Community engagement is vital

As a "bank for all," Nedbank understands that making banking more accessible to all in South Africa and "delivering a choice of distinctive and relevant client-centered banking experiences, extends to the empowerment of communities where it operates."

This is the view of Thulani Sibeko, group executive for marketing, communications and corporate affairs at Nedbank. "Working with communities is entrenched in our values, with a focus on community development, skills development, education and job creation as well as environmental conservation. These play a vital role in building a sustainable economy and vibrant society."

Kuruman

In 2005, Nedbank adopted a strategy to extend banking services to all in the country. The bank extended its presence in several communities where it was previously not represented, such as Kuruman in the Northern Cape. This town falls under the John Taolo Gaetsewe district municipality, which includes over 180 towns and settlements, 80% of them impoverished villages. The launch of the Nedbank Kuruman branch was supported by a range of community upliftment initiatives.

These included financial education workshops and tools to conserve limited water resources with the donation of 600 Hippo Water Rollers to elderly and child-headed households, as well as vegetable garden tunnels for learners in the area.

"As a green bank, Nedbank views sustainability as an ongoing journey, one that involves a commitment to empowering others to undertake their own journeys towards a better future," Sibeko said.

Andreas Themba, a community icon, pastor and the headmaster of Moholeng Primary School, steered the proceedings that led to the establishment of the Nedbank branch.

"The way Nedbank introduced itself in our community was something we had never seen before, because they seemed interested in understanding our needs.

"Their goodwill gesture to give back to communities before launching the new branch showed us that they genuinely cared about the basic needs of our people. It left a lasting impression on everyone," Themba said.

Over the past three years Nedbank has allocated a substantial investment of its corporate social investment funding pool to education, channelling over R54-million into enhancing the knowledge base of the youth in South Africa.

"Our education spend includes school-based educational projects, early-childhood development, rural-school refurbishment, teacher training, tertiary education and other government-identified priorities," said Sibeko.

KwaMashu

Councillor Sikhumbuzo Ngcobo, who recently welcomed Nedbank to his community of KwaMashu in KwaZulu-Natal to launch the Nedbank KwaMashu Branch, agreed.

"We are encouraged to see the private sector demonstrating genuine effort to improve the lives of the people of South Africa through bringing much needed banking services. We have also been pleased to see that Nedbank has done more than just provide financial services in this community because many of our residents are severely underprivileged," Ncgobo said.

Imbizo

Nedbank's efforts to foster financial inclusion and social sustainability are further enhanced through the Imbizo initiative, in partnership with Old Mutual, Mutual & Federal and Wiphold, the group's strategic black business partner.

Imbizo seeks to understand the needs of various rural communities in South Africa and explores new ways of doing business with these communities.

"From the outset, we consult with communities to forge a partnership with them to understand their needs. The emphasis is on listening to, building trust with communities and assisting them to be co-owners of the Imbizo programme," said Sibeko.

Linked to the Imbizo initiative is the Zakheleni offering, which has enabled local residents across the Imbizo sites to save as groups. This allows them to access finance based on what they have saved and to start their own businesses. Sindile Zazela, a member of one of the Zakheleni savings clubs, said: "The assistance we received through Zakheleni enabled us to expand our vegetable gardens.

"We used to only plant during certain seasons, but now we are able to sustain our plants throughout the year because we have the necessary tools. This also means that we can sell vegetables to the community whenever they need them."

Equally thrilled with his own development is local livestock farmer Eric Natuse, who has managed to avert potential losses after insuring his livestock as part of the Imbizo initiative. He said he opted to insure his valuable assets because "in the past, I suffered serious losses because my cattle used to die due to many causes. Now if they die, I call the vet to establish the cause of death so that I can claim from the insurance."

Sibeko said: "We believe that financial inclusion is an imperative and call upon all role players to join hands in support of government's efforts to make financial inclusion a reality. Borrowing from the Dinokeng Scenarios by Dr Mamphele Ramphele, 'Walking Together' is a scenario of a collaborative and enabling state and an engaged and active citizenry."

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