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Telecom Operators as Socially Responsible Organizations



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The impact of telecommunications operators’ business in the country goes beyond service delivery and expansion of telecommunications facilities to giving back to their immediate communities where they are operating. Also referred to as corporate social responsibility (CSR), telecommunications operators have over the past eight years of liberalization of the sector contributed in no small measure in uplifting individuals, communities as well as supporting some government initiatives aside their core business of providing services to Nigerians.
There have been increased demands from employees, customers and government bodies for businesses to be more open about their activities and that they reach and maintain acceptable standards in their business practice.  For employers, CSR is now seen as an important way to increase competitive advantage, protect and raise brand awareness and build trust with customers and employees.
It is a form of corporate self-regulation integrated into a business model. Ideally, CSR policy would function as a built-in, self-regulating mechanism whereby business would monitor and ensure its adherence to law, ethical standards, and international norms. Business would embrace responsibility for the impact of their activities on the environment, consumers, employees, communities, stakeholders and all other members of the public sphere. Furthermore, business would proactively promote the public interest by encouraging community growth and development, and voluntarily eliminating practices that harm the public sphere, regardless of legality. Essentially, CSR is the deliberate inclusion of public interest into corporate decision-making, and the honoring of a triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Profit.
The practice of CSR is subject to much debate and criticism. Proponents argue that there is a strong business case for CSR, in that corporations benefit in multiple ways by operating with a perspective broader and longer than their own immediate, short-term profits. Critics argue that CSR distracts from the fundamental economic role of businesses; others argue that it is nothing more than superficial window-dressing; others argue that it is an attempt to pre-empt the role of government as a watchdog over powerful multinational corporations.
In this regard virtually all telecommunications operators be they Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) or Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) operators have executed or are executing one CSR initiative or the other depending on their ability to do so.
Nigeria CommunicationsWeek investigations have revealed that MTN Nigeria has a broad approach in its corporate social responsibility initiative, expanding over different sphere of human endeavour.
The telecommunications giant having realized the importance of supporting groups and individuals making its business grow in the country established a foundation in 2004 four years after it launched service to focus corporate social responsibility initiative geared towards reducing poverty and foster sustainable development in Nigeria.
The focus of the foundation is to give back to society and impact the quality of lives in the communities where they operate in a meaningful and sustainable fashion.
For MTN, corporate social responsibility is about making a practical, positive impact on the lives of Nigerians. It affords the company the opportunity of understanding clearly the issues that concern the society and to intervene in the most critical areas.
In less than four years, MTNF has launched over 100 projects which are executed in collaboration with 26 partners in 107 sites across 28 of the 36 states in Nigeria. The projects are delivering tangible value to a growing number of beneficiaries where the company operates.  At the last count, MTNF’s projects were estimated to have touched and helped uplift the lives of over 1,000,000 people.
The SchoolsConnect project is implemented in collaboration with SchoolNet, a local NGO focused on ICT in education. This award-winning project has delivered digital laboratories that serve over 85,000 students and 3,800 teachers in more than 49 secondary schools in poor inner-city and rural communities across Nigeria.
Working with NetLibrary Nigeria, another NGO, MTNF has linked two top Nigerian universities – with one more on the way – to the world’s largest collection of digital resources from over 5,500 libraries and 300 publishers.  A typical online research library is equipped with 125 networked computers, servers, printers, photocopiers, alternative power supply, internet connectivity and a two-year subscription to electronic resources through NetLibrary’s network.  Based on the experience of the local environment and the need for sustainability, detailed written rules are pre-agreed and enforced with the institutions regarding the maintenance of the equipment and upkeep of the library premises.
MTNF is also partnering with UNICEF Child Friendly School Initiative (CSFI) to improve the quality of basic education.  In the first phase, the project has rehabilitated three schools in three states (Bauchi, Lagos and Delta) – providing water and sanitation, as well as text-books and writing and teaching materials to ensure a decent and conducive learning environment for young primary school children.
The MTNF- Partnership Against Aids in the Community (PAAC) is a private sector led initiative which adopts a multi-faceted approach in addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  The project aims to raise awareness and educate approximately 30 million people through mass media and individual contact.  It also aims to provide counseling and testing to over 6,000 people, provide mother-to-child prevention to 600 women and provide capacity building for health care providers. In addition, two out of a projected six Voluntary Counseling Centres have been commissioned and 12 HIV/AIDS self-instruction screens have been installed in strategic locations across the country. The self-instruction screens provide information in English and major Nigerian languages. We believe that they are the first of their kind in Africa.
Through these and other projects, MTNF has acted as a catalyst for change in Nigeria’s evolving social and economic development landscape.  Elements of the MTNF model are now being studied and replicated by a growing number of corporate organizations in and outside the country.
Another telecommunications company Zain Nigeria, recently commissioned several projects worth $1,000,000.00 (one million USD) in University of Ibadan as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility programmes and its brand philosophy of empowering Nigerians to enjoy a wonderful world.
The commissioned projects including a Solar Energy Centre, renovation of Mellanby Hall and construction of a Basketball Court in the Hall, and construction of Car Parks, convenience and offices on Oduduwa Road, are designed to help improve the lives and health of the University community.
Speaking at the ceremony, Gamaliel Onosode, chairman of Zain Nigeria, said the projects was intended for improvement of infrastructure in the nation’s oldest University as part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme.
The solar energy centre or Solar Module hub houses a series of photovoltaic panels which are capable of transforming solar radiation directly into electricity. The centre is capable of generating about 4.8 kilowatt-hour of electricity which will supply power the lighting system in a section of the campus including the University gate and Oduduwa Road.
The Gymnasium which is located at the University’s Sports centre is equipped with a vast array of modern exercise and fitness equipment including treadmill, free weight, trampohness, weight benches, walker, and electronic exercise bikes amongst other equipment. Also, the fitness facility house evaluation room where exercise pre-test such as resting and exercise ECG are conducted on those who intend to use the centre, particularly, the elderly, to determine their fitness level/ state of health and the type of exercise their body and heart condition can cope with before they are allowed to use the equipment.
University of Ibadan also emerged overall winner of this year’s edition of the Zain Africa Challenge.
For Globacom, affinity with the society is second nature. It has chosen sport as major focus of its corporate social responsibility initiative as the company wholesomely sponsors the Nigerian league, Super four league and Confederation of African Football Awards.
More so, Globacom partners with Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) towards the eradication of poverty in the region. The programme, named Self Employment Business Support provides employment opportunities for youths in the region. The initiative is to empower Nigerians and help them become self reliant.
Visafone on its part is not left out as it flagged off its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative early this year with the presentation of some helmets and reflected jackets to some Okada riders. Visafone presented over 200 protective helmets and reflective jackets to Okada riders drawn from Victoria Island – Law school and Eko Hotel Roundabout units.
Working in conjunction with Arrive Alive, an NGO committed to ensuring the safety of motorists and road users across Nigeria, the Visafone official said it launched the initiative as a means of contributing to the safety of road users as well as cushioning the traumatic head injuries suffered by okada drivers who usually drive without helmets while also providing reflective jackets for night time operations.
Speaking at the event, Chike Nwaka, Zonal Commanding Officer, Zone II Head Quarters of the FRSC who was represented by Assistant Corps Commander, M. L Abdullahi commended Visafone for the initiative which he called a “timely and worthwhile venture that will reduce fatalities on our roads and protect the lives of both okada riders and their passengers.”
According to the company, the Bar Beach event is a pilot scheme and will be replicated across the state and country in due course.
Other telecommunications operators such as Etisalat, Zoom Mobile, Starcomms and Multi-Links Telkom have executed some corporate social responsibility projects aside products designed to give telecommunications access to less privilege people in the society. All these have positioned telecommunications operators among organizations that are helping in changing life of Nigerians through corporate social responsibility initiative.


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NAVSA: NITDA Changes Existing Reality in Agricultural  Sector



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By Lukman Oladokun

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” —Buckminster Fuller

We live in a time of digital transformation and it is driving change in all areas. The ubiquitous nature of ICT in revolutionising every human endeavour has made its adaptation also in agriculture universally popular. Developed nations are achieving food sustainability due to early adoption of ICT in their farming processes.

In a report to the G20 Agricultural Deputies in 2017 on Information and Communication Technology in Agriculture by the Food and Agricultural Organisation, (FAO), by 2050, the world population is expected to surpass 9 billion and for the world to meet the attendant increase in food demand, agricultural production will need to increase by 60 percent from its current level in order to meet the additional global food need. Application of ICT to collect and share timely and accurate information on weather, inputs, markets and prices to the stakeholders in agricultural value chain would play a significant role to meet the global food demand.

In Nigeria, with a population of about 200 million and 48.84 percent of the population in agricultural sector which provides employment for about 30 percent of the population, the importance of adoption of ICT to farming techniques cannot be over-emphasized. It is in recognition of the importance of sustainable food systems for food security and growth and the need to provide targeted information to every farmer that necessitated the federal government of Nigeria to mandate NITDA “to improve food production and security” and also “to ensure that the entire citizenry is empowered with Information Technologies through the development of critical mass of IT proficient and globally competitive manpower”.

The Agency has swung into action to actualize these mandates through many initiatives. As far back as the beginning of the millennium, the Agency entered into partnership with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, (UNECA) to produce the Nigeria ICT4D document which details the roles ICT could play in rejuvenating 12 critical sectors of the economy, with agriculture taking a prime of place.

As part of the efforts to help farmers in Nigeria adopt more efficient and sustainable production methods and reduce the burden of labour-intensive tasks and manage their farms better to help build a more resilient, sustainable and productive food system, the Agency in 2019 initiated a value addition process for agriculture named National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA), an ecosystem-driven digital platform envisioned for the transformation of the agricultural sector in Nigeria. It is envisaged that the programme would assist the farmers and other stakeholders in agricultural ecosystem to navigate the journey across sector value-chain which involves farm production and management of their produce.

The main thrust of the programme is the integration of digital technologies and innovations to improve productivity and income of farmers and other ecosystem players in a bid to reposition agriculture as a viable business that has the potential of attracting the youthful population in the country.

At the launch of the pilot phase of the program in Jigawa State, one of the states that have comparative advantage in agriculture, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami observed that “the way agriculture is practiced needs to be modernised and transformed in such a manner as to encourage young talents to set up agriculture enterprises and position agriculture as a major means of economic diversification and growth, thereby increasing its contributions to the nation’s GDP.“

An in-depth analysis of the programme reveals it is aimed at helping the administration of President MuhammaduBuhari achieve  two of the three cardinal objectives of the administration by transforming the economy and fighting insecurity.

The pilot started with 130 farmers who were “adopted” into the programme. Expectedly, the initiative would give rise to new agricultural business models and opportunities that would stimulate huge potential in job and wealth creations with attendant effect of playing a major role in the diversification and shift from monolithic economy the nation is known for.

Arguably, previous government’s initiatives aimed at putting the agricultural sector on a pedestal to ensure food sufficiency could not be said to have been successful largely due to dispassionate mind-set of Nigerian youths who do not see a viable future in venturing into agricultural businesses.

This is occasioned by the retention of the old-fashion agricultural practices; inadequate provision of credit facilities, market to sell farm produce and other challenges.

Nowadays, with digital technologies making incursion into every human endeavour, coupled with relatively-large technological-savvy youths, a good articulated programme like NAVSA would proffer solutions to those challenges.

In his remarks at the closing of the two weeks long training on how the youths can use digital tools for agricultural purposes, the DG NITDA Mallam Kashifu InuwaAbdullahi maintained that the agricultural sector remains one of the critical sectors of the economy that can leverage digital innovations to create jobs, wealth and build a vibrant digital economy for Nigerians.

He however, decried the position of the sector in the usage of technological tools as dismal, adding that “agriculture remains one of the least digitised sectors in Nigeria despite its potential as one of the most veritable sectors for economic diversification.”

The twin challenge of meeting the domestic food requirement for attainment of a food sufficient nation and production of quality produce required for domestic and international market which are occasioned by inadequate access to appropriate information almost in real-time; inadequate entrepreneurship ideas and poor knowledge of agricultural value chain opportunities for existing and emerging Agricprenuers would eventually be  things of the past with the proper implementation and adoption of the programme. These will be achieved by providing information to stakeholders through the introduction of digital technologies and innovation across agriculture value chain in transformative manner.

In mitigating these challenges, the project focuses on adoption of “radical rethink” and collaborative approach between the public and private sectors that operate across the value chain. To achieve this, a proposed strategy which requires consensus building and connecting ecosystem players towards a shared vision has been identified.  NITDA, using NAVSA, intends to collaborate with 22 industry players, with each player entering into agreement or signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on expected roles it will perform.

The ecosystem includes farmers; Federal, State and Local Governments; input suppliers and produce off-takers; mobile/telecommunications service providers; Banks; FinTech; smart solutions service providers; renewable energy service providers; investors; development partners; agriculture platforms; startup businesses, agriculture experts and extension workers among others. The values these partners would bring to the success of the programme is alluded to at the closing ceremony of the training at Dutse,Jigawa State by the State Governor, His Excellency Mohammed Badaru. He confirmed that NITDA has partnered with telecoms operator, (MTN) and has developed a special package for smart farmers which comes with 4G SIM cards with a one year internet data subscription. Other add-ons to the digital tools include certified seeds, smart water pumps machines, fertilizers and other items.

He stated further that “NAVSA created a wallet scheme with seed capital of N200,000 for each smart farmer. Both the state government and NITDA contributed half of the amount each. The wallet scheme is designed to domicile money for proper projects execution whereas JASCO will serve as farm inputs service provider.

In ensuring that funds for the project are not used for other purposes rather than what it meant for, the project is designed in a way that all transactions are required to go through the platform with the aid of the digital wallet. Funds are not allowed to exchange hands and the only way a farmer could access the fund is through request on the platform to a NAVSA-registered input supplier.  In making it a self-sustaining venture, it is also designed in such a manner that allows smart farmers to plough 75 percent of their profits back to the open wallet where it can be cashed out and the remaining balance of 25 percent goes into a restricted wallet to increase the investment capital.

This laudable initiative intends to create 6 million jobs in the next 10 years. This may look so ambitious but the strategies put in place to accomplish the aspiration are well tailored with articulated Key Performance Indicators that provide clear guidelines for it. The strategy is targeted at adopting farmers in all 36 States and 774 LGAs in the country, support and equip them with skills and resources that will make Nigeria one of the leading nations in food sufficiency, security and exportation.

It has now become imperative more than ever before to adopt the use of technology to combat hunger and promote sustainable agricultural practices that are attractive to youths. Digital technologies and innovations are at the heart of managing agriculture value chain from seedling to off-take. And these are that targets of NAVSA going forward.


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Huawei’s Investment in Nigeria Reaches $76m



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Huawei Technologies Company Nigeria Limited, a leading information communication technology (ICT) solution supplier in the Nigeria telecoms market said it has made a total investment of $76 million in the country.

Huawei’s Investment in Nigeria Reaches $76m

Mr Trevor Liu, managing director of Huawei Technologies Company Nigeria Limited, made this known when he visited Mrs Zainab Ahmed, minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, last week in Abuja.

He said apart from that, his company made procurements worth $630 million with a tax revenue of $103 million between 2016 and 2019.

According to him, Huawei has created over 400 direct job opportunities in which 70 per cent are Nigerians. This, he stated, is in addition to over 60,000 indirect job opportunities and over 470 Nigeria sub-contractors and partners.

The company has in the country established international training centre in Abuja, with Innovation and Experience Centre and Regional Network Operation Centre (RNOC) in Lagos, he said.

Mr Liu also stated that in the company’s ICT job creation efforts, there is over 54 Huawei ICT Academy in universities and polytechnics and has certified over 880 students and teachers each year.

Over 13,600 Nigerian students participated in Huawei ICT Competition for 2018-2019 and won third prize in the global final, the company’s chief informed the Minister.

According to him, Huawei has provided ICT training for its Nigerian partners, customers, converging over 900 engineers each year, while over 400 engineers have got the company’s authorised ICT certification.

In its programme for government officers, Huawei trained 1000 government officers in ICT technology in 2019 apart from training 2000 youth in ICT in 2016, and training 1000 girls in 2014-2015 basic ICT, he said.

In her remarks, Mrs Ahmed commended Huawei for its investment in Nigeria, assuring the company of the federal government support.

However, she appealed to the firm to assist the Nigerian education system with affordable solutions that would guarantee digital value additions and accessibility to the rural communities so as to expand the country’s rural telephony.

The Minister said the education system has been most impacted by COVID-19 and only students and children in the cities have been able to have access to digital learning.

“A lot of our kids and students in the rural communities are not fortunate enough to plug into such platform,” she said.

She also appealed to Huawei to bring into Nigeria assembly plants and repair workshops that could help create jobs and expand the value chain for the Nigerian citizenry, noting that the country is a big market.

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Heritage Bank’s MD Calls for More Impactful Role in Banking to Aid Speedy Economic Recovery



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In the quest to aid speedy economic recovery and impactful service delivery to stakeholders caused by macro-economic headwinds and Covid-19, banking sector’s players have been charged to maximize the opportunities by re-strategizing its roles that will address emerging risks.

Ifie Sekibo, managing director/CEO of Heritage Bank Plc, made the call during the 47th Quarterly Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria (ACAEBIN) with the theme “Elevating Internal Audit’s Role in the Face of Emerging Risks and Opportunities” held virtually on Microsoft Team’s platform, which was organized and hosted by the Heritage Bank, at the weekend.

Sekibo who was represented by Jude Monye, executive director, Heritage Bank Plc, whilst addressing internal auditors of banks, inquired from the bankers on the readiness of the Internal Audit function to lend the necessary support in exploiting and maximising the opportunities without impairing their independence.

He, however noted that with the rapid changing developments forced by the pandemic sweep across globe that have upended organisations in every sector of the economy, banking inclusive; internal auditors would notice that their modus operandi are outdated.

To this end, he stated that this was the most auspicious time for Chief Audit Executives to rethink how they perform various aspects of their audit assignments.

Sekibo suggested that auditors must “become versed in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data analytics, fraud management, regulatory pronouncements, forensics etc and having equipped himself, present balanced, objective audit reports to Executive Management while striking the right balance between the assurance and consulting responsibilities.”

He further hinted, “Embracing new processes and tools to modernize and maximize the audit function helps not only with the perception of internal audit’s value, but also the reality of its contributions. Opportunities to evaluate include virtual auditing, electronic workflow management, and distance team-building and development.”

According to him, it becomes imperative for audit teams to embrace change, harness it and use this season to strategize on what internal audit can be in the future, whist noting that only Chief Audit Executives that maximize the opportunity to refresh and reposition will make their role more relevant and impactful for stakeholders.

Meanwhile, he commended auditors for their contributions to the industry including inputs made in shaping policy directions by regulators and the fight against fraud and other financial crimes which helped in no small measure in deepening confidence of the banking public.

In the same vein, Yinka Tiamiyu, Chairman of ACAEBIN,reiterated the need for internal auditors to maximize opportunities of the current challenges facing the industry, as each day brings new developments that directly influence the likelihood and potential impact of banking future.

According to him, there are challenges on our part as Bankers in meeting up with the needs of our customers and the general public, and we must ensure that such challenges are surmounted.

He stressed on the need for regular annual audit plan to be reviewed quarterly to address current events that have significant impacts on the business, whilst ensuring that the key players continuously provide banking services to customers in a convenient and safer way.

“On our part, the need for improvement in service delivery and safety of customer’s funds as we digitalized our product offerings are concerns facing the industry, as such we must not relent in our efforts to get strong authentication mechanisms as we make our services more convenient and easier for Customers.  Banks should strive to find solution to the problems associated with identity theft as we pursue digital products and inclusive banking. This is to ensure that customers are happy with us and complaints minimized,” Tiamiyu urged internal auditors of banks.


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