Raheem Akingbolu writes on the need for stakeholders to promote corporate social responsibility activities that will enhance human capital development

Beyond swaying consumers’ perception to generate more values for their brands, today’s companies are going back to the basics of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
On both local and global landscapes, CSR is being touted as a major index to measure business growth. As a result of this, any company that is worth its salt always want to be seen to be doing something along this line.

Besides, the belief that CSR is one of the stems of sound corporate governance is increasingly attaining wider global and local adoption as its impacts in helping nations meet their sustainable development goals become more perceptible. Today, top executives across different industry want to demonstrate their corporate citizenship through altruistic, ethical and legal initiatives that presents their organisations as socially responsible.

This notwithstanding, companies often face challenges of identifying the projects that would help them deliver on the basic essence of CSR.

In recent time, some top corporate entities in the Nigerian market are believed to have invested in sustainable CSR activities while some are not appeared to be getting it right.
For instance, to commemorate the 2018 Children’s Day celebration, Unilever Nigeria had organised a special event to celebrate children in Makoko community, Lagos.

The InterswitchSPAK Example

Early this year, Interswitch, an integrated digital payments and commerce company, took a move towards supporting the resuscitation of Nigeria’s education system by introducing a scheme tagged ‘SPAK Initiative for STEM Grooming’.

A national science competition, SPAK according to the company was put together to re-ignite the importance STEM subjects for Nigerian youths.

SPAK; an acronym for Speed, Precision, Accuracy and Knowledge, revolves around key value areas necessary for a progressive future in today’s knowledge-based society. STEM – which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics – education has suffered massive decline in Nigeria, leaving our youths poorly equipped for the future tasks necessary for self fulfillment and nation building.

With the goal of encouraging theoretical learning of STEM subjects, rewarding excellence and providing opportunities for developing innovative solutions for societal problems, the competition was therefore opened to students in year 11 and all schools nationwide were encouraged to register their best students in STEM subjects.

Chief Marketing Officer, Interswitch, Cherry Eromosele had stated that SPAK as the company has termed it was a distinctive concept under the Interswitch “Switch A Future” initiative. He described it as a mix of education, technology and entertainment which aligned with Interswitch’s fundamental values of excellence and innovation. He added that the initiative was designed to identify, promote and spark the right support and reward for STEM students and stakeholders.

He said, “For our youth to succeed in today’s knowledge-based economy; they need to acquire the right skill set, their minds need to be re-engineered and reconciled with STEM education in order to compete in or create a job market.”

It was revealed that the top two students would be awarded a 5-year scholarship, a mac laptop and gold trophy; and a 3-year scholarship, a laptop and a silver trophy accordingly while the third would also receive scholarship, a laptop, and a bronze trophy.
“In addition to these, all three winners were then guaranteed immediate employment at Interswitch upon graduation.”

Meanwhile, according to a recent WEF research, by 2030, more than half of the jobs in the world will be STEM based. Thinking ahead, Interswitch is thus believed to be making a conscious attempt to promote education and technology in Nigeria and to equip the younger generation for the future.

Take away from Masterclass 1.0
After crossing the initial hurdles, 81 finalists of the competition were recently assembled in Lagos for the Masterclass 1.0, where they interacted with some company executives, including the Interswitch boss and the CEO of Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, Yinka Sanni. Of course, some of the students also shared their experiences during the competition.

Speaking on the topic ‘Emotional Intelligence and Leadership Responsibility of Youths’ during the Masterclass, the Group Managing Director of Interswitch Group, Mitchell Elegbe, told the brilliant kids that although having a high intelligence quotient (IQ) was necessary, he was quick to point out that IQ alone was not enough to make headway in life.

Elegbe stated that emotional intelligence has become a necessity in today’s world, explaining that many people are getting more interested in the ‘softer’ skills.

He said: “Emotional Quotient or Emotional Intelligence is very necessary in today’s world. What this means is that your high scores and academic brilliance might have gotten you this far but you need a lot more than that to be successful in life. The reason is that Nigeria continues to churn out highly intelligent people every day, so the only thing that will stand you out in life is that extra quality. This is where emotional strength, which includes attitude, good character and so on, come into play.”

He admonished the students not to set expectations that are too high for themselves and others, explaining that when people fail to meet set expectations, dissatisfaction was inevitable.
Elegbe challenged the students to break out of their cocoons and strive to be the best in their chosen careers, noting that challenges create opportunities for growth, as many innovators in the world today identified problems in the society and then proffered solutions to them.

He said: “If you come from a poor home, you are in a better position to see problems that need to be solved because those challenges are always around you. So, my advice is just be focused and be the best you can be.”

Also, the CEO of Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, Yinka Sanni, who spoke on the topic: ‘Social Innovation – The Power of Transformative Ideas’, noted that most of the wealthiest Nigerians made most of their money in the country.

He said: “I hope you students will accept this challenge to generate ideas that will help the country solve real problems to improve the lives of your country men and women. This country has real problems and social innovation starts with you seeing a specific problem and finding a solution to it.”

On his part, MD Endeavor Nigeria, Eloho Omame, challenged the students to start businesses that will grow and have high impact by providing employment for many people, as this was the only way to grow the economy.

Imports
After the Innovation Challenge, there was the TV quiz competition around STEM subjects for home viewers, targeted at students aged between 14 and 17 years in SS 2. It aimed at encouraging and guiding the students on career paths that would help them achieve full optimisation of their potentials and dreams to become inventors or entrepreneurs.

The winner of the TV Quiz competition gets a whopping N7.5 million scholarship over five years in a tertiary institution. The second prize is N4.5 million in scholarship funding over three years of tertiary education while the third prize is N1.5 million scholarship for one year.

Considering the fact that better education is necessary for all to go ahead in the life and get success as well as contributing greatly to a country’s development, many Nigerians have described SPAK as good initiative. To this end, Interswitch is believed to have scored high in this regard.
The proprietor of Victory Heritage International School, Ibafo, Ogun State, Mr. George Odeyemi Oyediran has described the initiative as a good intervention programme that would contribute to the growth of Science and Technology in the country.

“Since education remains the bedrock of any meaningful society, whoever that contributes towards its development is helping the nation. Therefore, Interswitch has done well for initiating this competition. Education develops confidence and helps building personality of a person and that of a country. Our good or bad education decides that which type of person we would in the future. I can only call on other corporate organization to focus their CSR in this direction,” Oyediran said.