Empowering Nigerians through CSR Initiatives

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Raheem Akingbolu reviews the activities of the Nigerian Bottling Company Limited in 2019, especially in the area of community investments and youth empowerment and concludes that the company has indeed redefined the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility in the country.

To build legacy and sustain brand equity, top corporate bodies in the Nigerian market are constantly reviewing their giving back activities. Beyond the larger picture of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that can impact the generality of the society, a few organisations are looking at initiatives that would enable them impact lives individually without considering commercial gains. Perhaps because CSR has suddenly become another means of advertising to some organisations, consumer centric organisations are thinking out of the box to develop a concept that is not centered around praise singing.

In Nigeria alone, CSR has become an evolving business practice that incorporates sustainable development into a company’s business model. In view of this, the impact of CSR can therefore not be overemphasized especially considering the substantial investments allotted to it by many organisations.

Until recently, a handful of corporate organisations in Nigeria considered Corporate Social Responsibility as the last item on their agenda. However, the situation appears to have changed with companies now paying huge attention to it while at the same time pursing profit in the overall interest of the business.

Till date, many organisations in Nigeria are singled out not because of the brand’s image created in the market space but rather as a result of the impact or value created by the quality of their investments in the area of CSR.
If there is any organisation that clearly toed this path in 2019, it is no other than Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) given the new narrative created by its recent investments in CSR.

For the company, the concept appears to have been strategically developed and clearly defined towards delivering real impact, and in so doing, is setting a laudable example on how best to give back to the society. This change possibly arises from the new strategic focus of Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company – the parent group to which Nigerian Bottling Company is part of – which was deployed earlier this year. One of the key priorities called out by the group, is to enrich communities and care for the environment. In 2019, the company, through various intervention activities, didn’t only touched lives, it built legacies and impacted individuals. From Calabar to Abuja, Lagos to Kano, the story is the same – one company making life better for its host communities

In 2019, the non-alcoholic beverage giant inaugurated several education and water projects. In Kano State, the water projects completed by NBC impact no fewer than 20 communities living within and around the area where the business operates.
The list of the projects that were inaugurated and presented to the people of the state include the refurbishment of Kano State’s Water Board Laboratory in Panshekara, the provision of Ultra-modern Water Testing equipment for the laboratory, two Tube Wells drilled and connected to the Main Water Supply Network that directly provides water to about one million residents around the Madobi area, the provision of Water Supply to Challawa community and the building of a block of Classrooms and donation of furniture to Medile Primary School.

In addition to this, the company also facilitated the training of senior managers from the Kano State Water Board on Performance Management and Team Maintenance. The company also laid 15 kilometers of new environmentally friendly High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) water pipe lines and conducted a training for Kano State Water Board (KBSWB) technicians on maintenance of the special HDPE Pipes.

According to the management of Nigerian Bottling Company Limited, the provision of these facilities and projects were a fitting reward for the tremendous goodwill and relentless support received from Kano State government and the people of the state since it commenced operations in 1982.

Speaking at the official handover ceremony for all the projects, the representative of the Managing Director of Kano State Water Board, who is the General Manager, Productions of the State Water Board, Ibraheem Saad expressed gratitude to NBC for its unwavering commitment and support from the conceptualization of the projects to their successful execution, explained that the Water Board was happy to note that these investments would bring lasting solution to the water challenges confronting parts of the state.

While presenting the water and education projects to the people of the state, the Public Affairs and Communications Director, Nigerian Bottling Company, Ekuma Eze, expressed appreciation to the Kano State Government.
Youth Empowered

Beyond societal development through provision of social amenities, NBC, in 2019, trained about 6,000 youths across various states on life, business and networking skills under its ‘Youth Empowered’ umbrella program.
The initiative which recently completed its 10th edition received massive commendation from several quarters including government officials, and traditional Council representatives in the state reached by the programme. The Youth Empowered initiative is aimed at addressing challenges of unemployment facing the nation’s youths by helping them transition easily into paid employment or entrepreneurship.

Commenting on Youth Empowered, Eze stated that the initiative was developed to help young people to achieve their career ambitions by providing guidance, support and assistance during they need to have as a competitive advantage to succeed in today’s work environment.

In his remarks, during the Calabar edition of the program the representative of Obong of Calabar, who also doubles as the Assistant Secretary, Etubom Traditional Council, Chief Eyo Henshaw described the initiative as quite commendable noting that this would contribute greatly to improving the future of the youth and the economy of the state in general.

Expanding the Reach
To impact more lives, the company commenced the campus edition of the Youth Empowered initiative, closing out for the year at the premier university in Nigeria, University of Ibadan. The two-day workshop, which attracted no fewer than 700 participants, exposed the students to Entrepreneurship, Life and Networking skills.

Speaking during the workshop held at the Large Lecture Theatre (LLT) of the institution between November 20 and November 21, 2019, the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, Innovation, and Strategic Partnerships, Professor Olanike Adeyemo commended the company for creating such a novel initiative to assist the students in preparing for life outside the school environment while also helping them harness their potentials. She urged participants to take advantage of the unique opportunity by applying themselves to further learning throughout the duration of the workshop.

“This is a big opportunity which you must take advantage of. It is an opportunity of a lifetime, which may be difficult to come by later in the future. You must make use of these two-day workshop and apply the principles learned to your life. I am confident if you look back in five years’ time, you would appreciate the decision you have taken to be part of this program considering the impact it would have had on your career or business”, she said while speaking to the students.

Speaking on the campus editions of the program, the Sustainability and Community Affairs Manager, Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Limited, Ifeoma Okoye stated that NBC took the decision to introduce the campus version of the Youth Empowered Programme to undergraduates to bridge the gap some intending program participants faced in accessing the 3-day version of trainings which held in various states across the country.

“We noticed that many students in tertiary institutions found it difficult to attend the live workshops that were taking place across different states. Therefore, we brought this programme to their doorsteps.”, she said.

Speaking during the two-day workshop at the University of Ibadan, the University’s Dean, Faculty of Arts, Professor Afis Oladosu expressed his appreciation to Nigerian Bottling Company for choosing University of Ibadan for the workshop. He described the initiative as a very commendable one as it has a great chance of helping the students discover themselves and be creative in their approach to learning. He also urged the students to make good use of the opportunity noting that he is convinced it would have great impact in their lives.

The campus editions of the Youth Empowered initiative have so far been held in six tertiary institutions across the country including Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; Technical University, Ibadan; Lead city University, Ibadan; Mountain-top University; Bowen University, Iwo and University of Ibadan.

Fifty-six per cent of past participants surveyed were found to have either started a business or been employed after attending the program. It therefore, does not come as a surprise that several beneficiaries of the program have great stories to tell on the impact of the skills they developed through the program.

If there was any sign that the federal government of Nigeria took note of all these activities, it came with an endorsement of the various projects by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, who commended NBC for taking the lead in promoting entrepreneurship among Nigerian youths through its Youth Empowered Initiative.

He further stated that it was gratifying to note that private sector businesses like NBC was taking the lead in initiatives that would enhance the potential of the teeming Nigerian youths to become job creators rather than job seekers.
Aside the endorsement, the non-alcoholic beverage giant, also clinched various awards as a result of its social investment and empowerment schemes.