COVID-19 Learnings – A Bird’s Eye View
By Olabisi Avungbeto
Gradually, the COVID-19 inspired lockdown has begun easing up. As we return to normalcy, the question is this: When all this is over; when sickness and deaths subside, when ventilators and face masks are back in storerooms, when health workers no longer fear for their lives in the line of duty, and when families and friends gather once again; what lessons would we have learnt as individuals or organisations?
COVID-19 has shaken even the strongest of us, raging beyond ideology and boundaries. However, despite the uncertainties, some individuals and organisations have borne great responsibility for the health and wellbeing of others in the country. They have given support in different ways: through money, resources, medical supplies, and generally lent a helping hand.
One organisation whose intervention efforts brings a lot to the fore is the Interswitch Group. The group in many ways changed the narrative on how Nigerian businesses respond to global issues. They redefined partnerships and demonstrated the importance of technology. From their concerted efforts, here are some of the lessons we could glean from them:
1. Giving: While there have been a lot of acts of giving during these trying times, the lesson on giving from Interswitch stood out. In the face of the prevailing harsh economic situation, employees of Interswitch Group committed to contribute 10% of salaries, for three months, as their quota in fighting the pandemic. The management and board complemented that act and together a total sum of N305 million was raised. These funds have been used for several COVID-19 initiatives across the country, including the sponsorship of the Edo State Molecular Laboratory and donation of a CPAP machine to Ogun state.
With this selfless gesture, they were able to show us that we don’t have to be very rich to give, we can share from the much we have.
2. Charity Begins at Home: The Interswitch Group and its employees drove home the meaning of this old saying in the recent past. Driven by the vulnerability of the people around its operational environment, the company, through its payment card scheme subsidiary – Verve international – set up the Verve Food Bank Initiative through which raw food items were provided for a critical subset of their community.
While they may not be able to reach out to everyone adversely affected by the economic implications of the pandemic, they identified a uniquely endangered subset within their immediate environment for their relief activities. These critical groups included the vulnerable people and families of men of the armed forces, all around the Eti-Osa Local Government Area.
Working with the Lagos State Feeding Programme (Eti-Osa Local Government Area) and the Young President Organisation (YPO), they set up four Verve Food Bank Centres across the LGA.
3. Redefining Partnership: Being a forward-thinking organization, Interswitch leveraged existing relationships and even pursued new ones with the aim of fighting the pandemic.
They partnered with PAX Technologies to provide infrared thermometers and facial masks for Nigerians. They also partnered 23 state governments across the country with support efforts such as: set up of isolation centres, procurement of rapid diagnostic testing kits, deployment and management of its COVID-19 pathway platform, payment of health workers allowances, donation of raw foodstuffs to indigent communities and procurement of other medical equipment and consumables.
4. Leveraging Technology: Another interesting lesson from Interswitch Group was the use of technology to beat the odds.
In the light of the new normal (work from home, stay at home) the adoption of technology has become imperative. Owing to the integral role payment plays in our everyday lives, the Interswitch Group has enhanced all of its technology competencies across its operations and with partners. Across the Interswitch networks, Nigerians can make safe, convenient and fast payments using ATM, PoS, credit/debit cards, mobile apps, online platforms etc. The Quickteller platform has been further enhanced to allow for robust options for payments, collections and funds transfer.
With the support of the Interswitch platform, partner banks can service their customers remotely. Also, by committing to deploying contactless payment options, the company will be using technology to curb the spread of the virus.
5. Leveraging Core Competence: To further support the fight against the virus, the company is leveraging its core competencies to provide solutions. Through its health tech subsidiary, e-Clat Healthcare Limited, Interswitch built and activated a user-friendly, locally nuanced first-line intervention platform with which Nigerians can perform remote self-assessment to determine their risk and pre-disposition to the coronavirus.
6. Value of People: From all of Interswitch’s efforts, we cannot but notice the immeasurable value of people. From the people at Interswitch contributing together to amass a huge sum, to Interswitch’s value on the people in their immediate environment and the need to connect with them in the difficult times. The importance of forging alliances with other people to drive solutions and interventions to fight the coronavirus. The uncommon recognition of the contributions of the security personnel helping to maintain peace and order in our society during the lockdown. The deliberate transparency in handling the collective funds’ expenditure; to the staff and general public. The mere commitment to support the fight against COVID-19 shows the value the company places on the lives of the Nigerian people. This regard transcends class, sex, tribe and business affiliations.
The pandemic has been an opportunity to acquire several skills, adopt new habits and learn salient life lessons. These selfless acts by the Interswitch Group team and management shows their commitment to the community and country. It should provoke us as individuals or organizations to use our greatest strengths and core competencies to serve greater purposes.