RTP expansion press event 2007

Being Speech By Amina Oyagbola, Corporate Services Executive, Mtn Nigeria At A Press Conference On The Rural Telephone Project Expansion On Monday 27 August 2007.


Gentlemen and ladies of the Press.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good afternoon and let me start by saying a big thank you to our friends from the media for taking time out of their busy schedules to join us this afternoon. I welcome you all warmly.

We are here today on the premise of the MTN Foundation, the vehicle through which MTN discharges its corporate social responsibility (CSR) agenda.  For us at MTN, CSR is key to our long-term business strategy. Indeed, MTN is at the forefront of a win-win ideology, of contributing to the sustenance of a vibrant and stable society as a prerequisite for sustaining its stellar business performance. Therefore for us, corporate social responsibility is about making a practical, positive impact on people’s lives. It requires us to understand clearly the issues that concern our key stakeholders and our society. The Foundation, which was launched in May 2005, is playing a key role in deploying various programmes designed to help alleviate poverty and foster sustainable development in Nigeria. Working with credible NGOs and partners in civil society in the areas of Education, Health and Economic Empowerment, MTN is determined that our telecommunications network will be ‘More Than a Network ‘ to our numerous subscribers and society at large.

These areas of intervention are important parameters by which the real development of society is judged. They tackle important catalysts for radical social transformation, and provide an opportunity for big businesses, government and civil society to join in a common cause and together reap the guaranteed dividend.

Additionally they are in complete alignment with the Federal Governments own NEEDS agenda, and the UNGC Millennium Development Goals. We are keen to continue to complement government’s efforts in these most important areas.

Specifically our focus today is on our award-winning Rural Telephone Project – a key programme under our Economic Empowerment Portfolio which is designed to restore human dignity through self sustenance. I am proud to say that we have made great strides in this area and I believe strongly that we are fulfilling our original  vision of improving the lives of ordinary Nigerians in a sustainable and far-reaching fashion, thereby setting a benchmark which others are now obliged to follow. I am delighted to share some of our immediate future plans for this project with you all today.

For those who may not be familiar with the genesis of this outstanding project: The rural telephone project was initiated in 2002 by MTN Nigeria, before the MTN Foundation was set up. It is deployed in partnership with Growing Businesses Foundation, a non-profit organisation, and some community based organisations. The aim of the rural telephone project is to empower rural women economically and give them a hand up, not a hand out towards self sustenance. Through this project, they are empowered to start a call centre in their communities. They are equipped with a handset, sim pack, airtime, and promotional materials – a branded umbrella and wind vane, as well as an antennae and battery pack. In addition, they are trained to run a micro-finance business through learning about basic book-keeping, GSM technology, customer relationship management and so on.

As with all MTN Foundation projects, it is important that it delivers long term value. Consequently, the sustainability of the rural telephone project is achieved through converting the total cost of the equipment and airtime provided, into a soft loan which the women can access through community based organisations. Repayments are made on a monthly basis, over a 6-month period, and are subsequently used to extend the project to other rural women. At the start of the project in 2002, there were just 5 beneficiaries from Enugu state.

Today, over 300 women in 100 rural communities in 9 states have had their lives totally revolutionized by this project.  The ‘phone ladies’ as they have come to be called, are statistically proven to have been able to increase their incomes by as much as 40% through this initiative. The result is remarkable. This has increased their social status, enhanced productivity in their respective communities and reduced stigmatisation of people living with HIV/AIDS who have also benefited from this project.  The great achievements we have recorded have been recognised and endorsed by both local and international bodies. A case in point here is the award we received from the GSM Association in Spain, tagged the ‘Best Mobile in the Community Initiative’

Certainly, the rural telephone project is heading in an exciting direction as we move towards a fresh and expanded phase to take the project to yet another level of wide impact.  This will involve spreading this unique opportunity to women in 15 additional states, bringing the presence of this project to a total of 22 states of the Federation.

This project is a practical demonstration that empowering a woman translates to empowering the nation because of their invaluable role as homemakers, care givers and co-providers. Through the rural telephone project, we are delivering a strong message of female empowerment and transformation of the family, the community, the economy and the nation at large. By the end of this year, we hope to have 1, 500 beneficiaries in 22 states of the federation spanning over 500 communities.

We are uniquely positioned to do this through our track record of success in this regard, and our faith in the expertise and continued support of our project partners. Precisely because of these factors, the MTN Foundation will make even bigger strides in leading the project to a wider and deeper level of impact on its beneficiaries.

At this juncture, I’d like to specially acknowledge our partners on this project, the Growing Businesses Foundation and salute their commitment. I also want to sincerely thank our partners from the media who continue to showcase our good works! Your coverage of the rural telephone project serves as a further endorsement of the project, as well as an encouragement to those who are working tirelessly to ensure its continued success. Together we shall make Nigeria great.

The MTN Foundation remains committed to continuing the implementation of this project up to an additional 15,000 beneficiaries. With the help of our project partners, the media, and other like-minded individuals who are ready to lend their support whenever called upon to do so in the best interest of society, we will bring great economic relief to thousands of rural women. By investing at the bottom of the pyramid we lift millions out of generations of poverty and desperation, avert social decay, and unleash previously untapped human and economic potential.

Once again, I welcome you all and thank you for coming.

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