Freetown, Sierra Leone, 23 April 2020
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Sierra Leone on Tuesday, 21 April 2020, entered into a partnership with Africell (SL) Limited, through a Memorandum of Understanding to support UNFPA’s efforts to achieve three transformative results; zero unmet need for family planning, zero maternal deaths, zero gender based violence (GBV) and all harmful practices.
The UNFPA – Africell partnership is a campaign focused primarily, on reaching women and girls to increase the demand for GBV, sexual and reproductive health information and services. The Campaign is initially targeting up to 600,000 subscribers in Freetown with voice calls and text messages on COVID-19, maternal health, family planning, and gender-based violence, at no cost to subscribers.
UNFPA has worked with government and UN partners in Sierra Leone to develop the message contents; customized them into accessible local language; and recorded voice messages so that even Africell subscribers who cannot read can be reached. UNFPA and Africell have jointly developed a strategy to target and reach both literate subscribers with SMS messages, and low literacy subscribers with the voice messages.
Dr. Kim Eva Dickson, UNFPA Country Representative, said she was delighted that the partnership has come to fruition.“UNFPA embraces innovative approaches to ensure that communities are reached with much needed sexual and reproductive health information and services. We particularly welcome this public private partnership with Africell SL during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is extremely important that women and girls are encouraged to continue to access free family planning, maternal health and gender based violence services, even as the pandemic rages.”
Mr. Shadi Gerjawi, CEO of Africell (SL) Limited, in his comments said “Africell is pleased to partner with UNFPA to roll out this impressive initiative which is designed to reach young people and women in Sierra Leone with vital information.” Africell, he said, places premium on the importance of a healthy nation, “therefore we believe that if the right information is constantly emphasised and communicated, it creates a paradigm shift in perception and behaviour.”
UNFPA is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency, working in more than 150 countries and territories that are home to the vast majority of the world’s people. Our mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
Africell is an African mobile technology company. We provide fast, low-cost and reliable mobile network coverage and related value-added technology services to millions of individuals, communities and business in four vibrant African countries. Africell is the market leading operator in Sierra Leone and The Gambia and is a vibrant challenger in The Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Africell is a disruptor: keen to challenge inefficiencies, embrace fresh thinking and deliver innovative products and services which make a practical difference to people every day. Our corporate social responsibility and positive community impact, as well as our entrepreneurial spirit and transparent business activities, makes Africell the ideal mobile network provider for Africa’s future.
For more information, please contact:
John Baimba Sesay
Web and Media Analyst
Media Relations Manager
As the COVID-19 situation develops, it is clear that the sub-Saharan African region will likely face similar public health challenges to those seen elsewhere. To deal with the crisis, African governments – including those with whom we partner – are implementing comprehensive responses which are likely to alter the daily lives of millions of people, including Africell employees and customers.
For many Africell employees, especially those in Sierra Leone, this is not the first time our lives have been impacted by a public health emergency. As we saw in 2014-16, we can overcome any challenge if we work together with discipline and coordination. Based on the experiences gained during the Ebola period, and considering the latest guidelines from the World Health Organisation, we are implementing numerous company-wide measures to protect the welfare of our employees and to ensure continued service at a time when reliable
and high quality telecommunications have never been more essential.
I would like to explain some of the measures we are focusing on and to re-assure you that we are doing everything possible to prepare for all eventualities.
First and most important, health and well-being is the top priority. Across each country in which Africell operates, we have launched immediate policies which reflect international best practice, including:
- Enhanced hygiene and sanitation to ensure the cleanest possible working environment, especially in the areas of our business which must remain staffed at all times
- Enforced limitations on the number of people within confined spaces, such as offices or shops, at a single time
- A work-from-home policy applicable to many colleagues. We will continue to evaluate the operations and the use of technology to enhance our capabilities whilst a large number of us are working from home
- Mandatory temperature tests for all visitors to our premises
These policies are intended to safeguard our staff and customers – as well as their families, friends, neighbours and other community members – against exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
Second, we are exploring broader practical changes to the way we conduct our operations which, we believe, will help keep our customers and our communities safe during the crisis. Amongst other strategies, we have:
- Dramatically increased our customer communication to focus on public health awareness messages to ensure they are as informed as possible
- Supported our host governments to procure and distribute essential medical supplies
- Established new distribution channels including door-to-door sales to allow continued access to telecommunications products for our customers
- Significantly invested in the capacity of our networks to ensure continued quality in a period of rapidly increasing voice and data traffic
- Embarked on a variety of promotional activities to support customers
Our experience suggests that times like these demand a coordinated collective effort to ensure that we support our communities and partner governments to the maximum. It is vital that we maintain the discipline of our operating systems in this fast-changing environment. If anyone in the organisation has any suggestions as to how we can adapt, develop and improve our response then please contact your supervisors or any of the senior management. Your management teams are in close coordination with the relevant authorities and any suggestions or solutions are welcome.
Finally, I would like to remind you of the essential role companies like ours have to play in a time of crisis. In a period where entire communities are facing increased isolation, modern, advanced telecommunications services allow the continuation of social, educational, medical, commercial and other forms of interaction. We have a unique responsibility to continue to deliver critical services and information to our communities, both during the crisis and in the subsequent recovery. With the contribution of Africell, the communities we serve will come through this challenging period stronger and more resilient.
I want to finish by thanking you. Africell has never been better placed to deal with a crisis: we are better governed, better managed, better equipped and better funded than at any point in almost 20 years of operation. The character and resourcefulness of our people have always been the key to our success and will once again see us through this era of uncertainty.
Please look after yourselves and your families. And please stay safe.