Breaking Africa’s stereotypes with home-grown financial tools
Africa has been at the receiving end of many labels for several decades, most of which, sadly, are laced with prejudices and stereotypes — projecting its story through a single-sided lens.
The labels — whether true or false — have served as shrouds that muddied perceptions and kept the continent draped in unfavourable narratives: ‘A continent of persistent unrest, consistent downturns and immense human capital potential doomed to remain unharnessed without increased foreign aid.
Altering these narratives requires dogged optimism and unparalleled determination to set up structures that will catalyze development, strengthen existing systems, and provide platforms for untapped potential to be uncovered and developed. It also requires strategic foresightedness in establishing partnerships and coalitions that will serve the African continent and capture the global community’s attention — all of which Access Corporation has successfully driven through its over 20 years of impact.
Access Holdings Plc has restructured itself towards an ecosystem orchestrator involving five verticals – the bank (Access Bank), Lending Company (LendCo), Payment Company (PayCo), Insurance and Pensions.
Over the years, Access Corporation has launched and sponsored several initiatives aimed at developing the continent’s economic and social ecosystems across diverse touchpoints. Furthermore, the institution has stood firm on its commitment to deliver on its promise of social responsibility, strong corporate governance, financial value for stakeholders, a positive and gender-balanced workplace environment, all while setting the pace with the introduction of innovative products and services.
One might be tempted to ask, “In what way is the Corporation redefining the African narrative?” Well, by investing in strategic pillars in the continent’s socio-economic landscape, and there are a few examples.
Globally, there are very few institutions that show commitment to sustainability like Access Corporation. The Corporation has played a crucial role in redefining the image of Africa by challenging negative perceptions of the continent and presenting it as a hub for sustainable development. One of how the financial powerhouse has achieved this is by focusing on renewable energy projects, which have helped to reduce the carbon footprint of the institution and its subsidiaries while promoting sustainable economic growth in Africa.
Specifically, it has been actively involved in promoting gender equality and financial inclusion, having launched several initiatives to empower women entrepreneurs and increase their access to finance, helping to reduce gender inequalities across the continent.
Additionally, Access Corporation has invested heavily in digital banking technology, which has helped to increase financial inclusion by providing affordable banking services to underprivileged communities in Africa.
These efforts have helped to redefine the image of Africa by showcasing the continent’s potential for sustainable development and economic growth, and aiding the cause to challenge negative stereotypes about the region. Through its various sustainability initiatives, the Corporation has impacted over 700 million lives.
The creative industry
Recognising the potential that exists in the African creative industry, Access Corporation has invested in various initiatives of wide-scale impact. Some of these include Art X, African International Film Festival (AFRIFF), Born in Africa Festival, amongst others.
Through the Access Bank Art X Prize, it has been able to ensure that attention is given to some of the best creatives on the continent and the diaspora while providing access to mentorship to ensure their potential is fully realised. On the other hand, the AFRIFF partnership has culminated in thousands of budding, indigenous filmmakers being trained and movie projects funded and presented to a global audience.
Meanwhile, Africa’s creative industry boasts some of the continent’s most impressive exports that have attracted global attention, resulting in a continued spike in the industry’s contribution to the continent’s cumulative GDP. Exciting as this sounds, it has not always been the case. The lucrative boom in the creative industry has come on the heels of the positive outlook garnered through projects powered with unrelenting investments by forward-thinking organisations like Access Corporation.
Value through sports
In two decades, Access Corporation has altered the face of sports in Africa through landmark initiatives like the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon and Access Polo Tournament.
With roots established in Kaduna, Nigeria to ensure that children in Nigeria get access to quality education, the impact of the polo initiative is now being felt on a wider scale as the Corporation has extended its reach to South Africa. Cumulatively, over $1 million has been raised to build and equip over 100 classrooms in Nigeria and South Africa, impacting thousands of underprivileged children within Africa.
Through the Marathon, on the other hand, Access Corporation has provided a globally acclaimed platform for indigenous athletes, refugees and persons living with disability to compete in a race of global repute. Leveraging the Marathon’s prestige and reach, the Corporation has used the Gold-Label-Status marathon as an avenue to improve the economic standing of several athletes through the prize money offered while offering essential training for aspiring elite athletes.
Furthermore, the Corporation has used its involvement in sports as an opportunity to impact the health and well-being of individuals within its host community. For instance, in the last edition of the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, active steps were taken to move the needle regarding the spread of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, setting up an HIV testing initiative during which over 5,000 individuals got tested.
With no prior experience on how to deal with a pandemic the scale of COVID-19, the most developed countries in the world grappled and failed at curtailing the disease’s spread. To ensure lives were saved and a positive story is told about the continent’s response to the spread of the virus, the Group CEO, Herbert Wigwe, teamed up with other private sector stakeholders to form The Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID).
Through the collective efforts of members of the Coalition, spearheaded by Access Bank and the Aliko Dangote Foundation, CACOVID raised over N43 billion to help Nigeria in combating COVID-19, through the provision of treatment, testing, training and isolation centers across the country. The Coalition also donated medical equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to existing centers while supporting the most vulnerable with palliatives to make the enforced lockdowns, which became necessary to contain the spread of the disease, easier to bear.
Diversity, inclusion, and equity have become buzzwords in the global community today, but to Access Holdings, they are pillars which drive the way they operate. Whether internally or within its host communities, empowering and supporting women has been tirelessly prioritized.
For instance, the W Initiative, one of the flagships of the banking group provides mentorship and training programs designed to prepare women for leadership positions in the corporate world, and health support services that target critical health issues like breast cancer and female genital mutilation. Presently, this initiative has impacted over 150,000 women across Africa, fostering inclusivity and breaking deeply entrenched societal stereotypes.
Also, through the W initiative, Access Bank has made local and international fertility treatments and natal support easily accessible to hundreds of women across Africa through the Maternal Health Service Support (MHSS) Scheme. Since the launch of the Scheme, the Bank has disbursed over N211 million, impacted 145 women with its low-cost health financing scheme and recorded the birth of 78 babies.
The Access Womenpreneur Pitch-A-Ton is another initiative through which the Bank has engendered inclusivity and equity, providing businesswomen in Africa with world-class business training and substantial financial injections. With the Pitch-A-Ton, the Bank has impacted over 250 women in Africa with free mini-MBA certifications and financial grants to the tune of over $21,000.
Without a doubt, all these great success stories will be ‘water under the bridge’ if the media isn’t telling the right stories about our strides as a continent. This is why the Corporation partnered with global media powerhouse, CNN, to produce Africa Avant Garde, a series that showcases innovators and creators working across art, design, music, film and fashion.
All these laudable feats have not gone without recognition from local, regional and global stakeholders as the Corporation has amassed over 300 awards since it found new ownership 20 years ago. Some notable bodies that have recognised the corporation’s efforts across finance, sustainability, women empowerment, customer service and digital innovation include World Finance, The European Organization for Sustainable Finance, The Banker, The Global Sustainable Finance Network, the Central Bank of Nigeria, and more.
With subsidiaries spread across the major trading blocs in Africa, Access Corporation enables and empowers all Africans in its ecosystem with the privilege of a connection to the rest of the world.
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