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World Day for Cultural Diversity: Insights from a multicultural journey

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Standard Chartered Bank Uganda’s CEO Sanjay Rughani. PHOTO | FILE

As we continue to celebrate World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development, we are reminded of the richness of the world’s cultures and the crucial role of intercultural dialogue in achieving peace and sustainable development. According to UNESCO, our cultural differences offer a unique opportunity to celebrate the richness of the human mind, expand our horizons and achieve unity in diversity.

As a Tanzanian of Indian origin with a professional career spanning over 36 years across six different countries, this year’s World Culture Day holds special significance for me. My professional journey, including 24 years with Standard Chartered Bank in 18 different roles across Tanzania, Ghana, United Kingdom, India, Kenya and now Uganda, has been a tapestry of cultural exchanges and invaluable lessons. Each experience has reinforced my belief in the value of cultural diversity and the importance of embracing our differences.

In today’s interconnected world, businesses must think inclusively and globally to succeed. Embracing cultural diversity is the first step towards this. Only by coming together across cultures and borders can we solve complex problems.

Interacting with people from diverse backgrounds promotes personal development. It challenges our comfort zones and expands our way of thinking. For instance, during my tenure in Ghana, I learned the importance of community-driven approaches to business, which shaped my leadership style.

As the CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Uganda and Chairman of the Professional Accountants in Business Advisory Group (PAIB AG) of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), I have seen firsthand how diversity in the workplace can drive business growth through various perspectives, creativity and rich implementation.

Uganda is a country rich in cultural diversity, with over 56 ethnic groups and a multitude of languages and traditions. This diversity is a tremendous asset that we deeply respect and leverage in our operations. Our workforce reflects this rich cultural tapestry, enabling us to better understand and serve our diverse clientele.

For instance, our community engagement initiatives, such as financial literacy programmes and support for local businesses are tailored to meet the unique needs of various ethnic groups across the country. We work closely with local communities to ensure our services are accessible and relevant, fostering trust and long-term relationships.

Our 112-year heritage has shown us that diversity fosters innovation, creativity and problem-solving. Our diverse team members use their unique experiences to provide tailored solutions for our customers. Research supports this; according to McKinsey & Company, ethnically and culturally diverse companies outperform others by 36% in profitability. This statistic highlights the tangible benefits of embracing diversity in the workplace.

As the CEO - Chief Enabling Officer as I am recognized in our organization, my role is to foster a sense of belonging and psychological safety. Through our Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) committee, we support a workforce that drives inclusive behaviours and embraces our unique diversity. Our initiatives include mentorship, counselling, promoting physical wellbeing, financial literacy, mental wellness, and removing barriers for persons with disabilities. These efforts ensure that our employees feel valued and supported, which in turn drives their engagement and productivity.

As leaders, it is our duty to understand cultural nuances, promote work-life balance and build an environment where everyone feels safe to express themselves. A diverse, inclusive work culture empowers employees, nurtures connection and builds loyalty, translating into productivity and business growth. By celebrating our differences, we not only enrich our personal and professional lives but also create a more inclusive and harmonious world.

Let us continue to celebrate our differences and work together towards a more inclusive and harmonious world.

Mr Sanjay Rughani , Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank