African Banks Want To Donate Billions To COVID-19 Relief & Lay Off Staff To Offset Costs

Barely 24 hours after committing up to KES 1.1 Bn (USD 10.29 Mn) to COVID-19 relief, one of Kenya’s largest banks sent home up to 60 employees.

According to reports on local media, just a day before taking the chop to the employees attached to its Financial Access to SMEs and Rural Population in Agriculture using Technology (FASRAT) project, Kenya’s Equity Bank had donated a huge sum through Equity Group Foundation.

The KES 1.1 Bn donation was made up of KES 300 Mn (USD 2.8 Mn) and KES 500 Mn (USD 4.6 Mn) from Equity Bank and Mastercard Foundation respectively, plus another KES 300 Mn (USD 2.8 Mn) from the family of Equity Bank CEO, James Mwangi.

That episode was yet another example of a corporate institution doing the most to keep up appearances on the increasingly cliched “corporate social responsibility” front, even though it would mean a sacrifice of domestic responsibility. As in, what’re a few lost jobs compared to the goodwill and optics of forking out billions to aid the fight against a common foe?

Last Friday, it was “Nigeria’s biggest bank by “number of outlets” who got some of the vitriol. Access Bank became Nigeria’s bank by “number of branches and number of staff” when it acquired a popular rival , Diamond Bank, last year. The same Access Bank also managed to acquire Kenya’s Transnational Bank last year .

But even as all these acquisitions reportedly triggered a 31 percent increase in its operating expenses in Nigeria alone where it has nearly 7,000 employees, Access Bank’s CEO, Herbert Wigwe, still announced a NGN 1 Bn (USD 2.56 Mn) donation to COVID-19 relief in March.

It was regarded as a noble and generous gesture up until last week when word got out that the bank has decided to cut jobs and slash pay by as much as 40 percent. This is the reason why access bank want to lay off 75% of its staff.. From the mouth of the MD himself —

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