Ghana Business Coalition Against Hiv&Aids
Since the year 2000 when Ghana adopted multi-sectoral approach to the fight against HIV/AIDS, both private and public sectors actively joined in the national response by implementing various interventions. The Ghana AIDS Commission, in collaboration with the Tripartite Committee, developed National Workplace Policy on HIV/AIDS.
Most multi-national companies and a limited number of local small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) adopted the workplace policy and initiated HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support programmes. These activities received technical assistance from International Labour Organisation (ILO), Family Health International, Ghana Social Marketing Foundation (GSMF), Ghana Employers Association (GEA), Private Enterprise Foundation (PEF) and Trades Union Congress (TUC) with funding from UNFPA, USAID, and the ILO. In spite of these positive developments, majority of business entities did not recognize HIV/AIDS as a threat to businesses and failed to initiate workplace policies and programmes.
Secondly, workplace HIV/AIDS programmes continued to remain uncoordinated and lacked sustained technical support. In order to scale up business sector response, the Ghana AIDS Commission, in collaboration with business leaders, established the Ghana Business Coalition Against AIDS (GBCA) with the aim of effectively mobilizing the business sector to fight HIV/AIDS at the workplace. In the quest to facilitate the expansion and to ensure more effective coordination of business sector response to HIV/AIDS, the Ghana AIDS Commission began consultations with business leaders on how to strengthen business sector response drawing from international best practices.
To this end, a business lunch was organized at La Palm Royal Beach Hotel on 24th January 2006 for Chief Executives of Ghana Chamber of Mines, Ghana National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Association of Ghana Industries, Ghana Employers Association, Association of Bankers, State Enterprises Commission, Private Enterprise Foundation and the Trades Union Congress. The Chief Executive of Unilever Ghana, Mr Charles Cofie was invited as guest speaker for the occasion.
Mr Cofie brought a wealth of expertise to bear on the deliberations of the meeting based on his experience in Malawi where he contributed immensely to the creation of a Business Coalition and remained the able chairman of its board until his return to Ghana. The business leaders unanimously agreed to set up a business coalition and requested Mr.
Charles Cofie to be the Chairman of an Interim Board of which, they all offered to be members. The Interim Board demonstrated high commitment to the pursuance of its agenda. At its maiden meeting, the members agreed on a road map for the inauguration of the Coalition and the establishment of its secretariat.
The end of July was chosen as the appropriate time for the inauguration and a technical committee was appointed to work out the details and report back to the board on the inauguration and the establishment of the secretariat. Subsequent meetings were held to review progress based on the outcomes of the technical committee's work. The Technical Committee which plays advisory role to the Board was given the responsibility to plan, organize and manage the inauguration of the Business Coalition and set up its secretariat, and develop its constitution.
The Technical Committee successfully developed the constitution which guides the business of the GBCA. To project the image of the Coalition and to make it attractive to the business community, both electronic and print media were used to announce the inauguration and to explain the Coalition's objectives to the business community in particular, and the public in general. On 26th July 2006, H.E Alhaji Aliu Mahama, the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana inaugurated the GBCA at Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra. Almost 200 participants attended the launch involving development partners, companies, NGOs and the media.
The attendance of the business sector was very encouraging since as many as 140 businesses were in attendance including a few chief executives.�At the start of the program the hall had been filled to capacity. Goodwill messages were delivered by the Chief Executive of Standard Chartered Bank, Executive Director of Private Enterprise Foundation, Chairman of the Ghana TUC and organized Labour and the Director General of the Ghana AIDS Commission. The key highlights of these messages sought to encourage the business sector to take the following actions in order to reduce the spread of HIV at the work place.�Other goodwill messages were delivered by representatives from the World Bank and the UN Theme Group. In a Keynote address, H.E.
Alhaji Aliu Mahama, the Vice President said the Government's commitment to the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic is acknowledged in all the related policy documents and initiatives on HIV and AIDS. He said though the private sector has been slow in responding to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the establishment of the Ghana Business Coalition against HIV and AIDS is a clear indication of the increased commitment of the private sector to take on the challenge of fighting this disease within the workplace. He pointed out that the most significant feature of the epidemic is its concentration in the working and productive population and in view of the profound negative impact of HIV/AIDS on productivity and profitability of enterprises, it makes it imperative for corporate organizations to be responsible for managing HIV/AIDS at the workplace. H.
E. Alhaji Aliu Mahama said the Government of Ghana through the Ghana AIDS Commission will continue to lend support to the business sector to take an active role in the fight against HIV/AIDS by establishing comprehensive workplace prevention, care and support programs and also build stranger networks for exchange of expertise in order to enhance collaboration. He congratulated the various business and employer associations who came together and devoted their time towards the preparation of the inaugural ceremony.
He encouraged business entities gathered to fully support the initiative and sign up as founding members of the Business Coalition and on that note he launched the Ghana Business Coalition Against HIV and AIDS. The GBCA is now fully and legally registered with a functioning Secretariat which has been accommodated in the premises of the State Enterprises Commission.�The minimum infrastructure for operations has been acquired and the GBCA currently has four full time staff, namely, a Program director, a Program Officer, an Administrative Secretary and a Driver, with plans far advanced to hire another�Program Officer, a Monitoring and Evaluation officer and a Finance and Administrative Officer. A Membership drive began with the recruitment of Founding Members. 28 companies have so far been recruited.
The GBCA has been selected as a private sector representative on the Ghana Country Coordinating Mechanism of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.�In addition a number of bilateral and multilateral organizations have been supporting the GBCA with equipment and small grants.�This website and a newsletter are examples of such support. The Ghana Business Coalition has made a lot of progress during its short period of existence. Having been inaugurated, it stands in a better stead to achieve greater heights if we can optimize the advantages provided by the momentum generated and the current goodwill of partners and stakeholders to pursue vigorously, active membership drive and further development�of the secretariat. .