worked on projects to narrow the digital divide between rural and urban areas. In Kenya, IBM employees have provided advice to improve the country’s ability to develop and retain top technology talent; modernize the national postal service; and establish a framework for e-government services for citizens, including electronic voting. In Tanzania, IBMers helped the country develop an eco-tourism industry and adopt technology in its universities.