In the wake of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, a lot of our realities have changed. New emotions have been evoked in us daily, amidst the disturbing depiction of the disease with all the disruption, death and fear it leaves in its wake. Gradually we have imbibed new ways of interacting and new hygiene routines, among other things. However, one important outcome of the disease the world over, is a renewed sense of value, especially in relation to fellow humans.
Across the globe we have witnessed how good spirited individuals and organisations have donated to various governments at local, national and international levels, to support the fight against COVID-19. These donations have ranged from cash donations, to the provision of much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, logistical resources, infrastructure, and so on. We have also witnessed retired medical practitioners taking the risk to return to work to fill up the manpower gap. The outpouring of love is unprecedented…well, the impact of the pandemic is also unprecedented!
In Nigeria, the private sector intervention efforts started with the Coalition Against COVID (CACOVID), an initiative that was introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria. The coalition has helped set up isolation centres, renovated hospitals, sourced and provided medical supplies, fed indigent homes and inspired more people to make their honest contributions.
On the corporate side, one corporation that has indeed been inspired and risen to the occasion is the Interswitch Group, along with its employees. The over 800 employees of the pan-African integrated payment and digital commerce company, agreed to sacrifice 10% of their monthly salaries for 3 months, as their own contribution to the on-going efforts to fight the scourge.
What we had seen prior to this was privileged individuals and corporates making donations, and of course that is to be expected. What we however did not see coming was the employees of an organization deciding to voluntarily give up a percentage of their remunerations, to help others through these trying times. No, that is unusual. But that was what staff of Interswitch Group did.
The staff of Interswitch together raised N75 million, and then the organization and the board complemented that with their own contributions, bringing the total sum to N305 million. This huge sum will be deployed to support the COVID relief efforts of 23 state governments across the country. Part of the money is also being used to provide relief food items to indigent members of the Interswitch immediate community. Yet and another part will be set aside to support health workers on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic.
In a press release announcing this financial intervention, the Interswitch Group stated that its employees agreed to make this unusual gesture because they had the inspiration to make a difference in the fight against the pandemic. And what a difference they are making! They have pooled together their little amounts of money to build a substantial mass of funds that is being deployed to make significant impacts in the lives of many. While no individual donation might have amounted to millions, their collective donations amounted to quite puddle, and then attracted further donations from the board and the company, bringing the total amount to over N300 million.
In the bid make a difference, the Interswitch employees have redefined how we could all contribute to support the efforts to curb the virus. They have shown how every amount of money is significant towards the fight against the disease. They have demonstrated that everyone can contribute, not only the billionaires. The have made it crystal clear that every intervention worth its salt requires sacrifices, and for them, it is 10% of their monthly earnings for three months!
Mitchell Elegbe, the Group Managing Director/Founder of Interswitch said that the efforts by the company and its employees was consistent with the company’s mission of enabling the prosperity of individuals and communities across Africa. With such sacrifice, the staff of Interswitch are indeed ensuring that the pandemic is checked, as well as safeguarding enabling environments and interactions that will bring about inclusive prosperity across the continent.
In a time where people are unsure of their future, careful about their spending and saving every extra kobo, these heroes are forfeiting part of their earnings to take care of their fellow citizens, providing support for their government and leaving an indelible mark in the sands of times.
So, as Nigerian workers take the center stage once again, and we celebrate them and their contributions to the economy, let us reflect on the sacrifices of this incredible workforce. While this year’s celebrations will understandably be devoid of the usual pomp and pageantry, short on the usual speeches and demands from the trade unions, let us lift our glasses to these extraordinary workers of Interswitch, who are not making demands of their government or employers today, but instead are actively providing support.
Let us give it up to these heroes who will not be negotiating with their employers for pay rise, but will rather be voluntarily taking pay cuts, to help the indigent among us.
It is indeed a new lesson in giving which we hope will be imbibed, and further promoted, by many others, even as we all join forces to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.