Exclusive interview with Donald Gwira, Head of Corporate Communications and External Affairs at Airtel Ghana
Has Airtel Ghana been able to deliver on its CSR focus which believes in the education of the underprivileged?
Enriching the communities in which we operate, specifically through the education initiative is one of the three key pillars of the Airtel brand. Alongside “affordability” and “innovation”, “community” is central to Airtel’s philosophy of empowering people – our employees, our customers and communities. With strong focus on increasing children’s access to education, Airtel Ghana initiated a “Schools Adoption Programme” which focuses on working with government to make quality education accessible to underprivileged children in rural Ghana. In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, our initial pilot project was the adoption of the Himankrom Methodist Primary School in the Ahanta West District of the Western Region.
The school needed infrastructural and resource support when Airtel stepped in. Airtel Ghana therefore undertook major renovation of the existing buildings as well as provided the school with a fully furnished library. In addition to these, we also donated other essentials like furniture, teaching aids and school uniforms and shoes for the pupils to the school. The teachers also benefit from an ongoing training programme and are given handsets and airtime as an added incentive. Additionally the teachers have agreed on key result areas that are also tied to the teacher incentive package.
Employees of Airtel were not left out of the programme as they donated clothes and toys and also volunteered their time to clean up and paint the school before its official launch on February 2011.
Airtel Ghana has since the adoption of Himankrom Methodist Primary School gone ahead to support other initiatives geared towards education. Of note is the funding of the ultra modern purpose – built Clinical Teaching Facility comprising of lecture halls, three (3) Student Pavilions and 13 offices for students and staff of the School of Medical Sciences of University of Cape Coast. The yet to be commissioned two-storey Diagnostics Centre also for the medical school and funded by Airtel would be equipped with the latest medical facilities and will be a one-stop centre for carrying out the most sophisticated diagnostic tests on patients. It is expected to provide the needed diagnostic services not just for people in the Central Region of Ghana but also for all the surrounding communities as far as the Western Region and beyond.
Education is about empowerment and it is linked to one of our core values of empowering people – giving them the freedom to take control and meet life’s daily challenges. It is therefore not a one – off activity but a journey we are committed to undertake for the benefit of the communities in which we operate.
What more should we expect from Airtel Touching Lives
Airtel Touching Lives seeks to reward individuals, irrespective of whether they are on the Airtel network, who have made an outstanding contribution to their family or community by granting them one wish that will change their lives and enable them to continue helping others in a sustainable way. Airtel introduced this project to reward Ghanaians who reflect the Airtel values of: making an impact (that is making a meaningful difference in society); making it happen (pursing our goals with passion and honouring our promise to our customers) and empowerment (encouraging and supporting people to do their best).
Airtel Touching Lives is a public-driven initiative which starts with the public nominating people who they believe are making a difference in the lives of their families and communities. A committee made up of social scientists, journalists and staff of Airtel then access the entries and the most compelling stories are then chosen and recorded for airing on TV.
In the first season of Touching Lives aired on various television stations across the country in 2010, Ghanaians were inspired by the heroic deeds of people like Dr. Fuseini Abdullai who has single-handedly decided to treat and fend for sick and mentally ill people in his community; Ghanaians also watched Sarah, a young woman who had for 23 years being hopping because she had one leg. She was given prosthetics to grant her a new lease of life. Today, these beneficiaries, most of whom were then visibly helpless, are fast rising up the ladder of success in various businesses, educational and other endeavors in a manner they gladly admit is “beyond their imagination”. Dr. Abdullai for example is a recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King Award for 2011 for Peace and Social Justice. Touching Lives was also adjudged the TV Programme of the Year by the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Ghana.
Season Two has ended and it was aired extensively on various television stations. We are currently handing out the rewards to the beneficiaries who are spread across the country. These include the renovation of the dilapidated three classroom block to a modern one with offices and a playground belonging to the Salvation Army school at Adaklu Abuadi in the Volta Region and completion of a two-bedroom house, LCD TV, toll free line, furniture for the Cultivating Mind Foundation. All the other beneficiaries are doing well and still serving their families and communities.
When we come to the end of the presentation of the rewards, we will take learning’s from it to advice us on the way forward.
What is the adoption rate of Airtel Money?
Airtel Money our convenient, safe and secure mobile money service that allows customers to pay utility bills, pay for goods and services, buy airtime for self and others, send money, and access to banking services is making in – roads in the Ghanaian mobile commerce market. This was recognised quite recently when it was adjudged Best Mobile Service at the Mobile World Ghana Telecoms Awards 2012.
Already Airtel Money has a wide network of service vendors comprising 1,700 spread across Ghana. Currently Airtel Money has about 890,000 registered customers and daily active users of 18,000. Initially, acceptance of this novel product had been slow but as people became increasingly aware of the Airtel Money, growth in the customer market is picking up, with customer growth of over 15% in the three months up to the end of October 2012. With the payment of water bills from Ghana Water Company now a reality, we expect further customer growth as we continue to enhance the service with new additions.
Any new innovation from Airtel this year that is worth mentioning
Innovation drives economic growth and Airtel has a track record that is unrivalled in mobile telecommunications. Airtel Money has two unique additions to the list of mobile money commerce services for its customers. The first is that Airtel Money uses a systems application that actually links users’ accounts to their bank accounts, and so unlike any other mobile commence service in Ghana, Airtel Money users can transfer money directly from their bank accounts to their phones and from their phones to their bank accounts.
So far Airtel Money has partner banks through which this service, the only one of its kind in Ghana, can be accessed: GT Bank, Zenith Bank, UT Bank, Ecobank, Unibank, Standard Chartered Bank ad United Bank for Africa (UBA).
Another unique application of Airtel Money actually allows users to access money through the Automated Teller Machines deployed by Ecobank, Energy Bank and First Capital Plus. Airtel is now working on entering into partnership with more banks to bring these unique services to the reach of all customers.
Which of your tariff offering has bought into the hearts of your subscribers?
Patronage of our “Obolobo its big” 5X promotion, has gone up beyond our expectations. Whenever you use your phone on Airtel to talk, text, surf, or use other services up to a predefined limit, you automatically receive five (5) times of the amount you spent as bonus airtime. The uniqueness of the 5X promotion lies in the fact that customers are rewarded for just transacting their usual activities on the network without having to subscribe to it or pay to join. Furthermore, the targets and bonus are not standardized for all customers; but are set based on the unique usage patterns of each individual customer. Airtel always seeks to introduce promotions, products and services that meet and exceed customer expectations.
Airtel vision is to be the most loved brand in the daily lives of African people by 2015. How do you plan to achieve this feat?
Airtel Ghana is building its reputation on connecting communities across Ghana by providing affordable, relevant and innovative mobile solutions to all. Our Corporate Social Responsibility initiates in the areas of support to education at the basic level and unearthing talent at the juvenile level through football is reinforcing our image as the telecoms company of choice in this highly competitive industry.
Our success is driven by our values of empowering people, being flexible, making it happen, being open and humble and making a positive impact in the communities in which we operate. We are confident that our staff are inspired by our corporate values, ethics and sense of mission to be the best by coming up with products and services that will delight our customers and exceed their expectations.
How media friendly is Airtel Ghana.
Airtel Ghana sees the media as partners in development and not as conduits for the dissemination of information and for receiving feedback. In this regard, Airtel Ghana designs programmes that will enrich the relationships. A few that comes to mind are the Editor’s Forum where Airtel Senior Management meets with Heads of the key media houses to discuss matters of mutual interest. The Knowledge Seminars which is a way of giving back to journalists through the dissemination of relevant information from experts that will enrich their careers and help them grow professionally. We also pay courtesy calls on key media houses which is another way of strengthening the already cordial relationships. Last, but not the least, we sponsored the Best Report on Education Print category at the Ghana Journalist Association awards and the Overall Best Student in Communications (Degree) from the Ghana Institute of Journalism. In addition to the award for the best student, Airtel is offering three months internship to help prepare the student for the job market.