Every week my Kiswahili teacher asks me what I’ve been doing, and each time my answer comes with what’s become a useful phrase: I stayed at home, kwa sababu ya corona. I didn’t go to the office, kwa sababu ya corona. We can’t go to restaurants now, kwa sababu ya corona. My new phrase explains a lot: because of the coronavirus.
His reaction is always similar: a look of surprise and a shake of the head, as he concludes: Maisha ni magumu Uingereza: life is difficult in England. In Tanzania, my teacher says, people aren’t wearing masks and they aren’t avoiding crowds. Life is as normal because there is no corona in the country.
One of the exciting things about the current sustainable development goals (SDGs), agreed last year by governments, UN and citizens, is that they really are global – they apply to the rich world as well.
It seems obvious now. But the SDGs’ predecessors (agreed in 2000) were focused on the developing world, aiming to push them towards certain benchmarks of progress: primary education enrolment, maternal health, daily income, and so on.
It was us and them, and responsibilities were divided according to which half of the world you inhabited. Rich country governments: cough up the cash and make sure your taxpayers see that their aid is working. Poor country governments: introduce policies, enforce laws, make wise investments.
The UK arguably leads the world in its support for social enterprise – and is keen to position itself as such, from putting social investment high on the agenda of its G8 presidency in 2013 to inviting other nations to learn from what we’re doing.
I covered the latter – during a British Council-hosted visit for EU policy-makers – for the Guardian’s social enterprise hub last month, and heard how countries like Croatia, in the midst of finalising its own first social entrepreneurship, are hungry to learn from UK policy-makers’ 15 or so years’ experience in this area.