Behind the scenic beauty of Mpumalanga lies an economy hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has added many stresses to rural communities already in economically disadvantaged circumstances, says Old Mutual.
The company has launched several programmes to reduce the impact of the virus on the region’s inhabitants.
“Many people here face daily struggles caused by unemployment, lack of nourishment, sparse resources, and poor infrastructure. The virus has worsened their plight by increasing job losses. Economic activity has declined, many businesses have closed, and sales of locally made crafts to tourists have been badly affected,” says Bongi Radebe, Chairperson of Old Mutual’s Mpumalanga Provincial Management Board (PMB).
Although the local board’s CSI policy is aimed at more sustainable objectives, the allocation of additional budget for the hardest-hit areas of the province was considered a priority, says Ms Radebe.
To ensure that the help offered by the company was allocated to the neediest areas, Old Mutual consulted the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). Four municipalities were identified and provided with personal protective equipment (PPE).
Working with the Department of Social Development, Old Mutual also donated much-needed blankets to shelters and delivered food parcels to some of the most impoverished people in the province.
Several members of the board visited various rural areas to attend the handing over of aid. “These visits were humbling, revealing that immediate short-term relief efforts need to be extended to more long-term sustainable community-based initiatives that generate real impact and change.”
“We are excited about the heightened focus education is receiving through the recent launch of Old Mutual’s ‘Digital Classroom’. The Group has pledged to set up Africa’s largest classroom using digital platforms that are set to revolutionise the way learning is delivered across the continent. Education is the key to lifting people out of poverty and giving them a chance to compete in an open marketplace,” Ms Radebe says.
“Accessing both new knowledge and the wisdom of past generations can help us create more opportunities for many more people. The advent of the Old Mutual Digital Classroom, the largest initiative of its type on the continent, will provide connectivity and give learners and other stakeholders a pathway to technology, information, and skills, which will ultimately help them realise their dreams,” says Ms Radebe.
Launched during Old Mutual’s 175th anniversary, the Digital Classroom extends the education-based work already undertaken across the group. The initiative is designed to address the widespread problems of education exclusion and low financial literacy rates on the continent.
“As it enables online access, the classroom will help overcome the limitations caused by vastly uneven teacher-to-learner ratios and a lack of physical and financial resources. Learners in Mpumalanga will benefit from our vision of a connected Africa with user-friendly, value-adding experiences that facilitate people along their educational journeys.
“We are ready to help rebuild the damaged economy of this province and improve the lives of its people. Old Mutual will be there, working wherever it can assist,” concludes Ms Radebe.