Scaling Up Efforts To Promote Diversity And Inclusion Through ESG Effective Partnerships Across Africa…
Last week, our article argued among others – that the inclusion of women entrepreneurs and professionals in fintech SMEs plays an important role in pushing for effective, digital solutions to payments and, on a broader level, in accelerating SME recovery and digital economy growth. As our article mentioned, this argument was recently made by Mastercard, which found that 79% of women entrepreneurs currently rely on an online payment method. Different from the last article, this article will provide a brief overview of what Ecobank does, which has currently been praised for its work and impact all across Africa.
Leading The Way With Innovative Solutions And ESG Investments
In July 2022, Ecobank – The Pan African Bank made headlines for winning multiple titles such as ‘Africa’s Best Bank’, ‘Africa’s Best Digital Bank’ and ‘Africa’s Best Bank for SMEs’. As part of the Euromoney Awards For Excellence 2022, banks and their efforts, work and innovation across various regions such as Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Middle East were evaluated. Ecobank has a presence in 36 African countries and the largest presence on the African continent overall. Currently, it operates in countries such as South Africa, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Angola, The Gambia and Ethiopia. On its website, Ecobank states that it is indeed its goal to support fintechs all across Africa as a part of the broader mission “to contribute to the economic and financial development of Africa”.
“With innovative solutions […], the statement continues, “we are leading the way”. And these solutions include the app ‘Ecobank Mobile’ and the related service ‘EcobankPay’. In addition, Ecobank launched its Sandbox in 2020 through which fintechs can “access Ecobank’s Application Programming Interface (APIs) for the development of innovative solutions”. Through the latter initiative, Ecobank demonstrated its commitment to supporting the expansion and digitization of the Pan African fintech system overall. The latter being said, it is no surprise it was announced in June 2022 that Ecobank is a Gold sponsor of The Africa Fintech Summit, which has already been executed in Washington DC in April 2022 and will come to Cape Town in November 2022. As Dijba Diallo, Ecobank’s Senior Fintech Advisor, told African Business in June, Ecobank regards their “[o]pen Banking strategy as a huge opportunity for Fintechs to access the 33+ African markets in which [they] operate, especially with the advent of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA)”. Aiming at an increased intra-African trade, Ecobank seeks to boost African business overall.
But what made Ecobank stand out in comparison to other (Pan) African banks? Despite that Euromoney has not made all the details readily available for curious bystanders, it has highlighted that Ecobank’s “One Bank model allows it to manufacture services and products centrally then distribute them across the region”. As the argument continues, “[s]tandardization like this allows it to build new services, bolt them on, then update or modify them for pan-African use”. Linked with the latter and maybe beyond, Euromoney underlined that Ecobank has a ‘“competitive and scalable advantage’” over the other banks, which it competed against. While Ecobank’s most recent wins have been interpreted mainly as an approval of its digital strategy, as Ade Ayeyemi, CEO of Ecobank Transnational Incorporated, stated, it might also be worth exploring what Ecobank does in terms of ESG.
As Ecobank reveals on its website, it engages in a range of efforts in relation to ESG. In it 2021 Sustainability and ESG Report, it shows that in 2021 it created more than 34,500 jobs, approved $87 million in loans, accepted $187 in deposits, saved $362,397 as part of its solar initiatives, saved 1,321,934.50 kg in CO2 emissions, saved around 61,153 trees etc. Having become a member of the African Natural Capital Alliance (ANCA), which describes itself as “[a] collaborative forum mobilising the financial community against the risk of nature loss in Africa”, and having declared support for the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures (TNFD), Ecobank has committed itself to protect environments in Africa and across the world. In addition, it values diversity and inclusion within its own lines. Aside from efforts related to its Sustainable Finance Framework and accompanying efforts to strengthen local communities, stand up for financial inclusion and ‘pursue’ the SDGs, Ecobank Academy embraces D&I and has offered its training opportunities to 16,000 employees of itself and other companies.
While the latter certainly constitutes an impressive and comprehensive effort to skills training, it could certainly not harm Ecobank’s ESG strategy to scale up its efforts with regard to skills training by both diversifying its skills training offer and spanning an even broader network of effective partnerships. Having received a €100 million credit facility from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to fund and support SMEs over the period of the next 9 years, applying a people-centred approach to such support certainly makes sense. As Ambroise Fayolle, Vice President of the EIB, emphasized, “[t]his latest cooperation with Ecobank Group will help companies to better tackle challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, unlock economic and social opportunities, especially for SMEs and women-owned and women-run enterprises, across Sub-Saharan Africa in the coming weeks”.
Aiming to effectively support women entrepreneurs in Africa, this funding facility will be accompanied by technical assistance through the African Women Rising Initiative (AWRI), which will contribute its expertise with regard to capacity building needs of women entrepreneurs. Among others, this cooperation will aim at: better understanding capacity building needs; effective solutions and networking efforts based on research outcomes in this regard; establishing a market research report on women entrepreneurs; establishing a women entrepreneur online community; executing engagement events and connecting women entrepreneurs; designing support products for women entrepreneurs; launching and running AWRI Peer Learning etc. One effort, which Ecobank has already pushed through in May 2022, is its Ellevate Leadership Training Programme, which in cooperation with the Global Business School Network (GBSN), will empower African women leaders to reach their full potential. Similar to other initiatives, it would be curious to understand how Ecobank might also seek to support other groups such as the black LGBTQI+ community, older employees etc.
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