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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

BAFI Awards: FirstBank’s COVID-19 response sets the pace in CSR for other financial institutions

L-R: Oze K. Oze, Head, Internal Communications & Content Management, FirstBank; Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, E-Business & Retail Products, FirstBank; Bayo Olanrewaju, Head, Digital Banking, FirstBank; Helen Willie, Transaction Banking Manager, FirstBank and Adewale Salami, Chief Technology Officer, FirstBank during the presentation of the two awards won by FirstBank; Best Mobile App and CSR Bank of the Year Awards at the 8th BusinessDay Banking & Other Financial Institutions Awards (BAFI) which took place at the Lagos Continental Hotel.

 


 By ANIEKAN EZEKIEL

From the publisher of BusinessDay, Frank Aigbogun’s welcome address at the recently held BusinessDay’s Banks and other Financial Institutions (BAFI) Awards came the following words: ‘The year 2020 has been a most interesting year. The economy and communities have been managed by disruptions imposed by COVID-19. Yet financial services have shown uncommon responsiveness and compassion towards customers and communities.’ Indeed, this has been an unusual year, no thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, but it has been a year defined as much by COVID-19 and its associated disruptions and difficulties as by the unprecedented response in kindness by corporate Nigeria.

 

BusinessDay’s BAFI Awards recognised achievements in a number of separate categories, each of which was worth its weight in gold. However, it could be argued that in this year of COVID-19, any recognition that took into account and was informed by the awardee’s COVID-related activities was probably the most significant of the awards/categories. It is against this backdrop that the recipient of the CSR Bank of the Year award at the BAFI Awards should be celebrated and projected as a model other corporate should emulate. And it came as no surprise that the bank that considers its destiny to be intertwined with Nigeria’s and whose commitment to nation building largely informs its approach to corporate responsibility and sustainability (CR&S), was so crowned as CSR Bank of the Year at the BAFI Awards.

 

The award was a well-deserved recognition for the exemplary role played by First Bank of Nigeria Ltd, Nigeria’s leading financial services provider, in support of the government and individuals’ as well as its own efforts to deal with the impact of COVID-19. Before the BAFI Awards, and, undoubtedly, proof that the award was not a fluke, CSR Reporters had named FirstBank as the 2020 Philanthropic Financial Institution of the Year in recognition of the bank’s social responsibility in the areas of e-learning and empowerment of SMEs in Nigeria. These CSR awards took cognisance of FirstBank’s unparalleled contributions to CSR, particularly through its e-learning initiative delivered in collaboration with partners from within and outside the continent, such as IBM, UNESCO and Robert & John, and the Lagos State Government.

 

Whilst different organisations rose to the various challenges resulting from COVID-19 crisis and were supporting in areas such as health and welfare, FirstBank chose and developed the e-learning initiative. FirstBank felt strongly that the peculiar needs of children and the youth risked being neglected at a time of unprecedented crises – with schools being closed, parents losing jobs, businesses shutting down, government revenues shrinking, health care resources being over-stretched, economic conditions worsening, etc. The bank therefore kicked off an initiative to move one million students to e-learning, alongside its partners, to minimise the disruption to the their education resulting from the prolonged closure of schools across Nigeria and ensure that they remain fully engaged during the difficult period, so they can continue to learn and compete favourably with their peers across the world. Over 140,000 students have benefitted from the e-learning initiative.

 

Focusing on key elements that resonated with its brand, such as dynamism, innovation and nation building, FirstBank’s e-learning initiative is an innovative and dynamic approach to learning which is not only a suitable and resourceful solution at this time, but also one that is intertwined with perhaps the next century’s likely digital approach to learning, especially with the addition of courses such as coding and robotics, which can usher students into the era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and prepare them for jobs of the future. The e-learning initiative also aligns with the bank’s key focus area in its CSR framework – education. Education remains the single largest beneficiary of FirstBank’s enormous investments in CSR. Currently, 10 universities and three secondary schools enjoy FirstBank’s infrastructure projects; 10 universities are endowed with professorial chairs by the bank; and over 80,000 students in over 80 secondary schools in Nigeria have benefitted from financial literacy, and entrepreneurial and career counselling provided through FirstBank-sponsored programmes. Education consistently attracts the bank’s keenest attention from year to year. This is because FirstBank believes that education – quality and relevant education – remains the bedrock of any society and that when children are properly educated, the nation is enabled and global citizens who provide groundbreaking solutions for the continent and the world at large, are produced.

 

FirstBank’s partnership with IBM on the e-learning initiative, is making available to students the Digital-Nation Africa program, an online youth-focused learning programme that enables innovation and skills development on emerging technologies The IBM Digital- Nation Africa aims to provide African youth with effective digital literacy. The Platform seeks to enable African citizens, entrepreneurs and communities with the knowledge, tools and skills to innovate, design, develop and launch their own digital skills. It also helps African citizens enhance their digital skills to best meet the needs of the job market.

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