Banking on entrepreneurship

Absa has an established employee volunteer programme that has taken on the mantle of best practice and shows an inherent understanding of how this should work for sustainable development across the country.

It focuses on enhancing corporate volunteering beyond the traditional, and aligning this more effectively with the group’s Citizen Plan of helping people achieve their ambitions in the right way.

The recently launched Unlocking Youth Potential employee volunteer initiative typifies the Absa and Barclays approach and is being launched in 13 countries across Africa.

“Unlocking Youth Potential ties in perfectly with Absa and Barclays’s vision of empowering young people with the skills they need to achieve economic independence,” says Mihloti Mathye, Absa and Barclays’s general manager for community investment Africa, “As a financial institution these are skills we value highly and ones through which our colleagues are in a position to make a contribution.”

Unlocking Youth Potential helps provide entrepreneurial coaching to young people between the ages of 10 and 25 years. Absa and Barclays want to ensure that youngsters in this age group are given the tools and encouragement to unlock the individual ability to achieve economic independence and security.

“Unlocking Youth Potential is a skill-sharing platform where Absa and Barclays colleagues can enrich and encourage young people to develop their entrepreneurial ideas,” says Mathye. “Key principles and good practices are shared and it shows examples of economic activity and empowerment. Our community investments focus on skills — enterprise, employability and financial — which are areas that individuals in financial institutions understand inherently.”

One of the many challenges facing South Africa and the Africa is unemployment. This is no easy road to travel nor can it be fixed with a quick drive-by and some money. It needs time, focus, dedication and this is something that Absa and Barclays offer.

“There are many organisations that do good work with young people and communities. We partner with those that function within our three primary skill spaces,” says Mathye.

The bank has high expectations from the investments it makes. Projects should help young people become gainfully involved in economic activities, create employment opportunities for themselves and others, improve financial management skills and help them access further education.

The Unlocking Youth Potential project has had some sterling feedback from those involved. And Mihloti believes that this level of employee volunteering is not just beneficial to the people that are receiving it, but is also something colleagues find inspiring.

With this project Absa and Barclays set out to help others in a way that speaks to their situation and that has all employee volunteers working together on one project, rather than dispersed over many different ones.

This has seen internal shifts in attitude as teams become more enthusiastic about the difference that they can make.

The comments from the participants speak for themselves: “I am now more interested in owning my business,” says a young person from Zimbabwe. “The workshop was good, I learned the difference between a small business and an entrepreneurship,” says Refilwe Ramatlhape of Popup, a people upliftment programme.

“As a school we are humbled and want to say that this coaching is needed by the upcoming generation so they know that business is not just for the chosen few,” wrote the principal of Thamsanqa Secondary school.

Volunteering has been an inspiration for Absa and Barclays employees as well. “I have been inspired by the unity that this programme has brought to Absa and Barclays,” concludes Mathye, “It’s been amazing to see how everyone from Mauritius to Kenya to Uganda has been driven to make this work.

“The intention was never to have a start and stop approach but for it to become an on-going thing, and for some it will become an everyday thing. Our programme supports colleagues financially if they volunteer and, thanks to Unlocking Youth Potential, they now know where to go, how to contribute and why it makes a difference.”

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