Corporates play a critical role in Eastern Cape, says Old Mutual
The potential dangers of the Covid-19 pandemic rise in impoverished rural communities. Sparse road networks and inadequate infrastructure further compound the risks. It is in these areas that corporate social investment initiatives have a vital role to play, says Old Mutual.
This is particularly the case in the Eastern Cape, says Vuyisile Koko, Chairperson of the Old Mutual Provincial Management Board (PMB). The province, he points out, is 65% rural and most people live far from the services available in the urban coastal centres of East London and Port Elizabeth. With limited resources available within their areas, they rely on support from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and private sector CSI programmes to make a fundamental difference to their lives.
“In fact, corporate social investment in the Eastern Cape should not be viewed as a ‘nice to have’. As we serve customers from communities across the province, we believe we have an obligation to help address the socio-economic issues that plague them. We therefore regard our CSI investments as an essential part of our licence to operate, and this view is shared by all members of the board,” says Mr Koko.
“Poverty levels are high and widespread in the province, so a sudden threat like Covid-19 increase the challenges the communities face, and a bad situation can quickly become dire. We stepped in to help, knowing that the people would, as always, not only appreciate what we do but also participate fully to maximise the benefits they receive.”
In April 2020 Old Mutual and the Kolisi Foundation supported Soap4HOPE's activations in the Eastern Cape, distributing hand soap and food parcels to 500 families in the Zwide community. Each family received a package containing essentials such as mealie meal, cooking oil, rice, vegetables, soap for handwashing, cloth masks and sanitary items for women and girls. Included in each package was a leaflet in isiXhosa promoting coronavirus awareness and hygiene guidelines.
With additional funding provided for Covid-19 programmes, the Old Mutual board looked to how it could best create shared value. As in all nine provinces, the Department of Social Development helped Old Mutual to identify reputable NGOs, coordinate activities and deliver aid to the most vulnerable communities.
The majority of the support was funnelled into the healthcare sector, including the Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, which received beds for use in tented field hospitals. Where possible, beds were sourced from an Eastern Cape supplier. Old Mutual also assisted with supplying PPE and state-of-the-art digital thermometers.
“As Old Mutual has a centralised, well-developed and transparent procurement process, we were able to acquire all our programme requirements at competitive prices from reliable suppliers. For the beneficiaries, this meant that budgets were maximised.
“Old Mutual has been serving South Africans for 175 years. Through our provincial boards, we ensure that the benefits of our CSI programmes reach across the country. Although we are unable to address every social need, we are proud of the helping hand we have been able to extend to areas where it is most needed,” concludes Mr Koko.