I LOVE BANKING. Every day, I remain fascinated by its models and assumptions. In fact, as I sit here on the third floor of our Head Office on the main Accra high street, I drift into reflection mode. Banking has come a long way in Ghana since the days of colonialism. Having undergone so many iterations and transformation, this “noble business” is undoubtedly the bedrock of our economy. Thanks to the advent of digital technology, a drive for a higher level of thinking by practitioners has become even more prevalent. At every tick of the clock, we are caught in an interesting cycle of racing above and beyond, to meet the needs of our customers. That kind of adrenaline is priceless.
I remember when I was joining Absa Bank (erstwhile Barclays Bank) years back. I was filled with some trepidation and uncertainty. Coming from an FMCG background, and as anyone who works in that sector will tell you, it was a bit of hesitation for me. The FMCG business has a way of growing on you and drawing you in. However, I wanted a new adventure, and my curiosity played a role in finally switching to Absa. Today, when I look at the systemically important role played by Absa Bank in Ghana’s financial services sector, I feel proud to be a key contributor.
Overall, banks play a huge role in any economy. They enable people in their everyday lives to buy goods and services, to save and invest, to buy homes and grow their wealth. Banks help businesses to set up, to expand and to trade locally and internationally. We help economies to prosper, to build infrastructure and to transform the lives of citizens. By doing these things in the right way, banks, like Absa, have become an extraordinarily powerful force for good throughout the economy.
The fact is, Absa is only three years in Ghana as a transformative brand and yet its impact is mammoth. Whilst not discounting the contribution of more than a century-old heritage of the erstwhile Barclays brand, the other key contributor is the distinguishing values of commitment, dedication and responsiveness towards its customers. These traits have found expression in the word, “Africanacity”, a term coined by the bank to reflect its true character and strength. Africanacity always raises eyebrows. “Is it a word?” “What does it mean?”, you’d usually hear people ask.
From a pure perspective of brand expression, Africanacity truly stands for the remarkable way in which the African (from all walks of life) distinctly always finds ingenious ways to overcome obstacles and get things done. Both in Ghana and across Africa, Absa has consistently existed to empower Africa’s tomorrow, together, through one story at a time. These stories are reflected in the experiences of our customers and clients, in their engagements and transactions with us. It is such a powerful expression of the relationship a bank must demonstrate to its key stakeholders consistently.
We have recently revived our “Africanacity” communications campaign once again, through videos and other communication materials across a multiplicity of channels, and the impact is astounding. We have a lot to be proud of as Africans, and Ghanaians, for that matter and this campaign is really highlighting the essence of our humanity.
Yes, we are not in steady states as an economy in Ghana. The recent macroeconomic challenges, the inflationary pressures, the depreciation of the cedi, debt instability, are all clear and present issues, However, it is in times like these that the spirit of the Ghanaian is awakened to find unique ways to make things possible. It is this spirit of ingenuity that pushes a bank like ours to always find ways to elevate and empower individuals and businesses to move to the next level. The following stories illustrate in clear detail, the kind of determination Absa bank finds admirable:
BERNICE DAPAAH, a heroine in one of the Africanacity videos currently circulating on TV, had a rough upbringing. In the neighbourhood where she grew up, children had to trek long distances on foot to go to school. Having experienced this at first hand, she was determined to do something about it. So, she used her wit and ingenuity to start the first bamboo bicycle – a rare but crucial transportation tool for these children to use for school. What started very small and under an obscure shed in her community, has now blossomed into a very large bamboo bicycle business employing many people, including women.
PAUL COFFIE is another interesting entrepreneur, whose exploits are also a strong feature in one of our Africanacity videos. Having come from an environment where waste management was a serious challenge, Paul devised a way to utilise plastic waste in building houses for people to live in. After years of fervent practice and study, Paul is now applying his creativity to solve Ghana’s age-long housing deficit and giving people a place to lay their heads.
With a financial partner like Absa bank standing beside these transformational entrepreneurs, Bernice and Paul can continue blazing the trail and lead by example on the African continent. It is really a true reflection of what Africanacity is all about. The stock in trade of banks is cash but it is much more than that. Our customers are the reason we are in business; without them, we have no business. Every day, when we come to work; when we respond to their needs; take decisions that make their engagements with us convenient and easy, we are incarnating the concept of Africanacity as a strong virtue of belief, change and progress on our continent.