Absa is open for business with the public sector
There is remarkable potential to enrich the economy, particularly if partnerships between the public and private sectors are harnessed and strengthened. To effect real and measurable change in the public sector and build confidence in its ability to contribute positively to economic development and job creation, it is critical for players in the industry to be agile and responsive in order to implement solutions that are pioneering.
In its already established partnerships with some of South Africa’s foremost public sector institutions - such as the National Treasury, SARS, Eskom and Transnet, among others - Absa Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB) has illustrated its belief in the sector and deepened its commitment to acting as a good corporate citizen in order to build capabilities in the public sector that will change the lives of the South Africans that require it most: the young and the poor.
Research has indicated that Africa has the youngest population in the world, with an estimated 50% aged between 15 and 24. Nearly half of all youth on the continent are not enrolled in any form of education, employment or training.
As part of this commitment to improving the circumstances of the youth, the organisation has invested in programmes in education and enterprise development in particular to assist the youth both through financial and non-financial support. The bank is well aware of the constraints facing young people in South Africa and across the rest of the continent more broadly and is playing its part to end joblessness through various initiatives.
These initiatives include its investment of R1.4 billion into youth education and skills development programmes over three years as part of the company’s Shared Growth strategy. The strategy focuses on improving the lives of the individuals and communities that the organisation’s 42 000 staff live and work in across Africa, while simultaneously creating measurable value for shareholders in the three main areas of education and skills, enterprise development and financial inclusion.
Education and skills development is an area in desperate need of innovative solutions across the continent, and the organisation’s interventions strive to equip young people with the skills and development that will aid employment and self-employment prospects. A critical component of this drive is the ReadytoWork initiative, a pan-African programme that equips young people for the world of work by offering online skills training, face-to-face training and work exposure to enhance employability and entrepreneurial prospects.
A scholarship and bursary fund for disadvantaged students is another focus area: it supports and facilitates access to quality education for students who fall within the ‘missing middle’ and would otherwise not be able to pursue and complete their studies.
In line with this, the company has also used its position as a corporate citizen and leader to support the Fees Must Fall campaign in a variety of ways, offering both financial and non-financial support. As a financial services provider that banks 14 or 15 of the country’s universities, the company recognises the role that these institutions play in developing the youth into skilled and productive members of the community and, as such, also strives to play its part. This includes supporting the government’s Adopt-a-TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training college) programme, where the company partners with these colleges to improve institutional performance and delivery of quality education. As with many of the universities, the organisation also banks many of these TVETs.
Other areas in the public sector that require investment and partnership between both public and private players is in infrastructure, particularly in terms of water and energy. The severe drought the country has faced in the last year has served as a stark reminder that South Africa is a water scarce nation - meaning that innovative solutions to expedite projects, offset losses and improve efficiencies will need to be found, most likely through public and private partnerships. This equally applies to energy projects too.
Increased partnership between public and private institutions is essential to accelerate critical infrastructure and other public sector projects that have the potential to drive growth and development in South Africa. The public sector has the potential to incorporate South Africans across the spectrum into the mainstream economy, but it is only through continued collaboration and investment from both sides of the public, private divide that the sector can be re-ignited to create more inclusive progress.
Despite the raft of challenges that the industry currently faces, its long-term prospects remain optimistic and with concerted co-operation going forward can become even more of a force to be reckoned with. It is for this reason that Absa CIB - and, in fact, the entire bank - has vowed to continue deepening its existing partnerships as well as focus on forming new ones to increase the positive impact of the sector on South Africa’s socio-economic landscape.