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How African businesses are taking the lead in responding to Covid19

Insurance is, by necessity, a bureaucratic endeavour. The careful weighing up of claims and exclusions following a rigorous sign-up process. After all, insurance collectivises risk and so premiums and excesses need to be balanced with actuarial precision.

Which makes Old Mutual’s bold Covid19 emergency response all the more striking.

The insurer has provided free life cover for all healthcare professionals fighting Covid19 in  South Africa.

There’s no sign up, no exclusions; in fact, getting covered involved no paperwork whatsoever. There aren’t even fees. It’s an additional layer of assurance and support provided to healthcare workers putting their lives at risk in the battle against Covid19.

The initiative is a great example of crisis leadership looking at the ordinary framework for doing business and remodelling it in an emergency.

A similar boldness is evident in the partnership between Discovery and Vodacom to make digital medical consultations available to the South African public. These cutting edge tools aren’t just valuable to the recipients, they’re also designed to protect the public by reducing overcrowding at clinics and doctors’ offices.

The way financial services are structured can also act as a motivator of behaviour, for better or worse. In order to encourage safer cashless payments, Kenya’s Safaricom waived fees on all person-to-person payments under Ksh1000 on its M-Pesa platform. Kenyans are able to make contactless payments – with no need to unhygienically handle cash or cards – without worrying about fees.

Of course, there will be no one to make payments to unless we take measures to protect the financial ecosystem. Leading banks, such as Kenya’s KCB Bank and South Africa’s Absa and Nedbank, have introduced special lending facilities, and other financial measures, to ease the acute financial pressure on SMEs, spaza shops and other businesses suffering due to plummeting demand under lockdown.

Beyond these carefully targeted measures, the companies are also donating to national and/or community-relief funds and projects, such as South Africa’s Solidarity Fund or community schemes for delivering PPE to healthcare workers. 

All for one, one for all

The Covid19 pandemic is an exceptional time and many businesses are instituting mitigation and crisis-response measures they possibly never dreamed of before. 

However, businesses immersed in the Shared Value philosophy (such as the businesses mentioned above) will already have incorporated Shared Value management strategies that enable them to identify how they can best leverage their value chain to create real good, and to respond rapidly and effectively to social needs.

The Shared Value model understands that businesses cannot reach its full potential unless the communities in which they operate are thriving. That’s true at the best of times – how much more so at a time of crisis.

After all, profit-with-purpose is not about damage limitation, it’s about shared prosperity for all.