The Vice President of Ghana, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, has commended telecom operator Airtel Nigeria for “taking a bold step” with its Airtel Touching Lives, the company’s philanthropic programme. Airtel Touching Lives premiered its fifth series Saturday night at the Eko Hotel Convention Centre in Lagos.
Dr Bawumia, represented at the event by Ghana’s Minister of Monitoring and Evaluation, Anthony Osei Akoto, said, by creating and running Airtel Touching Lives, the network was “instituting and sustaining a robust programme to uplift the poor and underprivileged and also rallying other corporate organisations as well as influential persons to also contribute their own quota in bridging the gap that exists between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, the privileged and the underprivileged, the abled and the disabled and the healthy and the sick.”
He said the altruistic project, with which Airtel makes interventions in healthcare, education, housing, ICT, and infrastructure, aligned with his personal focus as the head of Ghana’s economic team. His objective, he said, was “to change society for the better as well as uplift and inspire people, especially the underprivileged.”
Among the prominent business people, civil rights leaders, and government officials present at the resplendent event were Vice President of Nigeria, Prof Yemi Osinbajo; the Minister of Telecommunications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami); award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Ojaja II.
In supporting his boss, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, Bawumia noted that the administration was working on changing transforming the country from primary producers to becoming a full, independent manufacturing hub that would own entire value chains.
“I am happy that we have made in-roads as well as recorded many milestones in developing the Ghanaian economy but we will not rest on our laurels until a vast majority of the Ghanaian people are empowered and can lead very comfortable lives,” he said.
In his keynote at the premiere, Airtel’s Chief Executive Office, Mr Segun Ogunsanya, explained that Airtel Touching Lives was about building a legacy beyond its core business.
Ogunsaya said, “Airtel Touching Lives is premised on the philosophy that if the strength continues to support the weak, society will excel and triumph at a quicker pace. Therefore, Airtel Nigeria, through the platform, is taking a step to institute and sustain a programme that will help uplift the underprivileged, the sick, the poor and the weak.”
Since it first aired on television and the Web in 2015, Airtel Touching Lives has recorded comprehensive life-changing projects for individuals, families, and institutions in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria.
The highlights of the series include the provision of overseas cancer treatments for an eight-year-old girl, the rehabilitation and award of scholarship to an orphan boy rescued from the streets of Lagos, the acquisition of prosthetic limbs for a Nigerian survivor of the Liberian civil war, provision of a borehole system for a remote community, and the refurbishment of a library for blind people.
Produced in the format of a reality show, Airtel Touching Lives solicits nominations from members of the public. to nominate causes, communities and underprivileged persons or people with special needs to be considered in each season. Airtel thereafter assesses the proposed causes, communities and underprivileged persons or people with special needs and selects which of them to support. The rehabilitation projects are filmed and broadcast on terrestrial and satellite television stations to inspire other corporate organisations as well as altruistic individuals to join in supporting the less advantaged across society.
This first episode of the new season, previewed at Saturday’s event, shows the work the Airtel teams did to improve the quality of life at a campsite for people displaced by Boko Haram terrorists in the Northeast Nigerian state of Borno. The result of the evaluation is a commitment by the network to provide, among other supplies, toilet facilities, drugs, electricity generators, fans, school desks and books, and school bags for the 3,732 children on the camp.
Before Airtel’s intervention, the facilities at the camp were stretched beyond the limit for the inhabitants, whose population crossed the 30,000 marks in 2018. Camp managers revealed that in January of 2018 alone, new arrivals exceeded 3,000 as the Boko Haram terrorist group displaced more people from villages around Borno.
These swelling numbers have caused the camp to struggle with the provision of food, lavatories, shelter, classrooms and teaching aid, medicines, antenatal and postnatal kits, trauma therapy, and others.
Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim (Pantami), said he was moved by Airtel’s grand gesture and investment, despite not being compelled by law to do that. He described Airtel Nigeria as a model corporate citizen and, having been inspired by the corporation, he promised to invest his salary for the day in Airtel top-ups for others.
In his remarks, the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu said the network’s charity work falls within the reasons politicians are voted into office.
For the fiscal year 2020, for instance, Lagos State has passed into law an unprecedented budget about N1.1 trillion ($3 billion) but this budget, stated the governor, is still a far cry from what other states the size of Lagos spend to adequately cover the demands of education, healthcare, infrastructure, and traffic, among others. So, “it is heart-warming that Airtel is helping,” Sanwo-Olu said.
VP Osinbajo applauded Airtel for demonstrating through Airtel Touching Lives “that it is committed to solving some of the problems plaguing us as a country.”