• Monday, March 04, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Breaking the African stereotype by redefining its narrative

Herbert Wigwe

Africa has been wrongly judged and stereotyped for many years. Whether or not these labels are true, they have given a bad impression of the continent as a place with constant unrest, economic downturns, poverty, and untapped human and material potential that can only be harnessed through foreign aid.

Changing this negative view of the home to the youngest population in the world requires unwavering optimism and determination to build structures that will promote development, strengthen current systems, and give people a chance to unlock their potential.

Also needed are partnerships and alliances that will help Africa and get the attention of the rest of the world. Access Holdings Plc (Access Corporation), in its drive to retell Africa’s story maintained the momentum for over 20 years.

Over the years, Access Holdings, a Nigerian financial institution with a continent-wide presence and impact has initiated and sponsored various projects aimed at developing Africa’s economic and social ecosystems in multiple areas.

Access Corporation is redefining the African narrative by investing in seven strategic pillars across the continent’s socio-economic landscape including: sustainability, the creative industry, sports for Impact, COVID-19 response, Women empowerment, Africa avant-garde, and Awards, according to Herbert Wigwe, the firm’s group managing director/CEO.

Sustainability

Access Corporation is committed to reshaping the global perception of Africa’s sustainability culture, the CEO noted, adding that the corporation promotes sustainable economic growth in Africa through renewable energy projects that reduce its carbon footprint; one of the anchor points of the 17 sustainable development goals.

Additionally, the institution empowers women entrepreneurs, promotes gender equality by providing access to finance, invests in digital banking technology to increase financial inclusion, especially in underprivileged communities. These initiatives have impacted over 700 million lives and challenged negative stereotypes about the region, showcasing Africa’s potential for sustainable development and economic growth.

Read also: Eko Innovation Centre upskills entrepreneurs on cybercrime solutions

The Creative Industry

The African creative industry has attracted global attention, resulting in a continued spike in the industry’s contribution to the continent’s cumulative GDP. This is due in part to the positive outlook garnered through projects powered with unrelenting investments by forward-thinking organizations like Access Corporation.

According to UNESCO, Africa’s film and audiovisual sector is estimated to account for about $5 billion in revenue on the continent and employs millions in various capacities and skills. Recognising this potential, Access Corporation invested in various initiatives of wide-scale impact. One of such initiatives is the African International Film Festival (AFRIFF), which has helped in the training of thousands of indigenous filmmakers and funding of movie projects presented to a global audience.

The Access Bank Art X Prize is another initiative, an art fair that showcases the best of African contemporary art, while providing access to mentorship for the artists. It has as well given visibility and recognition to some of the best creatives on the continent and the diaspora, helping to ensure that their potential is fully realised.

Furthermore, Access Corporation also invested in the ‘Born in Africa Festival’, which promotes African culture and heritage through music, art, and fashion. Through these initiatives, Access Corporation has played a significant role in the development and growth of the African creative industry.

Sports for impact

The winners of the 8th edition of the Lagos Marathon won a total of $240,000, while the first three Nigerian male and female finishers won a combined 12 million naira. This annual 42km race has put Lagos on the map alongside marathon destinations like New York and London, and was recently upgraded to a gold label event by World Athletics.

Through this annual track event, Access Corporation provides a platform for athletes of all backgrounds to compete, while also using sports as a means to impact the health and well-being of its community.

Also, the Access Polo Tournament has also had impacted education in Africa. With over $1 million raised, they have built and equipped over 100 classrooms in Nigeria and South Africa, positively impacting the lives of underprivileged children across the continent.

COVID-19 Response

Amidst the world’s struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic, even the most developed countries were at a loss. But rather than wait for solutions, the Group CEO, Herbert Wigwe, took action. He spearheaded the formation of The Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), rallying private sector stakeholders to tackle the crisis head-on.

Over N43 billion was raised to combat the virus in Nigeria by the coalition of the bank and other private businesses. The funding went towards treatment, testing, training, and isolation centers across the country, along with donated medical equipment and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). And to help those most in need, the Coalition provided palliatives during the enforced lockdowns.

Women Empowerment

Diversity, inclusion, and equity are more than buzzwords for Access Holdings. They’re pillars that guide it operations. Through the W Initiative, the banking group supports women by offering mentorship and training programs for leadership positions and health services. So far, over 150,000 women have benefited from this initiative, breaking societal stereotypes.

In the same vein, Access Bank’s Maternal Health Service Support (MHSS) Scheme has disbursed over N211million to help hundreds of women access fertility treatments and natal support. The scheme has impacted 145 women with low-cost health financing and celebrated the birth of 78 babies.

Career-wise, the Access Womenpreneur Pitch-A-Ton promotes inclusivity and equity by providing world-class business training and financial grants to African businesswomen. Over 250 women have benefited from free mini-MBA certifications and received financial grants totaling over $21,000.