Wake Up Everybody: Preparing for the Next Global Emergency

The following article by Rukayatu Sanusi was written for Kina Advisory’s ‘Step Up, Scale Up, Scale Out’© campaign. The campaign is founded on the belief that African companies – those born and bred on the continent – have the potential to step up, scale up and scale out, both within and beyond their borders, in a post-pandemic world to help make their countries and the continent more self-sufficient and better prepared to weather future storms. Kina Advisory Limited is an advisory firm with offices in the United Kingdom and Ghana. The firm is a trusted advisor to companies operating in African countries on integrating responsible environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices into their core business strategies.  


In November 1975, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes released a defining single entitled ‘Wake Up Everybody’. The song was written at a time of high unemployment, racial tensions, social and economic hardship, and environmental degradation. Fifty years on, the song still charges us to collectively address the pressing environmental, social and economic needs of our time.

In a previous Reflection, Rosalind Kainyah discussed how African companies could step up to make their countries and the continent more self-sufficient and better prepared to weather future storms. Actions identified included embracing Sustainability – Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) practices – as an integral part of business strategies and operations. What struck me was the reality that for many African companies, Sustainability is largely an issue of compliance – meeting requirements imposed by investors and lenders or by international companies on suppliers. Sustainability is not a priority for African businesses, and it is definitely not an intentional business action. As that truth hit me, I was reminded of the lyrics to Wake Up Everybody – ‘the world won’t get better, if we just let it be. We’ve got to change it, you and me’ –  the notion of moving towards collective responsibility and action.

Currently, our world is hurting in ways unimaginable. The IMF has called COVID-19 a “crisis like no other” and recommends that policymakers green their responses to prevent one crisis leading to another. But this isn’t just the responsibility of policymakers and governments. Businesses in Africa, big or small, ought to be making Sustainability a priority as well.

African economies and businesses are more fragile and are the least able to respond to endogenous as well as exogenous shocks. As a continent, we would benefit from more intentional planning and actions to create a sustainably prosperous development path.

Let’s take Ghana as an example. Economically, 2019 was a good year for Ghana – expanding crude oil production and rising prices placed Ghana at the top of the GDP growth table with an enviable growth rate of 8.8%. But much of this achievement has been at the expense of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Ghana’s carbon dioxide emissions per capita have grown at an average annual rate of 4.08% since 1999 – in line with a trend across many African countries where per capita emissions have seen a rapid rise over the past five years.