Corporate Social Responsibility – The Vodafone Way

By GNA
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By GNA

9/21/2009 8:39:02 PM -

Accra, Sept. 21, GNA - In the heat of the suspended Vodafone employee retrenchment exercise, the management gave a number of reasons why the exercise is necessary, one of which is to set the tone for things to be done 'The Vodafone Way' at the former Ghana Telecom.

Even though downsizing was part of the controversial Sales and Purchase Agreement (SPA) signed by the former government led by President John Agyekum Kufuor and Vodafone PLC, the way management went about it has aroused some resistance from stakeholders - the local and national labour unions and the minority shareholder, government.

Interventions by an inter-ministerial team drawn from the ministries of Communications and of Employment and Social Welfare; and a tripartite meeting between union leaders, management of Vodafone and the employment ministry, failed to yield amicable results until finally the National Labour Commission (NLC), upon the petition of the workers' union, called for the suspension of the exercise until further notice.

But, for what it is worth, it is only fair that after investing over a billion dollars in a sinking entity like Ghana Telecom, while competition is making huge gains, the investor, Vodafone, would want things to be done 'The Vodafone Way'.

If there was a better way than 'The Vodafone Way', prior to the coming of Vodafone, the company would not have recorded a loss of GH¢264 million last year.

Major Albert Don-Chebe (Rtd), Head of Corporate Communications at Vodafone, told the GNA that another loss was expected at the end of this year, 'but that will be the end of losses'.

Vodafone has set a two-year target to turn the fortunes of the company around and make it productive and profitable, and that, in their judgement, can only be possible if things are done 'The Vodafone Way'.

But 'The Vodafone Way' is not only about productivity and profitability; it is also about touching communities and making a difference in the lives of people, says Don-Chebe.

This is in spite of the argument that most of the 942 workers, who exited voluntarily, and the further 950 earmarked for compulsory exit, would eventually be a scar on 'The Vodafone Way' since not all of them can sustain their lives after Vodafone, no matter how much Vodafone tries to help them to.

Coming into this country, Vodafone bought 70 per cent shares in Ghana Telecom for US$900 million amidst passionate public criticism. Indeed, some prominent citizens took the previous government to court on the sale of the national asset.

The current government, which led the criticism of the sale when in opposition, instituted an inter-ministerial review of the whole SPA to determine whether it was done in the best interest of the public, even though the previous Parliament approved the SPA.

The Minister of Communications last month took delivery of the 67-page report of the five-member inter-ministerial review committee and promised that government's next line of action will ultimately be in the strategic interest of the public.

But Vodafone is not waiting for the government; it has since invested at least US$120 million into the third generation (3G) technology and expansion of 2G GSM technology, bringing its total investment so far to over US$1.0 billion.

Even though the company reported a US$264 million loss last year, they have started making social interventions across the country to indicate to Ghanaians that they are not only here to make and export profits but to share the gains with the Ghanaian public in ways that would impact individual lives.

'At Vodafone, we believe that our company's future is inextricably linked to the quality of our connections to community and social causes. This is why we apply our competencies and energies to the empowerment of communities where we operate,' says Vodafone on its website, www.vodafone.com.gh.

The company says they do corporate social responsibility (CSR) because they want to and not because they have to, adding that because their people have been resourced and empowered to share this belief, every level and sector of their business continuously strives to do what is right by their customers, community and environment.

Indeed, at his first encounter with the Ghanaian media, Vodafone Ghana CEO, Mr David Venn, declared that CSR was his passion and that as far as he was concerned , CSR was part and parcel of the core business of Vodafone.

Mr Venn therefore assured that, like in all the other core business areas, 'Vodafone will set the pace in CSR too for our competitors to follow.'

For one, Vodafone recently launched the biggest single subscriber reward promotion dubbed 'Vodafone Rewards', which seeks to reward an individual subscriber with a package worth US$1.00 million at the close of the promotion period, plus several other juicy rewards to subscribers during the promotion period. The total value of the Vodafone Rewards Promotion is about US$2.2 million.

The company was also the first to introduce a promotion dubbed 'Stock Big, Grow Big, Win Big' intended to reward retailers for stocking and selling Vodafone products. That promotion is worth GH¢1.0 million with the prizes component alone worth GH¢435,000, says Ekow Blankson, Trading Marketing Manager at Vodafone Ghana.

It seems Mr Venn, or Vodafone for that matter, is putting his money where his mouth is, with all the promotions and CSR activities either already accomplished or underway, less than two years Vodafone landed in the country.

Vodafone's CSR activities have focused on education, culture and communities.

Education
In education, Vodafone has contributed close to GH¢30,000 to a number of educational funds of traditional councils across Ghana. They include Asogli State, Ga Traditional Council, Essikado Traditional Council, New Juaben Traditional Area, Otumfuo Educational Fund, Dakpema Educational Fund, and Bolga Traditional Council.

'We have done this because we believe that social circumstance should not be a barrier to education. Our support will give brilliant but needy students a chance to also go to school,' says Maj. Don-Chebe.

Additionally, four public universities have received multi-purpose industrial printers, each valued at GH¢300,000 to enable them to better resource reprographic (photocopying) centres.

Again, at the All Nations University at Koforidua in the Eastern Region, Vodafone has sponsored an award for the Best Electrical Engineering Student.

Through its community assistance programme, the company has also helped light up the streets of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) under a street lighting project valued at GH¢50,000.

Vodafone has also donated GH¢10,000 to the Princess Umulhatiyya Foundation to help build a primary school for the people of Tootlingli, a village near Tamale in the Northern Region.

Culture

In the area of culture, Vodafone has shown that they understand that culture is intrinsic to the Ghanaian and that was why they partnered the Royal Ashanti Kingdom with a sum GH¢60,000 to celebrate 10 years of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II's reign.

The company also supported the Akwantukese festival of the Chiefs and people of New Juaben in the Eastern Region with the sum of GH¢2,500.

Communities

Vodafone intends for communities to identify with and benefit from their core business. The company continues to push this agenda by providing fixed wireless community phone booths, where local residents can make moderately priced phone calls to enable them to keep in touch with friends and family.

So far, the company has mounted 400 phone booths in selected schools and communities across the country.

Vodafone has also given out as many as 110,500 simcards for free to people in the communities and schools where booths are located to encourage them to patronise the facility.

Communities which benefited from the first phase of the phone booth programme include Sumbrungu in the Upper East Region; Fufulso in the Northern Region; Adawso in the Eastern Region; Afrisipakrom in the Brong-Ahafo Region and Sefwi Dwenase in the Western Region.

In the early days of Vodafone's entry into the country, it announced some Vodafone UK Foundation commitment to projects in parts of Africa, including Ghana.

But sooner than later, a local version of Vodafone Foundation will be launched in Ghana. The foundation will be one more avenue for Vodafone to undertake more sustainable CSR projects.

The foundation will develop programmes of social impact mitigation, utilizing mobile communications technology, network with relevant NGOs and support activities that are aimed at protecting the natural environment.

It will also develop and implement social investment plans including creating opportunities for employment and training, business development partnership for community development and finally encourage Vodafone employees to volunteer in providing paid time service in sustainable community projects.

If Mr Venn's promise to set the pace for others to follow in the area of CSR is anything to go by, then Ghanaians can put their hope in 'The Vodafone Way'.

For one, the Vodafone Group fact sheet states that Vodafone Foundation is currently worth a £100 million, and that is huge. Ghana can do with just five per cent of that in CSR projects per annum.

'The Vodafone Way' promises a pace that if the other operators follow, Ghanaians stand to benefit a great deal from the telecom industry that is making a total of about US$1.00 billion dollars a year in average revenue per user (ARPU).

GNA
Ghana / Africa / Modernghana.com

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