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Nigeria: Funding the Sustainable Development Goals

Published 07 Oct,2020 via The Nation - The cost of eradicating poverty globally is estimated at $66 billion yearly while investment required to improve infrastructure is put at $7trillion. Meeting both expenditures will require huge funds, which the government alone cannot provide. Businesses and private institutions, including banks are to support the government in raising needed funds and improving access to finance which are crucial in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for economic growth. The Global Principles for Responsible Banking was created to direct financial institutions’ to growth and development, writes COLLINS NWEZE.

Promoting good living standard should be every right-thinking government’s priority. But private sector support, especially in funding and easy access to finance, is crucial.

With a population of over 190 million, research shows that over 70 million adults representing 41.6 per cent of adults in Nigeria is financially excluded.

Banks have also been promoting the Global Principles for Responsible Banking to direct lenders’efforts to align with society’s goals as expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The United Nations noted that while considerable progress is being made on fulfilling the SDGs, the pace is slow compared to the effect of the pressing issues like poor access to finance, poverty, education, health, climate change and others – being addressed. For instance, more than one-third of workers in sub-Saharan Africa still live on less than $1.90 daily.

As Access Bank’s Head, Sustainability, Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan said on the role of the private sector in the global attainment of the SDG’s, in an interview on CNBC Africa’s ‘Closing Bell’, “Achieving success in implementation requires a lot of financial investment.’’

She said with Nigeria having begun tackling the major goal of poverty, the task of ending poverty requires breaking goals to fit our context, which will enable the development of strategies to achieve them. Thus, the commitment of key players in the private sector to the achievement of the SDGs should inspire a chain of collaboration, increased investment, and dedication to rapid growth.

“As a leading financial institution in Africa, Access Bank is one of the private entities already aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, having enshrined sustainability into the fabric of its business operations.

‘’In 2018, Access Bank, and 27 other leading global banks spanning five continents committed to re-defining the purpose and business model of banks to align the sector with the UN’s SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement. The Global Principles for Responsible Banking, which were developed by these banks, was launched during the United Nations General Assembly in New York,” she said.

The global benchmark for sustainable banking include driving ambition by the signatory banks to set goals for and report on their contributions to national and international social, environmental and economic targets, ensuring accountability and transparency on banks’impacts and challenging the industry to play a leading role in creating a more sustainable future.

Meanwhile, Access Bank continues to maintain and prove its commitment to these guidelines through various programmes and initiatives. The bank adopted the triple bottom line approach in evaluating its performances on the creation of greater business value.

Inherent in the bank’s five-year strategy (2018-2022) is the sustainability transformation agenda, which rests on key levers to achieve an enlarged, efficient and digitally led tier-one financial institution.This is evident, among other areas, in the automation of all bank’s processes; a deliberate strategy for increased agency banking to reach unbanked/underserved segments; zero downsizing of employees; and an enhanced and restructured sustainability champions network.

Proving itself yet again as a leader in sustainable finance, Access Bank issued a five-year Fixed Rate Senior Unsecured N15 billion Green Bond last year, which is the first-ever Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) fully-certified corporate green bond in Africa.

The Green Bond proceeds are used to finance eligible green projects, based on assessment of whether the funds are applied to eligible sectors, in line with CBI standards. Opening its offerings to international stakeholders, the bank has since gone on to list its green bond on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange.

Victor-Laniyan also spoke on how bottlenecks to achieving SDGS are prime opportunities for private entities to demonstrate radical innovation and strategic thinking.

“Issues around development offer opportunities for private sector organisations that are innovative. Challenges require solutions, and as the private sector, we could provide those solutions.

“In line with our commitment to sustainable business practices, Access Bank has been at the helm of interventions to help address the pandemic in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. The intervention drive was distilled from the bank’s corporate strategy, which is hinged on sustainability.

‘’As such, the bank has taken the lead in addressing social issues such as; as malaria, maternal mortality, COVID-19 and poor education,” Victor-Laniyan added.

In Nigeria, Access Bank Plc, led by Herbert Wigwe, is leading collaborative effort in recent times, involving more than 50 private sector corporates across the country, working with the Federal Government, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) towards the objective of not only fighting the pandemic, but also eliminating it from the country.

As the target date for the achievement of the SDGs inches closer, it is becoming increasingly clear that businesses, organisations, and private bodies have a key role to play in generating and implementing solutions that will hasten the process of achieving them.

The SDGs, a set of targets designed to effectively address various social, cultural, and economic issues, as a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”, was launched in 2015, with an achievement timeline set at 2030. Now in its fifth year, the drive towards reviewing the implementation processes involved in achieving these goals is of top priority more than ever.

Owing to the immense resources, manpower, expertise, and involvement required to sufficiently achieve these goals, the private sector is being singled out yet again as a key enabler of the kind of progress any State, particularly Nigeria, might seek to make with the Sustainable Development Goals.

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