Access Bank: Leading The Fight Against Coronavirus Through Sustainability-Driven Initiatives

Herbert Wigwe, MD CEO, Access Bank

By Jeremiah Agada

As the war against the novel Coronavirus pandemic rages, many globally acclaimed brands positioned themselves at the very vanguard of the battle for the defence of humanity. Indeed, many of these world’s best brands have and are still showing a great sense of corporate social responsibility by lending their support in these trying times to government’s effort as well as carrying out their own initiatives. Financial giants, Access Bank Plc., is one such brand and the significant role it is playing in the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria is such that leaves no one in doubt as to why it has been touted as Nigeria’s most sustainability-driven corporate institution in many quarters. Its absence on Brand Communicator’s exclusive listing of brands that are making impact in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic would have made such a list null, void, invalid.

The bank’s dimension of response cuts across fiduciary, educational, empathic and customer-centric. Indeed, Access Bank motivated other private sector led business to join in the noble fight against the pandemic by donating over N1billion to the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), an initiative championed by the Bank’s Group Managing Director, Herbert Wigwe, alongside the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele and Aliko Dangote. Precisely, CACOVID is a coalition of Nigerian private sector leaders who have come together to galvanise urgent support in the fight against COVID-19 in Nigeria, complementing the government’s efforts. Thus far, the Coalition has been able to raise over ₦35billion, contributed by more than 70 organisations and individuals in the private sector, including Access Bank, whose head office has served as the Coalition’s Secretariat.

Commissioning of the CACOVID Isolation Centre, Yaba 2

Remarkably, CACOVID has provided treatment, testing, training and isolation centres across the country as well as donated various medical equipment such as Oxygen Cylinders/Regulators, Monitors, Respirators, Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), Thermometers, among others, to all the 36 states in Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The coalition also supplied the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) with over 60,000 testing kits to ramp up testing in Nigeria. To cater to the need of Nigerians who have been affected by the lockdown in the country, CACOVID also unveiled a palliative drive to feed 1.7million households across the country, accounting for the most impoverished and underserved of Nigeria’s population.+

As part of its move to further flatten the curve, Access Bank went beyond this fiduciary gesture and partnership to further embark on other programmes to support individuals and families as well as boost economic productivity and social wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of such is its educational intervention called Access 9ija Kids, an initiative it rolled out in partnership with 9ijaKids, a Nigerian EduTech company. This was done to facilitate the delivery of online financial literacy and educational gamification modules to children, following the disruption of the Nigerian educational system due to the pandemic.

CACOVID Distribution of Food Palliatives in Jigawa State

The programme which delivered six gamified educational learning modules was hosted on the bank’s website for over twelve weeks and was carried out as part of Access Bank’s Sustainability drive to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education. The initiative aimed at improving the intelligence quotients, financial literacy and civic knowledge of primary school pupils. It was also designed to introduce the pupils to new ways of learning through the use of digital platforms. The Acess9ijaKids supported learning and knowledge-sharing through the use of online materials at no-cost access.

Three times a week, the top five players on the leaderboard were rewarded with exciting prizes. The prizes were redeemed through the Access Bank Early Savers account, further encouraging an early savings culture among children. The programme impacted over 100,000 Nigerian children and parents, while over 1,700 children played the online financial literacy games and over 150 of them were rewarded.

Distribution of clean cooking stoves and biofuels to households across Nigeria

If there are only three organisations in Nigeria that have demonstrated the ability to understand and share the feelings of the public, especially at these difficult times in their operational philosophy, then Access Bank would have been one of them. This it demonstrated with the provision of 4,000 essential kits to sickle-cell patients, people living with disabilities, orphanages, students in correctional centres, rural women, widows, and the elderly to ease the burden caused by the novel Coronavirus on vulnerable individuals and groups. In addition to the sensitization of these groups on COVID-19 prevention and treatment education, Access Bank also distributed food palliatives, hygiene materials and over 5,000 COVID-19 Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials to birth attendants, pregnant women and women with children aged under five across various communities in Lagos and Ogun states.

Additionally, Access Bank, in partnership with the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA), held a Malaria Intervention Programme in 5 communities across Oyo, Ogun and Lagos states. The Intervention raised awareness on malaria prevention and treatment in pregnant women and children under five years of age — who constitute the most vulnerable group — in addition to raising awareness on the need to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. The intervention reached over 5,000 women, providing about 1,600 pregnant women with long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) in Ogooluwa, Eredo and Iberekodo in Lagos; Aremo and Oke-Ado in Oyo; and Ibafo in Ogun State. The initiative also catered to health centres in these communities, as they received donations of LLINs.

In a related development, Access Bank, under the auspices of the Central Bank of Nigeria started issuing subsidized loans worth up to ₦100 billion to provide funding to Nigeria’s healthcare product manufacturers to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and offer support to the Nigerian health care sector. This was done to enable the obligors increase their capacity to meet the increasing demand for healthcare arising from the pandemic. This initiative directly enhanced local drug manufacturing, funding of intensive care units, laboratory testing, and research & development.

All these initiatives were borne out of the bank’s sustainability philosophy. Sustainability is part of Access Bank’s history, as the bank has been a pioneering force in sustainable banking since its re-establishment in 2002. The Bank’s trailblazing approach formally began 10 years ago, before sustainable finance became a public agenda in Nigeria, and before the development of Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles. Access Bank’s commitment towards sustainability led it to join 27 other global banks alongside the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) to form a Core Group that developed the Global Principles for Responsible Banking.

Sustainability is embedded in Access Bank’s corporate philosophy, which informs the Sustainability Vision. This vision is hinged on the Bank’s strategy and aims to finance a sustainable future for all, harnessing global and local partnerships to develop and execute strategic interventions to address sustainability challenges in line with international best practices like the SDGs, Paris Agreement and NSBPs.

2017 marked the birth of the Bank’s new 5-year corporate strategy, “Becoming Africa’s Gateway to the World”. This strategy is underpinned by sustainable growth. The bank’s Sustainability policies and frameworks continue to facilitate the achievement of its vision, enabling the bank, people and processes to address key issues such as supply chain management, human rights, environmental management, ethics, compliance and corruption, data security and privacy, diversity and equality, amongst others. The Bank recognises the importance of impact investment and the role it plays in mitigating social and environmental risks, expanding its market share and building goodwill. To this end, Access Bank supports various initiatives, projects, organisations and events that are focused on investment initiatives that are centred on its commitment to empower local communities and strengthen existing relationships with partner organisations.

Access Bank has invested about $26 million in various corporate social responsibility efforts since 2015, reaching 1,316 communities and impacting 30,075,356 lives and 793 Non-Governmental Organisations. These projects have been executed across the Bank’s CSR priority areas which are Health, Education, Sport, Arts, Environment, and Social Welfare.

Case studies of some of these Access Bank’s notable community investment programmes include the HIV Testing Services (HTS) and Sensitization on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) at the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon where the bank partnered the Nigerian Business Coalition Against AIDS (NiBUCCA) and HACEY Health Initiative to provide HIV testing services, as well as promote messages on prevention, counselling as well as referrals to athletes as well as its partnership withEND Fund, a private philanthropic initiative solely dedicated to ending the five most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), at the marathon to raise awareness on the NTDs and Project Agbebiwhich was created to address the incidence of maternal and child mortality in South-East Nigeria.

Others includes the bank’s partnership with Kidney Foundation for Africa (KFA), a non-profit organisation focused on creating awareness and educating the public on kidney disease, prevention and gains of early detection of chronic kidney disease and kidney failure;its partnership with SMEFUNDS, a social enterprise which is focused on ending poverty by promoting sustainable enterprise development, to develop the Green Social Entrepreneurship Program (GSEP); its partnership with Xploit Consult, an organisation focused on the furtherance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to commemorate the 2020 International Women’s Day and its partnership withHACEY Health Initiative to eradicate Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Nigeria tocommemorate the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, among numerous other initiatives.

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