Eminent figures urge global effort to help free kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls
A group of over 40 eminent individuals from around the world are today calling for a global effort to free the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped last month.
In an open letter published today, the high level group of business, civil society and religious leaders, calls on the Nigerian authorities and international community to mobilise all necessary resources and expertise to help locate and free the missing girls.
The letter says: “On April 14, more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted at gunpoint from Chibok community in Borno State, Nigeria. 24 days later, the girls are still missing.
We urge all local, national and regional governments, with the full support of the international community, to dedicate their expertise and resources - from satellite imagery to intelligence services to multinational corporations' supply chains - to #BringBackOurGirls.”
Martti Ahtisaari, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Member of the Elders
Mohamed Azab, Representative of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar
Aïcha Bah Diallo, Chairperson of the Forum of African Women Educationalists
Ela Bhatt, Founder of the Self-Employed Women's Association of India and Member of the Elders
Bono, Co-founder, ONE
Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group and co-Chair of the B Team
Gro Harlem Brundtland, Executive Chair of the UN Foundation and Member of the Elders
Susan A Buffett, Chairman of The Sherwood Foundation, the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation and the Buffett Early Childhood Fund
Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the UN Foundation and B Team Leader
President Fernando H Cardoso, Former President of Brazil and Member of the Elders
Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and Former Prime Minister of New Zealand
Aliko and Halima Dangote, Dangote Group
Bineta Diop, African Union Special Envoy for Women Peace and Security
Andrew Forrest, Founder of the Walk Free Foundation
Bill and Melinda Gates, co-Founders and co-Chairs of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Helene Gayle, President and CEO of CARE USA
Mort Halperin, Senior Advisor to the Open Society Institute and the Open Society Policy Center
Arianna Huffington, Chair, President and Editor-in-Chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, and B Team leader
Mo and Hadeel Ibrahim, Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Abdoulie Janneh, Former Executive-Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
Guilherme Leal, co-Founder of Natura and B Team Leader
Graça Machel, Member of the Elders
Mark Malloch-Brown, Former United Nations Deputy Secretary-General
Strive Masiyiwa, Founder of Econet Wireless and B Team Leader
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women
Amina J Mohamed, United Nations Secretary-General's Special Advisor
Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana, Chairperson of the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa
Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of NewsCorp and Chairman and CEO of 21st Century Fox
Jay Naidoo, Chair of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Finance Minister of Nigeria
Ronald Perelman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc.
François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of Kering and B Team Leader
Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever and B Team Leader
Mary Robinson, Former President of Ireland and Member of the Elders
Salim Ahmed Salim, Former Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity
Toyin Saraki, Founder of the Wellbeing Foundation
Bobby Shriver, Co-founder and Chairman of (PRODUCT) RED and Co-founder of DATA
Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Bishop-Chancellor, Pontifical Academy of Sciences, The Vatican
Ted Turner, Founder and Chairman of the UN Foundation and Founder of CNN
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Honorary Member of the Elders
Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and B Team Leader
President Ernesto Zedillo, Former President of Mexico and Member of the Elders
Jochen Zeitz, Former Chairman and CEO of PUMA and co-Chair of the B Team
Billionaire Kumar Birla Champions Regional Supply Chains
As the head of the Aditya Birla Group, a US$46bn firm that operates in 36 countries, Kumar Mangalam Birla is no stranger to splashy strategic moves. Yet his recent announcement that he no longer wants to acquire globally distributed supply chains stood out. While many companies have struggled to cope with shipping backlogs, his firm has chosen to pivot and focus on regional networks. Said Birla: ‘We wouldn’t look at a company or a business where you source in one corner of the world and sell in another’.
He cited protectionism, the pandemic, and the limited movement of products and people around the world as ABG’s primary causes of lost profits. And they aren’t alone. Over the past year, 900 of the U.S. and Europe’s biggest IT, defence, and financial services firms have lost an average of US$184mn apiece.
An Era of Global Disruption
Over the past few decades, low shipping rates and rapid delivery times have lulled multinational firms into a false sense of security. In the early 2000s, companies chose to take on significant global supply chain risks in exchange for increased profits. First, it made sense to manufacture higher-value goods, such as electronics, in low-cost regions throughout Southeast Asia, India, and Africa. Second, first-tier suppliers started to outsource the manufacturing of specific components to second-, third-, and even fourth-tiers—leaving supply chains with extremely limited visibility.
So when COVID-19 disruptions struck certain regions, companies were caught unprepared. Usually, these events come few and far between. But over the past ten years, we’ve seen a number of ‘black swan’ events that have thrown the supply chain industry into chaos. Here’s a quick history of the most significant events in recent years, thanks to the MIT Sloan Management Review:
- 2010. China creates export quotas for rare earth elements.
- 2011. The Tōhoku Earthquake hits East Japan; flooding sweeps throughout Thailand.
- 2016-present. Trade wars between the U.S. and China hurt suppliers.
- 2020-present. COVID-19 pandemic shuts down international shipping ports.
Now, Kumar Birla is one of many who want to re-evaluate how we run our supply chains. Though his company has acquired 40+ companies in the last quarter decade, Birla intends to build up local hubs rather than expand operations.
Why Pursue Regionalisation?
Combine Chinese economic dominance, global supply chain vulnerabilities, and major government policy shifts around the world, and you have a storm brewing on the horizon for big multinational firms. As Brookings noted, ‘the biggest risk for trading opportunities in the developing world is growing protectionism in more advanced economies, often dressed up as national security protection’.
Altogether, from the U.S. to the European Union, governments are trying to protect their domestic supply chains, secure adequate stockpiles of materials, and build world-class local networks. Consider Biden’s recent executive order, which seeks to bring semiconductor manufacturing back to home soil, or Japan’s bid to open more memory chip fabrication factories near Tokyo. The Aditya Birla Group intends to react in kind. Said Birla: ‘We’re looking at regionalism as a very big theme’.
Will Others Follow Suit?
In the post-pandemic economy, global businesses must decide whether to expand or contract. On one hand, the Alibaba Group’s Cainiao Smart Logistics Network recently launched a direct flight between Hong Kong, China, and Lagos, Nigeria. On the other, the Japanese government is desperate to make its chip manufacturing domestic. Indeed, as two supply chain strategies diverge in a post-pandemic world, the one businesses take may make all the difference.
Yet Birla is confident that regionalisation is the right call. According to his words at the Qatar Economic Forum, even necessary cross-border transactions should be smaller in scope. And as the Bloomberg Billionaires Index now lists his net wealth at US$10.4bn, up 52% from 2020, he may have the cash to test his theories out. ‘Regional hubs, regional presence, regional employment, catering to regional demand’, he stated. ‘We’re a global company rooted in local economics’.