It is very hard to impossible to have a conversation without ever coming across the term “socio-economic issues”. The big question is what does it really mean? Why is it so relevant now more than ever? And do we really understand the vinculum effect the term brings to empowerment of both society and economy?
Well, let’s begin the conversation by breaking the term down. Socio-economic or social economics is often described as a subset of both economics and social sciences that linchpins the relationship between social behavior and the economy. The term socio-economics can be described from two broad perspectives that though opposite in their approach, can be thought of as complementary.
Renowned economist and Nobel Prize winner Gary Becker applies the first perspective as a basic theory and applies tools of neoclassical microeconomics to areas of human behavior not traditionally considered as part of economics proper, such as crime and punishment, drug abuse, marriage, and my personal favorite, family decisions and dimension.
The second applies the ideas of other social sciences such as sociology, psychology and identity group studies to subjects of an economic nature like consumer behavior or labor markets all in an attempt to predict how social trends could impact the economy, obviously based on past precedence. If you were to read the breakdown, you might conclude that the narrative of socio-economic issues is usually to derive the negative impact that structures of society may have on economic growth and how the economic custodians can best mitigate the adversities.
The relevance of this topic of major discussion is that we are now seeing so much of the repercussions that result from ignoring the positive impact of linking social development to economic growth as a proactive perimeter to economic development. Instead of forecasting trends that could be managed in aiding economic prosperity, custodians focus on historic societal behavior trends in economy planning. In my own opinion, there is nothing absolutely wrong with that and it has been a working formula derived by renowned economists. However, my disquiet is the acceptability of only linking social structures and issues negatively to economic growth when there is so much opportunity to change the narrative of “bad” social issues to the “good” of the economy.
Let us take a moment and have a conversation around one social issue that seems to be rising in statistical numbers and a common nuptiality pattern in contemporary Africa, Single Mother Households. In 2019, one in eight women aged 18-60 worldwide are unmarried and have children younger than 15 in their households. That is like 13 percent of the entire world population. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, single women households make up about 32 percent of the region’s population. Instinct reaction to these perceived worrying numbers would be that single mothers are the most vulnerable in multidimensional deprivation.
These are naturally very worrying numbers, but from a business point of view it might not seem to be much of a bad business issue. Here is why. Ordinarily, the buying decision in a two-parent household has to go through probably five stages of decision-making. Much of the buying decision is deliberated by the options each parent puts forth either based on preference or the cost-benefit of the product or service. But with a single-mother household, all buying decisions are taken by one person, especially for households with children younger than 15.
Imagine the influence and the power of inscription this would have on the children and the next generation! For instance, think about the product brands you grew up with. Have you since stopped buying most of them? One of the brand products that I cannot seem to stop buying is the tomato sauce and mayonnaise brands we grew up having in the house, even though I don’t use them as much as I did growing up. But they were inscribed in me by my mother and very much so I will pass it to my son and most probably he will pass it on his son and the brands have a guaranteed four generations of buyers, therefore achieving a status of sustainability.
A brand that deliberately invests in a process that continuously improves the Woman Customer Experience, Not Marketing, but Woman Customer Experience, even the most minute detail such as the colour of a wall, has the potential to leverage a sustainable competitive advantage for at least three generations. Why? A mother will always want the best for her children and thus will always recommend her most trusted brands, thus the buying decision is effortlessly passed to the next generation. It is all a matter of appreciating the influence women have in societies. It is all a matter of centering your business strategy around the “Mosadi Thari Ya Sechaba” mantra.