When people talk about the need for infrastructure development in Africa, they usually mean brick and mortar projects, which improve transportation links, hospitals or schools.
But, creating a physical network to support a flourishing African continent which can provide stability and growth for its burgeoning population also relies on the invisible infrastructure. This is the hidden strength behind the physical health centres, roads and community hubs.
Five years ago the Ecobank Foundation started collaborating with the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) to become the go-to partner in Africa to develop improved access to health and education, alongside financial inclusion.
The Ecobank Foundation wanted to leverage its know-how to deliver the Foundation’s mission to achieve social change while battling life-threatening diseases such as HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria.
The Foundation drew on CAF’s in-depth research into growing ‘giving’ in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. These reports examined individual giving and the enabling environment and recommended supporting the development of the invisible infrastructure that supports civil society.
One suggested way to achieve this was to promote new ways of safe and secure giving to develop the potential for mass engagement and individual giving.
CSR and giving for infrastructure development
Ecobank Foundation started using the Ecobank mobile app to reach potential donors globally, from the African diaspora and the continent, to give them a way to give across Africa. They also used the app to engage with their own staff to test dedicated fundraising appeals such as World Malaria Day. Most recently it was successfully used to fundraise of the victims of Cyclone Idai in 2019.
In addition, to direct financial support of malaria prevention programmes in Mozambique and Nigeria, Ecobank employees in 33 countries support the Global Fund and its local partners to develop technological solutions to address cash management and deliver mobile money support.
A specific example of a particular mobile money support initiative is providing mobile banking services to street children in Togo, with a local charity acting as custodian to safeguard their small pockets of savings.
This example speaks to the idea that successful corporate social responsibility will only translate into real-world impact if it is borne out of the local content. You have to understand the problem in order to make the best use of your resources.
The Foundation has worked closely with the Ecobank Academy, a corporate university, which trains finance managers in health programmes that support large relief organisations such as The Global Fund and United Nations Population Fund. They created an initiative to bridge the knowledge gap between financial institutes and colleagues working in development on the ground.
Specific leadership and financial management training was designed for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Africa to support national societies.
These initiatives not only improved individual governance and reporting standards but strengthened relationships with funders and encouraged colleagues in similar organisations across regions to share successes and lessons learned.
This invisible knowledge infrastructure is a crucial piece to the transformational puzzle that is development in Africa.
While currently working to support those affected by COVID-19 the Foundation and CA have not lost sight of the battle against malaria which continues to bedevil African development.
They have launched the Zero Malaria Leadership Initiative and joined the RMB Partnership and African Union Commission Zero Malaria Starts With Me campaign.
Ecobank was recently awarded Africa’s best bank for corporate responsibility in Euromoney’s Awards for Excellence.