MTN supports Nigeria’s fight against COVID-19 with over N1.4b, others

Kokumo Goodie, Nigeria

MTN Nigeria has approved over N1.4billion for medical personnel through airtime, data and devices for connectivity support to frontline health agencies including Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to combat the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic.

It said it was supporting both the federal and state governments with communication systems, analytical response management and risk profiling, adding that over N500 million worth of airtime, data and analytics, through the Nigerian Governor’s Forum (NGF) has also gone in support to state governments to facilitate communications during travel restrictions.

MTN is also connecting customers with essential health information by offering free data access to be used to access websites with validated information on COVID and making it easier to stay in touch and support each other, adding that up to 300 free SMS per month for all subscribers, ensuring they can communicate with loved ones have also been provided.

Speaking on the gestures, MTN Chairman Ernest Ndukwe said: “The threat that covid-19 represents to Nigeria requires an unprecedented response from the public and the private sector. We must all work together to develop and deliver the solutions that will allow us to contain this threat and protect the most vulnerable in our communities across the country.

“This first phase of support is targeted at the interventions that we are best positioned to deliver at this stage. As the situation evolves, we are fully committed to deepening and extending these commitments in order to provide all the support we can to the government, and to our people. It is only by working together, that we can overcome this challenge. I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the collaborative spirit with which all stakeholders are working to contain covid-19.

“We all have a role to play in stemming the upheaval we have seen brought on by this pandemic globally. To protect each other, our families and keep the most vulnerable in our communities healthy we must all make it a priority to STAY SAFE. Listen to health experts, be disciplined about personal hygiene and practice social distancing. Working together, we can change the course of this pandemic. and because We are good together. We will get through this.”

It said it has also partnered with Ayoba, a messaging OTT provider, to grant free daily data access to its subscribers while free money transfers using the Momo Agent Network from Y’ello Digital Financial Services has also been given.

“During this extraordinary time, it is vital that we are able to stay connected to the people we love, and to the tools and information, we need to live and work. We understand this, and recognise the immense importance of reliable telecommunications services during this period and have taken the necessary steps to ensure that the services we provide remain available to our customers, in spite of the disruption. This is why our initial priority has been to focus internally on our systems, processes, structures.

“Despite this, it is important to understand that our networks have come under unprecedented pressure as demand has grown rapidly. While all networks ensure there is significant redundancy in place to support peak periods, the level of demand we are seeing consistently exceeds those levels and so, with our regulator, policy makers and colleagues in the industry, we are focused on increasing capacity and sustaining that capacity where it is most needed.

“As we continue to work with our stakeholders to assure operational sustainability, we are concentrating on the areas where we can provide the most effective support to the Federal and State governments. A significant part of our commitment is to ensure that our infrastructure can be utilised effectively by health services to guarantee they can carry out their duties. That’s why we have partnered with the NCDC to provide its staff with access to voice and data services, telephones and toll-free lines to co-ordinate their response. The NCDC is at the frontline of our response and needs to be given every chance to contain COVID-19.

“We are supporting government at federal and state levels with communication systems, analytical response management and risk profiling.  These tools will enhance the capacity and preparedness of each state to manage the outbreak proactively, enabling them to identify the vulnerable segments of the population who require social intervention during the lockdown. In addition, we have partneringwith State Governments through the Nigerian Governors Forum to ensure they stay connected during this period and continue to deliver governance remotely. We are committed to providing this support for as long as necessary and will expand it if the pandemic becomes more acute,” MTN said in a statement.

It said one of the most important needs in this digital age is the ability to access reliable, validated information about the nature of this pandemic and how to protect yourselves. That is why our partnership with the NCDC includes a channel enabling the distribution of health information to all  our subscribers as needed, and free access for subscribers seeking information from the NCDC through their toll-free lines or on the NCDC and Federal Ministry of Health websites.

“We know that many of us are complying with  governments order to stay at home. In order to ensure that all our subscribers, but most importantly those in the most vulnerable situations, are able to continue to communicate with and support their loved ones and friends, we are providing every subscriber with up to 300 free SMS messages per month; and our Y’ello Digital Financial Services subsidiary has suspended transaction fees for all money transfers using the MoMo Agent Network.

“Recognising the challenges currently faced by small businesses at this time, MTN - which serves about 2000 SMEs, has also provided all SME customers of its enterprise business with one less thing to worry about:  30 days grace on their March invoices. SME’s unable to pay March invoices will enjoy uninterrupted services through April.

This ‘grace period’ is aimed at mitigating the impact of the shutdowns on small businesses, which are the engine of our economy. It will be further assessed as the situation evolves. Finally, we understand that access to telecommunication services is only one aspect of the solution that Nigeria needs. Access to healthcare, including the ability to identify and contain infection, is vital. That is why the MTN Foundation has committed N500 million towards addressing emerging medical needs,” it added.

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