A healthy partnership that works

Absa’s social investments stand in the context of its wider role in all the societies in which it operates.

The Absa Healthcare Initiative Awards, to be held for the second time this year, are a major component of the 2007 Pan-African Health Congress.

Says Riah Phiyega, Absa group executive of group public affairs: ‘At the core of our approach is a sincere effort to contribute to the improvement of the human condition. In 2006, we increased our corporate social investment [CSI] budget by R10million. The challenge has been to invest this increased budget wisely. We thus have to remain true to our CSI strategic focus; we must integrate and align our CSI activities with our core business goals and ensure that we support the nation’s social development imperatives.

‘All our CSI activities are informed by social development guidelines set by government. CSI helps the country meet the goals of the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa, it furthers the objectives of the Financial Sector Charter and it embodies the trade and industry department’s new codes of good practice for broad-based BEE. Absa strives to make a continuing contribution to nation-building, wealth-creation and transformation, both through its social investment and the business of its day-to-day activities.

‘But we can never forget that CSI is an investment in individuals and the communities in which they live. These elements have come together in a CSI strategy that aims to help uplift individuals and communities. Absa is investing in education, job creation, poverty alleviation, in easing the suffering caused by HIV and Aids and in caring for some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.”

Beyond Absa’s core CSI activities, the company also has a tradition of employee community involvement.

Phiyega says the inclusion of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in the government’s development plans and policies is a crucial political commitment.

‘South Africa’s mandate is to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014, a goal that requires all stake­holders to come together and work towards eliminating the economic divide. Absa also acknowledges two programmes in particular, Asgisa and the Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition.”

Within this broader commitment, Absa has defined its strategy according to key principles: the business imperative, building partnerships, promoting employee involvement and encouraging community self-help.

Absa’s focus on Hiv and Aids

Building circles of support: Aids remains one of the biggest challenges our country has ever faced, not least because its social, psychological and economic effects are so devastating and far-reaching.

Apart from the physical destruction that it wreaks on the human body, the disease leaves in its wake grief-stricken families, traumatised communities, orphaned children and a skills gap that threatens the economic stability of the country. All these factors work together to perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty that contributes, in its own way, to the spread of the disease.

The private sector has a vital role to play in helping turn the tide on a disease that puts the welfare of our entire country at risk. Absa embraces this responsibility and has adopted a multifaceted approach to targeting Aids, realising that these solutions are required to meet the many needs created.

Last year the Absa Foundation invested R6,7million in community-based interventions committed to improving the quality of life of the infected and affected, and increasing the number of people in the community who care for them.

The 60 HIV and Aids projects undertaken during the year focused on the following key areas:

– Education and awareness;

– Counselling;

– Home-based care;

– Assistance to orphans and the vulnerable; and

– Income-generating programmes.

‘With regard to Absa’s support of the Pan-African Health Excellence Awards, the cornerstones of the 2007 Absa Pan-African Health Awards are innovation, excellence and sustainability.The awards celebrate and honour companies and organisations in the health sector whose work exemplifies these qualities. Absa CSI will also provide all its project partners with the opportunity to enter,” says Phiyega.

The awards are seeking entries from organisations that are currently involved in a healthcare initiative in Africa — initiatives that are feasible, sustainable and can show demonstrable and evaluated outcomes. — David Jackson

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