Access Bank’s CSR drive and why people come first

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LAGOS, JULY 30, 2016 – Herbert Onyewumbu Wigwe the current CEO and Group managing director of Access Bank, one of Nigeria’s top five banking institutions, is a Nigerian banker and entrepreneur.

This write up in our appraisal series attempts to delve into the Bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives

The primary motive for setting up a business venture is profit, which is to say that no investor establishes a business as a charitable organization. But no organization is an island to itself, and none can survive by focusing primarily on the commercial purpose of its establishment without consideration to its host community.

The profit motive must be balanced with the need to care for the externalities that guarantee its survival. It therefore becomes imperative to look beyond the profit objective along the line.

It must take cognizance of the fact that an organization’s survival as a going concern depends largely on its activities outside the confines of its premises; on how it impacts its environment.

Access Bank Plc has become one of Nigeria’s most responsible corporate citizens, thanks chiefly to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Herbert Wigwe, the bank’s Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, who has immensely demonstrated commitment to making the financial institution leave its mark not just in Nigeria, but also on the African continent as a leading exponent of sustainable development through corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

He has succeeded in managing the bank’s CSR initiatives to addressing key social issues that are strategic not just to its business, but also to its stakeholders and wherever it can make meaningful contributions to the development of society through the following:

Financial Inclusion
Under Wigwe, Access Bank has been able to implement a key aspect of its sustainability strategy necessary for its stakeholders long-term success through an intensive drive of financial inclusion. The bank recognizes that despite its huge population and rapid rural migration that should enlarge the banking public, Nigeria is still grossly under banked. It has therefore introduced numerous products that are aimed at bringing banking services to people, rather than the latter going to the bank for services.

The bank has developed several enabling channels and products such as Mobile Money, Pay with Capture, Access Online, Access E-pay, Point of Sale and Mobile Point of Sale, as well as ATM, in promoting and achieving financial inclusion of a significant percentage of the under-banked and unbanked population into Nigeria’s mainstream economy. It has also succeeded in promoting several products aimed at encouraging eased local and international transactions. These are Mobile Money, School Solution, Access Visa Debit Card, Access MasterCard Debit Card, Visa Credit Card denominated in naira and Visa Credit Card denominated in dollars as well as liability products such as Premier Savings, Early Savers, Target Savings and Instant Savings also fall into this category.

Female empowerment and diversity
Access Bank has emerged an undisputed leader on gender issues not just in Nigeria, but also in Africa. This is in recognition of the crucial role of women on issues relating to sustainable development, especially as they constitute the bulk of the rural population that is involved in a sector such as agriculture, which is the cornerstone of the continent’s effort to feed its people.

The bank has taken economic empowerment of women outside its offices and immediate business environment. The Code4Impact Initiative programme is designed primarily for the empowerment of women and young girls, to enable them to achieve financial and economic independence.

Access Bank’s commitment to empowerment is not limited to the everyday businesses that people are engaged in. It is one of the institutions that promote waste-to-wealth. The programme aims at encouraging people to see economic opportunities in the wastes that are discarded on a daily basis.

Wigwe has led the bank in collaboration with the International Financial Corporation (IFC), the lending arm of the World Bank, to impact the lives of women through its Gender Empowerment Programme. The bank has also entered several partnerships at the global level to advance its sustainable development efforts.

The Bank is a co-chair of the local network of the United Nations Global Compact; co-chair for Africa and the Middle East, of the United Nations Environment Programme Initiative and a member of the Leadership Group of the United Nations Empowerment Principles. Others are Board Member of the Business Coalition on Sustainable Development and co-chair of the Nigerian Business Coalition against AIDS.

Community investment
Access Bank recognizes that it cannot achieve the commercial objectives of its existence, indeed, as a business entity, if those that constitute the communities in which it operates are not successful. This explains its commitment to the socio-economic development of its communities.

The bank encourages its employees through a unique volunteering programme to engage in the provision of skills acquisition for those who want to run micro, small and medium enterprises. Access Bank is arguably the only bank in the country with this kind of community intervention programme which includes the provision of boreholes in the rural communities, to contribute to the effort to provide safe drinking water to as many people as possible.

Social welfare
Using the hashtag #lovechildinitiative, Access Bank regularly makes substantial donations to orphanages, in a social welfare initiative that is designed to ensure inmates are given the life that other children enjoy in homes, including access to education.

The bank uses the Malaria to Zero Initiative to promote the fight against malaria, which is a major contribution to the Kick Malaria Out of Nigeria programme of the Federal Ministry of Health.

It is at the forefront of the concerted effort to stop stigmatization of women with fistula, and also sponsors cancer screening for women, as well as the promotion of awareness for sickle cell.

The bank sponsored Dr. Ada Okoli, an Ebola survivor, to the United States where she was delivered of a healthy, Ebola-free baby, despite the uncertainties that surrounded the safety of a pregnant woman who literally came back from the dead, from an illness that had no cure then.

Citizen participation in governance is a key component of democracy. It is in recognition of this fact that Access Bank also regularly trains non-governmental organizations and civil society groups to be equipped to engage the government on issues of governance.

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