Month: January 2021
In a unique public/private partnership, MTN, Africa’s leading mobile network, has announced a donation of US$25 million to support the African Union’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.
The donation will help secure up to seven million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for health workers across the continent, which will contribute to the vaccination initiative of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
“The devastating impact of COVID-19has been unprecedented and profound. Public and private partnerships are needed if we are to succeed in the fight against the pandemic and restore social and economic norms for our continent and our communities,” says Ralph Mupita, President and Chief Executive Officer of MTN Group.
On 14 January 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson of the African Union, announced that the African Union had secured a provisional 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses on behalf of its Member States, through advance procurement commitment guarantees of up to US$2 billion to the manufacturers by the African Export-Import Bank.
This was an important milestone in efforts to ensure equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine for Africa’s people. However, with a population of about 1.3 billion, Africa requires many more doses to achieve at least 60 percent herd immunity. Contributions by private organisations, like MTN, are therefore essential to help the continent reach its target.
“Our goal is to ensure that all those who need the COVID-19 vaccine have access to it very quickly, but the biggest hurdle in Africa has been financing of the vaccines, and the logistics of vaccinating at scale. We therefore welcome the right partnerships, like the one with MTN, to achieve our minimum 60 percent vaccination target,” says Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, MTN has made significant contributions to help limit the spread of the disease and save lives and livelihoods within its African market.
This donation is another example of MTN’s efforts to help find lasting solutions to solve the challenges facing the continent and to guarantee a healthy Africa, for all Africans.
“We believe ongoing collaborations with key stakeholders across sectors are essential as vaccines are deployed in all our markets, with communication tools, technology and digital services being vital support infrastructure for a successful mass vaccination programme,” concludes Mupita. “In the coming months, MTN Group will look at similar support commitments for the markets in which we operate in the Middle East.”
As people everywhere ramp up their usage of instant messaging, more and more are choosing ayoba. MTN Group is proud to partner with this unique instant messaging platform localised for the needs of consumers across Africa.
Launched in 2019 to improve access to affordable communications, ayoba is active in 17 MTN markets, and is also available to download onto Android smartphones in numerous other markets from Google Play and via the ayoba website www.ayoba.me as an over-the-top (OTT) offering.
All the content available on ayoba channels is curated and reviewed to ensure that its 100% family friendly and safe for younger users. A team of editors checks every post on ayoba content channels before it goes live across over 100 content channels and 120 games.
Ayoba has also recently launched an in-app assistant, Aya, to guide new users on how to use the instant messaging app. Aya appears automatically in the app and can run a variety of interactive tutorials for key features within ayoba.
Ayoba users can send and receive encrypted messages, share photos, videos, files, voice notes and even their location, and can also subscribe to live channels. Localised content is available through these channels that aim to entertain, educate and empower communities.
Since 2020, as COVID-19 spread across the world, ayoba’s daily lifeline data allocations on MTN’s networks in most markets allowed users free connections with family and provided them with zero-rated access to credible information through special COVID-19 channels.
10 REASONS TO USE AYOBA:
- FREE TO USE: ayoba is free to use. You need data to send messages and files to your contacts, but if you are on the MTN network, you will get free data every day to use the app.
- CHAT NOW: Instantly send and receive text and voice messages with any of your contacts.
- SECURE: End-to-end encryption means that messages in a conversation cannot be read by anyone else.
- QUICK CONNECT: Use your existing address book to quickly and easily connect you with your contacts.
- CHAT WITH EVERYONE: Send SMS text messages with anyone in your contact list, regardless of whether they’ve installed ayoba or not. If the contact to whom you send a message does not have the app, the message will be delivered by SMS. That contact can then respond by SMS and the response will come back into your app. This is a unique technology.
- GROUP CHAT: The more the merrier. Set up group chats to easily communicate with friends and family in a single chat.
- SHARING IS CARING: Share videos, images, audio, and other files with your contacts.
- LET’S MEET: Share your real-time location with your ayoba contacts.
- CHANNELS: Consume all content across various categories ranging from news, sports, music to entertainment and much more, all within the ayoba app. We have over 30 content channels live in Nigeria including Pulse for entertainment and the MTN YelloStar competition.
- LISTEN AND PLAY: We have a free music service in the app so you can listen to trending songs on our fantastic playlists. We also have games that you can play, such as BattleShip, Pinball, Solitaire and more. New content is added every day.
The app supports over 20 local languages spoken across MTN’s markets, including isiZulu, isiXhosa, Pidgin, Yoruba, Swahili, Hausa, French, Arabic, Portuguese, and English. At the end of June 2020, ayoba had two million active users.
In November 2020, ayoba was named the ‘Best Mobile App of the Year’ at the Africa Digital Awards 2020, acknowledging Africa’s first super-app, which offers users free instant messaging, mobile commerce and interactive entertainment.
MTN YES Programme – a catalyst for growth and development
In December 2018, 100 young people signed up as interns at MTN Group, filling the Innovation Centre’s auditorium with colour and cheer. Six months later, and a few hundred metres away in the offices of MTN South Africa, another 900 young people embarked on the same, special internship.
Brimming with energy and enthusiasm, these recruits were taking the first step in their career development by joining MTN through the YES4Youth programme.
“It was so exciting to be joining MTN,” recalls Simphiwe Khoza from rural Limpopo. “Imagine having the opportunity to learn all about this iconic mobile operator and leading African brand from the inside!”
The brainchild of the Youth Employment Service (YES), the programme offers previously unemployed young people a quality, paid work experience, improving their employability and acting as a catalyst for economic growth and development.
The business-led collaboration with the government aims to address South Africa’s critically high level of youth unemployment. In the first quarter of 2020, before the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, nearly 42% of young people aged between 15 and 34 were not in employment, education or training, according to the Stats SA Quarterly Labour Force Survey.
MTN recognises the value of the programme as a fresh and bold solution to South Africa’s unemployment crisis.
“Our aim is to provide a range of foundational skills to set these young people up for long-term success,” says Lauretta Theys, MTN Group General Manager: Manco HR Services. “It fits into MTN’s work to support vibrant and sustainable societies.”
So how does the programme work?
For starters, the interns are assigned to departments that best suit their skills or qualifications. They are each given a smartphone loaded with a range of learning programmes developed by YES. At MTN, they also get specially developed MTN programmes, as well as access to the online learning platform Kubicle, offering dozens of courses to improve data literacy.
The interns at MTN are paid a monthly stipend, which is significantly more than the amount YES requires. Other MTN-specific benefits include a monthly allocation of data, free MTN-to-MTN calls, and an allowance to spend at the canteen.
The most important benefit, however, is a line manager who acts a mentor, engaging with every young person and assisting them throughout their journey at MTN, establishing proper key performance indicators against which their performance can be measured.
Apart from the line manager, there are also regular engagements with HR, which develops monthly themes to guide interns’ career development. These include things like design thinking skills, building emotional intelligence and – lately – resilience during COVID-19.
“We’ve been very clear to our YES interns: your career is your responsibility. If you don’t lean in, we are not going to do it for you,” cautions Lauretta, adding that MTN seeks to empower these young people with the correct tools; with line managers with the time and capacity to mentor them and provide meaningful work; and to ensure they have the right skills – soft skills, technical skills as well as functional skills.
MTN’s digital innovation programme is another critical element for the interns: “People need to be digital in the way that they think, and agile. This programme will set them apart, giving MTN interns a better chance of securing meaningful roles in future or an opportunity to start their own businesses and develop their own apps,” she says.
The benefits are not limited to the interns: MTN is also clearly benefiting from the programme.
At MTN South Africa, one group of interns was assigned to help with the local launch in January 2020 of Mobile Money.
“The results have been very positive,” says Charlene Lawrence, Senior Manager: Learning and Development. By September 2020, MTN South Africa had two million registered MoMo users. “The brand ambassadors clearly played a part in this.”
With dozens of companies across South Africa having signed up to the programme, how is MTN differentiating its offering?
“We are building careers for the YES learners in MTN,” says Charlene. “Over and above earning a stipend, they have completed short certifications and have been given an opportunity to market themselves as well as gain meaningful work experience. Throughout the programme, we hear great stories of all the different experiences people were exposed to.”
“The spirit of YES is to make people employable: rotate them through the business and give them exposure to the workplace,” says Charlene. “This is a platform on which to start building a career, and network throughout the organisation.”
“We are also treating the YES interns as a talent pool. If we do it well, we shouldn’t need to always go out into the market to look for talent, we should be growing the talent ourselves,” Charlene says. “It’s a fantastic programme that we at MTN are really benefiting from.”
Simphiwe agrees: “I’m really grateful to MTN for the quality experience it has given me and am sure this will lead to even greater opportunities in future.”
Since COVID-19 started to spread throughout the world in early 2020, social media has been abuzz with speculation linking 5G technology to the pandemic. However, scientists and health experts across the globe have discredited this as misinformation spread by people seeking to make sense of a virus over which they feel they have little control.
MTN continues to work to raise awareness of the fact that there is no reliable scientific evidence of any link between 5G and COVID-19 and we remain focused on our efforts to combat the pandemic and support customers and society in these uncertain times.
We continue to prioritise the resilience and capacity of our networks, which provide the telecoms services that are vital in the fight against the novel coronavirus as well as the connectivity that customers need to remain economically active despite renewed lockdown restrictions in many markets.
In recent years, 5G mobile technology has undergone extensive research, with numerous studies finding that it has no negative impact on the environment nor people. This fact has been confirmed by leading global experts, independent professional groups and public health agencies, including the World Health Organization.
The United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU) says there is no scientific basis for the statements that link 5G to COVID-19. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) says that claims that exposure to the electromagnetic fields generated by 5G devices can cause COVID-19 are “not supported by any evidence”.
The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says that there is no correlation between 5G and COVID-19, adding: “5G is an advancement on today’s 4G technology, designed to transform the world positively”. MTN Nigeria Chairman Ernest Ndukwe has also added his voice to efforts to debunk the misinformation (Read more).
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has condemned theories linking 5G to COVID-19, saying: “The Authority would like to urge all South Africans not to be swayed by these conspiracy theories that are hell-bent on bringing instability and fear”.
University of Johannesburg Vice Chancellor Professor Tshilidzi Marwala has also added his voice, saying: “There is no causal connection between 5G technology and any biological virus, including COVID-19” and that 5G will positively and fundamentally transform communication (Read more).
The GMSA mobile industry organisation has condemned acts of arson against mobile phone masts, calling on internet giants, content providers and social media platforms to accelerate their efforts to “remove fake news linking 5G to the spread of COVID-19”.
MTN continues to act to address the challenges brought on by the disruption to economic activity and the restrictions on people’s movements that have accompanied the spread of COVID-19. We continue to prioritise people, customers and communities, as well as looking after our network and our business.
We remain driven to deliver on our belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. The rollout of 5G into the future is key to our work to bring more people into the digital world and allow Africa to reap the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as the technology offers extensive network capacity; ultra-high-speed mobile connectivity; ultra-low latency as well as massive Internet-of-Things capabilities.