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Business Leaders Seen As A Unifying Force For Kenyans

by Femme Staff

NGO and Business are the most trusted institutions in Kenya, and teachers, NGO leaders and business leaders are seen as a unifying force for a population increasingly grappling with personal economic fears relating to unemployment and higher costs of living, says the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer.

According to the report, NGOs, business, and media are all seen as competent and ethical institutions. Trust in one’s employer (among employees) matched trust in NGOs across the general population, both growing by three percentage points year-on-year to 76%.

This becomes increasingly relevant when taken in the context of economic optimism collapsing around the world, with 24 of 28 countries surveyed seeing all-time lows in the number of people who think their families will be better off in five years. In Kenya, this figure saw a year-over-year double-digit decline (11pts), although 80% remain optimistic.

“As one of the most trusted institutions, NGO’s holds the mantle of greater societal expectation and responsibility. This comes during a climate of greater economic uncertainty, which can be both a driver and outcome of polarization. Furthermore, businesses leaders must leverage their comparative advantage to inform debate and deliver solutions to societal challenges,” said Corazon Sefu Wandimi, Managing Director, Edelman Kenya.

More than three-quarters of Kenyans surveyed believed that CEOs are obligated to hold divisive forces in society accountable by defending facts and exposing questionable science used to justify bad social policies (82%); pulling advertising revenues from platforms that spread misinformation (76%); and Kenyans surveyed say companies could strengthen the social fabric by supporting politicians and media outlets that build consensus and cooperation (on average 76%).

The onus has also been placed on CEOs to improve economic optimism by remunerating workers with a just wage, ensuring their local communities are safe and thriving, paying fair corporate taxes, and retraining or upskilling employees. Most Kenyans expect CEOs to take a public stand on prominent issues including the treatment of employees, discrimination, the wealth gap, climate change, and immigration.

But businesses are falling short of this mandate.

Most Kenyans feel businesses are not doing enough to publicly address pertinent societal issues like climate change, access to healthcare, economic inequality, and energy shortages. This puts business at risk of losing the trust of consumers and employees, especially when considering that globally 63% of respondents said they buy or advocate for brands based on their beliefs and values and on average globally 69% of employees agreed that a company’s societal impact is a strong determinant when taking a job. 

“Business leaders are often risk averse and will shy away from addressing societal issues in fear of being perceived as politicized. However, 65% of Kenyans agree that this would not be the case and business can avoid this fate by remaining a trustworthy source of information, not aligning with a particular party, refusing to bend to political pressure, basing their actions on science, and acting on consistent values over time. This is where communication campaigns based off advocacy and actions become key to sustaining relationships now and into the future,” Wandimi said.

Other key findings for Kenya from the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer include:

  • Scientists are the most trusted group of people in Kenya followed by coworkers and my CEO.
  • Search engines (75%) and traditional media (67%) are the only trusted news sources in Kenya.
  • Kenya has the highest percentage of respondents (83%) of all 28 countries surveyed who agree that brands celebrating what brings us together and emphasizing our common interest would strengthen the social fabric in the country.
  • On average, 58% of Kenyans believe that the best societal outcomes will emerge when businesses work in partnership with government.
  • 40% of Kenyans believe the country is more divided today than in the past.

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