Standard Chartered Bank's unique approach
Two-year-old Henry Zimbe smiles heartily at the sight of his visitors. Alongside other children under the age of 5 in Makindye, Kampala’s most Malaria-infested division, he would probably be dead. But thanks to the intervention of the Standard Chartered Bank, Zimbe and his neighbours now have a reason to smile. “I am very grateful to the bank for assisting us with the nets. Mosquitoes no longer bite us as they would before the arrival of the nets”, says a beaming 21-year-old Annette Nanjumba – Zimbe’s mother.
Malaria kills an African child every 30 seconds and according to Uganda’s Health ministry statistics, it is the number one killer of expectant mothers and children aged under five in the country. Against this background and taking cognizance of the fact that many sub-Saharan African countries lack resources and infrastructure to mount sustainable campaigns, the Standard Chartered Bank decided to intervene.
Q1.What was the driving force behind the bank's
corporate social responsibility projects?
A :We arrived at the realisation that we were and are still a market leader in many of the markets we operate in around Africa. Alongside that leadership position comes real responsibilities. Supporting communities to undertake their own development is one such responsibility.
Q2. How is the bank's approach to corporate social
responsibility different from that of other companies?
A: Our approach is to get involved in life changing community programs that are also measurable. We believe in giving communities water as it not only promotes better health but it is sustainable. In giving posho mills to community groups, we sought to promote self-reliance - another example of a practical way of reducing poverty. By building and improving facilities at the Thika High School for the blind, we intended to increase enrolment for girls by 95%, whilst overall enrolment will rise 36%.
Q3.In your view, how have the communities you work with
benefitted from the bank's intervention?
A: Real life changing projects. This is the overiding criteria
Q4. What are some of the challenges you have faced in
your quest to see a fruitful implementation of these
A: Making sure that the community gets value for what we embark on doing. Because of the success of our programmes, we receive thousands of requests for assistance from many Kenyan community groups, politicians, government departments,NGOs, churches and ordinary Kenyans.
Q5.Which projects do you intend to focus on in future
We are still considering what projects to do in 2005.
Q6. How would you react to the much publicized accusations that banks are only driven by the desire to make supernormal profits?
That's not true. At Standard Chartered we support communities as a responsibility,not as a nice thing to do. We believe we have an important social responsibility to the communities in which we operate and which support us.
7. Any other comments you would like to make
We believe our community programmes will be remembered in many years to come. Our water project, our posho mills project, the good work at Thika High School for the Blind, and our “seeing is believing” programmes at both the Kikuyu Eye Hospital and in Laikipia are testament of our commitment to working with communities in areas where we do business. But what gives me great satisfaction is the involvement of our staff in both the bank's community programmes and those of their own.
In a unique partnership, the bank, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the Uganda Red Cross and Quality Chemicals – importers of mosquito nets – in March 2003 distributed 16000 insecticide treated nets to expectant mothers and children under 5 in Makindye, located 6km east of Kampala. “The market price of these nets is $5 but we sold them to the target group at half the price, given high poverty levels in the area, says Mrs Harriet Musoke, the bank’s Uganda Corporate Affairs Manager.
She added: “It has always been the bank’s mission to support projects that bring change to the community because that is where our customers come from”. With sustained national publicity, other mothers also enrolled in the programme, resulting in a further distribution of 100,000 nets.
The bank’s efforts have, no doubt, borne fruits judging by the testimony from the beneficiaries. “Malaria is a major killer in this area but we no longer fall sick after receiving the nets from the bank”, says Nakawesi Prossy, a 24-year-old mother of two who bought the net when she was pregnant with her second child. While expressing her gratitude to the bank, she however appeals for the assistance in the spraying of mosquito breeding grounds, which litter the area.
Though the nets were given at subsidized rates, majority of the community could still not afford them since they are low- income earners while others are unemployed. “Whereas we are grateful for what the bank did to us, we would appreciate receiving free nets since most of the beneficiaries are poor”, remarks Mrs Lusoke Samaire, a volunteer nets distributor. Mrs Samaire also appeals to the bank to assist people living with HIV/AIDS, given the high prevalence rates in the area. “This is an area most affected by Aids. Any kind of assistance to the victims is most welcome”, she noted.
Whereas the Malaria project was considered a success, its implementation came with challenges. “It was very difficult to convince people that the treated nets would not be harmful to them. They kept asking, ‘if these things can kill mosquitoes, why not us?’ reminisces Miss Namusisi Zaituni, Uganda Red Cross Assistant Branch Field Co-ordinator. On a lighter note, Mrs Samaire adds that men kept asking when they would ever be included in the target group. “This project targeted mostly pregnant women. Unfortunately, Ugandans don’t sleep in the same bed with their pregnant wives. So the men felt left out”.
Buoyed by the success of the Malaria project, the bank initiated a heart project in 2004. In partnership with the Uganda Heart Institute at Mulago Hospital – the country’s largest referral hospital – the bank donated a $30,000 Autohumalyser, a machine used in theatre during an open- heart surgery. After commissioning the machine on 6 October 2004, the bank then launched the “Have a heart for Uganda” campaign with other private institutions to raise money for a blood gas analyzer, which ascertains the amount and type of gases present in the lungs, kidney and heart for patients on life support machines.
The year 2004 also saw the implementation of a water project [boreholes and water pumps] in rural Uganda, with WaterAid and Busoga Trust as implementing agencies. With the majority of rural people lacking access to safe water and living in constant fear of an outbreak of an epidemic, the banks provision of clean water has no doubt changed the lives of the rural folk. Of the water project, Mr David Cutting, the bank’s Uganda CEO says: “We are happy that children can now go to school and women can now look for jobs instead of trekking long distances in search of water”.
But the most remarkable project in 2004 was the “seeing is believing” campaign in which the bank, in partnership with Sight Savers International, a UK leading charity, embarked on an ambitious programme to restore sight to one million people by 2008. Speaking during the launch on 9 December 2004, Mr Cutting said: “We have set ourselves a big target but blindness is a global challenge that we can only combat if we join forces together. ‘Seeing is believing’ can make a significant difference to the communities where we work for generations to come”.
Echoing Mr Cutting’s sentiments, Sight Savers Country Director Mr Ben Male said: “It is wonderful that Standard Chartered Bank has recognized the social and economic benefits of preventing and curing blindness. ‘Seeing is believing’ looks set to become a significant force in the fight against global blindness. We are extremely excited to be embarking on a partnership of this scale”.
This year, the bank is still brainstorming on what project to implement. According to Mr Cutting, the project, like the previous ones, will have to be self-sustaining. In future, the bank would like to enter into partnership with stakeholders in primary and secondary education as well as in the sports arena.
The north-eastern Tanzanian town of Arusha is also home to beneficiaries of the bank’s community development projects. Mrs Amina Hassan, 33, had lost hope in life after discovering that she was HIV-positive early last year. With four children and a jobless husband to look after, her world came crumbling down with the deterioration of her health, which spoilt her chances of looking for odd jobs. But a smile was put back on her face in October 2004 when she was offered a caretaker’s job in a fish farm project in Mererani, a tanzanite mining area situated100km east of Arusha town. “After intensive counseling on positive living by World Vision International, I went public with my status and my life changed dramatically. I can now take care of my family with my daily allowance of Tanzanian Shillings 1500 [About $1.9]”, she says with an air of confidence. “I no longer feel depressed and I enjoy fresh air from the fish pond, away from my polluted home”, she adds. When the fish was harvested, she was given a few kilos to take home, further boosting her diet in an area where the majority cannot afford a decent meal.
The fish farm is one of the projects initiated by Standard Chartered Bank, Tanzania in collaboration with World Vision International. Excavation of the fish pond began in June 2003 and inaugurated in April 2004. “This is an area with very high HIV prevalence rates. A number of commercial sex workers here are in the trade due to lack of better jobs. The bank decided to intervene by empowering women with income generating activities that would persuade them to abandon prostitution and reduce the risk of HIV infection”, says Miss Juanita Mramba, the Bank’s Tanzania Corporate Affairs manager.
“If you talk to these women, they will tell you that they are in the business because there are no other jobs. They simply ask for more money if the client refuses to use a condom”, says Mr Richard Rugemalira, World Vision’s Tanzania marketing manager.
A few months into the project, the target group is already reaping the benefits. Ms Mary Ali, 39, has never been married but has seven children from different fathers. “Before I came to know about this project, I was a drunkard and a prostitute who would sleep with any man. I spent my time drinking local brews and hunting down men”, she says without batting an eyelid. “But thanks to World Vision and Standard Chartered Bank, I now have my dignity back. People who used to look down upon me now respect me and regard me as a role model”.
Fortunately for Ms Ali, she abandoned the flesh trade last year following the intervention of World vision and the bank. “I was counseled and underwent three HIV tests which turned out to be negative. Realising how much God had protected me, I quit prostitution and decided to get saved”.
During the fish harvest last November, Ms Ali and 47 other women were each given a loan of about $66 for the purchase of fish, which they later sold at 100 per cent profit. She invested the profits in a fruits and vegetable business which is doing well. “I am now ready to send two of my children to secondary school after their good performance in the exams. “Initially I never bothered about their education”, she says. Another beneficiary with the same testimony is 19-year-old Esther Mwamvita, who used to combine her job as a barmaid with prostitution. She has also saved her proceeds from fish and is now waiting for the next harvest due in April.
“What this project has done is that it has promoted behaviour change and improved the standard of living of the beneficiaries”, notes Mr Rugemalira. “Our campaign has led to the closure of brothels in this area due to the dwindling number of clients. It is encouraging to note that the few women we sensitized went to the brothels and convinced their colleagues to join our projects, leaving the brothels empty”, reckons Mrs Christine Lukwaro, the former fish farm project co-ordinator.
The bank has also sunk six boreholes in the area giving hope to the community that has never known clean water.Notably, the bank has embarked on projects aimed at alleviating abject poverty among needy communities, in 15-villages situated in Manyara, Morogoro, Dar es Salaam, Shinyanga and Kagera regions.
But there have been challenges too in the implementation of these projects. “Most of these projects are located very far from our head office, though we would like our staff to participate in them as much as possible”, observes Miss Mramba. But despite the challenges, the bank’s moto – “we are trusted, caring and dedicated to make a difference” keeps the fire burning.
This year, plans are underway for the construction of a $134,000 orphanage in the Kibaha region of Dar es Salaam. The home will house over 350 orphaned
In Kenya, Standard Chartered Bank supports the Salvation Army’s Thika High School for the Blind, the only post primary school for the blind in the region. In May 2003, Standard Chartered successfully drilled a 160-metre deep borehole at the school, which has helped solve the school's perennial water problem. The borehole, whose water yield is 14,000 litres per hour, can now serve upto 15,000 households outside of the school.
In seeking to improve the physical facilities at the school, the bank constructed a new dormitory block to accommodate 80 female students. A new block housing four classrooms was also constructed. The bank also renovated the existing facilities at the school.
Speaking during the commissioning of the facilities, the bank’s CEO Kenya and General Manager for East Africa Mr Michael Hart said: “What we are doing at this school dovetails very neatly with the other projects we are funding under our global Seeing is Believing initiative. For your information, globally, Standard Chartered is seeking to restore the eyesight of at least one million people, afflicted by the scourge of blindness”.
In 2004, the bank initiated the ‘Save a life’ Fund in response to the devastating famine in the eastern districts of Makueni and Kitui, where more than 100 people died of food poisoning from toxic maize.
From South Africa to the Gambia, the lives of many communities have been transformed. In partnership with the Bright Kid Foundation in Soweto, South Africa, the bank has converted cargo containers into functional classrooms for the poor and local self-help groups. Dubbed ‘edutainers’, the converted containers are becoming increasingly popular in the shanty towns.
In Ghana, 95 villages in the country’s eastern Yilo Krobo constituency have benefited from the ambitious ‘100 wells for 100 communities’ project initiated by the bank in 2002. The bank has also been involved in post-war reconstruction in Sierra Leone. Notably, it has constructed a two-storey orphanage for children orphaned by war At Bo, in southern Sierra Leone, the bank is building a rehabilitation home for teenage mothers, most of whom were targeted by rebel militias for use as sex slaves.In Banjul, the Gambia, the bank has initiated projects on the rehabilitation of street children.