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We spend our CSR budgets where there is need – Airtel

Charity Rwabutomize

Charity Rwabutomize

Airtel Uganda continues to spend heavily in the areas of health and ICT with a goal of changing the lives of Ugandans. CHARITY RWABUTOMIZE, Airtel Uganda’s CSR manager, told Justus Lyatuu how they have managed to ensure that their programmes have a deep impact on changing lives.

Briefly, give us a summary of the impact and what you have achieved from your corporate social responsibility activities over the last 12 months, telling us where your main focus was and why.

Our main focus is in the areas of Health, Education (ICT inclusive) and Sports.

On health, we are lead sponsor for the Kabaka Birthday Run. The proceeds are channeled towards kicking the sickle cell disease out of Uganda through creating awareness on the disease burden. With this year’s proceeds, 60,000 testing/screening kits were handed over by Airtel to Uganda’s National Laboratories Services.

A total of 57,843 test kits were distributed to health centers that are able to carry out massive awareness drives and screenings at hospitals, schools, etc and a balance of 2,157 test kits remained at Central Public Health Laboratories for screening activities carried out there. 

Launched in 2014, the Airtel Free Medical Camp outreaches have so far impacted over 200,000 Ugandans through free medical services and influencing health-seeking behavior.

The outreaches share health information that empowers participants to be more aware of the symptoms and prevention of treatable and preventable illnesses as well as the services that the government has made available to them at the local health centers II, III, IV and district hospitals.

Our approach is a one-stop service delivery that will enable patients get an all-round view of their health and access as many services as possible for free. This year, the camps were held in Kamuli, Palabek Refugee Camp and Arua.

Airtel Rising Stars 2018 – season 7 impacted more than 8,500 boys and girls, giving them a platform to showcase their football talent under the careful nurturing and guiding eye of Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) from grassroots level in their regions all the way to the national platform with other talented young 12 to 17-year-old footballers across Uganda.

A total of 356 teams (25 people per team, meaning 8,900 boys and girls) participated from the regional to the national finals. The tournament has given equal opportunity to both boys and girls where the game is predominantly driven by the males who receive more support in the skill.

The young Ugandan teens that showcased their talent and improved their skill were scouted by FUFA and some have been selected to join national leagues clubs, which is a great opportunity to launch their football careers.

It should be noted that Uganda Cranes midfielder Farouq Miya is a product of Airtel Rising Stars 2013 tournament and has gone on to enjoy a successful and growing international career in football.

Airtel Rising Stars unlocks the potential that lies deep inside the youth regardless of whether they have been in a formal classroom or not been to school but spent their entire creative time practicing their football skill at the community football pitches. 

Airtel’s CSR Investment seeks to make long-term impact and change to people’s lives.  Teaching a man to fish for us is “unlocking potential”. We know, however, that charitable giving/philanthropy also provides important, immediate relief to poverty and suffering which also has a place that is “giving a man a fish” that we recognize as “Touching Lives” and when we come together, we can make that much-needed immediate difference. 

We thus engage in charitable giving for internationally recognized calendar seasons through our Ramathan Giving and 12 Days of Christmas staff-driven initiative, among others.

How far do you go in monitoring your CSR activities to ensure that the projects have a long-term impact?

Our programs are designed with Service Level Agreements that spell out what the outcome should be when particular activities are carried out. So, reports from our activities will spell out the success of the initiative for the time we have committed to it.

Our implementing partners in the space of health programs also share reports that show the impact of our services; for instance, Uganda National Laboratory Services shares the report for Kick Sickle Cells out of Uganda initiative and Hinds Feet Uganda shares the impact report for the quarterly free medical health camps.

And what lessons have you learnt along the way? Are there some projects that you have supported, which, along the way, have faltered on some key performance targets? What have you done in such situations?

At Airtel, we’re committed to tackling the shared challenges that our business and our communities face together: people are doing remarkable things to rise to these challenges. But we know that there are many more ideas out there.

And we want to find the best ideas and help them achieve their potential. Along the way, we have realized that large-scale ideas are likely to require more investment in the long term.

As a lesson, we have learnt that partnerships create win-win solutions. We do work closely with the government, development partners and NGOs to achieve our goals.

.There is always a fear of duplication of effort, where companies embark on corporate social responsibility activities where other companies or government have played a role. How does Airtel avoid this whole risk of duplication of effort?

There are 17 UN Sustainability Development Goals that help to shape or provide guidelines on areas that organizations can pick from to make a difference in the community that they operate in.

Airtel’s CSR activities are always meant to add value to government efforts, among other agencies.

How do you come to the decision of where to invest your activities?

The best way to generate an idea is to look closely at the world around you, both in work and everyday life. Think about the challenges you see, and the steps you could take to make a difference.

We assess the areas of need for Uganda and where we can be impactful. It is from this needs assessment that we determine the areas where to focus our CSR.

Some companies have a certain percentage of how much of their revenues is spent on CSR activities. Do you think Uganda’s telecom industry needs a policy directive that requires the telecoms to invest a certain percentage of their revenues on CSR, perhaps the way you do it with the Rural Communication Development Fund?

Percentages are a good guideline and a place to start when finding your way on how to budget for CSR activities. I believe that over and above a percentage of revenues, each telecommunication should first define where it is they would like to make a difference and with what initiatives exactly.

Based on that, they would then have to assign a budget to the initiatives they have decided on and also explore ways of fundraising or partnering organizations that believe in their causes so as to scale up the impact of initiatives.

What does Airtel have in store – in regards to CSR – for 2019? Are there any new initiatives that the market should expect? Should we expect an increase in investments on CSR?

Business is not something separate from society — business is society. As society evolves, so does our business.

This calls for time-to-time review of our initiatives to address or respond to societal needs. This sometimes calls for improvements in the current initiatives or totally introducing new initiatives.


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