Thursday, August 13, 2020

Social Investment: Shell's tool for empowering people, communities - ITREALMS

In the face of current COVID-19 pandemic, investment in people starting with intervention in the health sector among others, remain an utmost desire to empower a people in a society like Nigeria, writes REMMY NWEKE.

Prelude:

One thing that resonate very aptly throughout the lockdown and still much around due to the CoronaVirus also known as COVID-19 pandemic, is lack of adequate social investment in our polity, especially health, which buttresses the long old adage that ‘health is wealth.

Thus a social investment has been defined as investing in the people. This also means policies designed to strengthen people's skills and capacities and support them to participate fully in employment and social life, with improved well-being.

According to the European Commission (EC), some key policy areas capable of bolstering social investment include education, quality childcare, healthcare, training, job-search assistance and rehabilitation.

Why invest $40m?

So, it was heartwarming to learnt that upto till 2019, Shell's Nigerian businesses comprising Shell Petroleum Development Corporation (SDPC, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Limited (SNEPCo) and Shell Nigeria Gas Limited (SNG) as well as the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Limited; invested the sum of $40 million, about N15,474,280,000.00.
ITREALMS gathered that in 2019, for instance, Shell cumulatively made direct social investments of $40m in Nigeria, which industry observers said, made the country the largest concentration of social investment spending in the Shell Group. These investments were divided into five, namely the access to affordable healthcare, supporting education, enterprise support, accelerating access to energy, and assistance and safety.

WhatsUp with SCiN:

In this direct social investment of 2019 by SPDC JV, SNEPCo & SNG, precisely the community-driven programmes since 2006 is now worth $252 million; some 667,000 mobile health outreach beneficiaries since inception and some 6,000 University Grants since 2011 (SCiN).

According to the Nigeria briefing notes update on activities and programmes available to 
ITREALMS, undertaken by several Nigerian companies either wholly-owned by Shell or in which Shell has an interest, together are referred to as the Shell Companies in Nigeria (SCiN). Four of these come to mind, namely SPDC - a wholly-owned Shell subsidiary, which operates an unincorporated joint venture (SPDC JV) in which SPDC holds a 30 per cent interest. There also are two other wholly-owned Shell subsidiaries through SNEPCo and SNG. While NLNG is an incorporated joint venture in which Shell has a 25.6 per cent interest.

Sources at SCiN revealed they have invested in healthcare and education initiatives in Nigeria for decades and continued to support a range of programmes. For instance, the companies under SCiN undertook two types of social investment activities; namely the direct social investment across Nigeria, which focuses on community and enterprise development, education, community health, access-to-energy, road safety and since 2018, biodiversity.

49 active GMoUs:

In addition, SCiN invested on community-driven development programmes and initiatives in the Niger Delta, which focus on various themes as determined by benefitting communities and delivered through a Global Memorandum of Understanding (GMoU), which currently stood at 39 active GMoUs across Abia, Bayelsa, Delta, Imo and Rivers States. And in 2019, three new GMoUs were deployed and 10 GMoUs renewed.

The GMoUs, 
ITREALMS learnt, provide a secure five-year funding for communities to implement development projects of their choice. GMoU projects cover community health, education, enterprise development and social infrastructure, such as improved water and power supply, and sanitation. Since 2006, a total of $252 million has been disbursed to communities through these GMoUs. Noteworthy is that since 2010, over 27,000 babies were delivered safely at Obio Cottage Hospital in Port Harcourt, and the Community Health Insurance Scheme was launched in 2010 at the Obio Cottage Hospital, a secondary health care centre in Port Harcourt.

Affordable healthcare:

Affordable quality healthcare is a critical enabler to any community, thereby improves health indicators, outcomes and strengthens families, educational attainment and business opportunities. Hence, Shell has supported community health programmes in Nigeria since the 1980s with equipment and pharmaceutical donations, emergency care and screening services, hospital maintenance and focused interventions on HIV/AIDS, malaria, cancer and vision care. As at the time of filing this report by ITREALMS, Shell seeks to increase access to health services, introduce health insurance schemes and strengthen health systems.

Shell says it continued to work with key stakeholders to achieve universal health coverage by increasing access to health and uptake of services in the communities, just as the SPDC JV and SNEPCo support some 20 healthcare centres and signature intervention projects throughout the country, including the Health-In-Motion community care programme, funded by SPDC JV, which is a mobile health outreach programme that takes free medical services to where people live and work with outreach to average of 50 communities annually. In 2019, HIM services benefitted 27,490 individuals in Imo, Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers and Ogun States. Since its launch in 2010, more than 667,000 people have benefitted from the programme.

Community Health Insurance Scheme:

The Community Health Insurance Scheme (CHIS) is a partnership between SPDC, Rivers State Government and local communities. The programme aims to provide affordable, quality healthcare to the people of Rivers State. Launched a decade ago at Obio Cottage Hospital, a secondary health care centre, CHIS costs individuals $30 per year and covers about 95 per cent of people’s health care needs with over 67,000 people enrolled, whereas in 2019, estimated 8,500 new clients registered with an increase uptake of services.

This success of Obio Cottage Hospital has expanded to three other locations, including Oloibiri paving the way for the refurbishment of the Kolo General Hospital, which was inaugurated in July 2019, to name a few, outside the CSiN investment in supporting education, enterprise support,

Shell Livewire:

Every year Shell LiveWIRE supports thousands of individuals to access the knowledge, skills, networks and resources to turn their business ideas into successful enterprises which provide a sustainable income, create jobs and drive innovation. So, the purpose of LiveWIRE remain to improve opportunities for young people to realise their potential through the creation and development of their own businesses, which are expected to contribute towards a more buoyant economy and communities with more fulfilled young people.

Relief for the North East:

ITREALMS reliably gathered that since 2018, SPDC and SNEPCo have committed $6 million to the government-driven strategic intervention projects for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Yobe and Borno States. The projects focus on immediate relief and critical support development related to health, water and sanitation, education and shelter.

By December 31, 2019, the SPDC JV and SNEPCo completed the distribution of food, essential hygiene kits and other relief items to over 5,500 vulnerable households in IDP camps and impacted communities. So, also, SPDC commenced project work on school reconstruction, and teacher training, upgrading of a Primary HealthCare Centre, water and toilet facilities in Yobe State.

Cheap off-grid energy:

Unarguably, despite oil and gas resources, Nigeria has one of the highest levels of energy poverty in the world. In addition to investing in nation’s gas development and distribution network, Shell has established All On to boost off-grid supply to homes and small businesses in the Niger Delta.

All On, an impact investing company, became operational in 2017 and is an independent Nigerian company that works with partners to increase access to commercial energy products and services. In December 2019, Shell made a significant additional long-term financing commitment to All On.

Speaking recently, the Chief Executive Officer, All-On, Dr. Wiebe Boer, said that Nigerians deserve more reliable energy, alluding that positive change is coming with All-On already investing in some 21 off-grid energy companies and two funds, leading to 21,000 new connections for low income households and businesses, stressing that school kids could now do their homeworks, agriculture products could be processed and preserved, businesses could thrive, and hospitals as well as schools could function, pointing out that about 75 per cent of Nigerian households and small businesses are either off-grid or have poor-grid connection.

He emphasised that All-On invests in off-grid energy solutions spanning solar, wind, hydro, biomass and gas technologies that complement available grid power across Nigeria, whilst providing fund, at least for eight mini-grids with a target capacity of 900kW to be installed in various communities, which saw to working with the likes of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Norfund and ElectriFi. Also, All On participated in the $9 million equity financing round in Arnergy which enabled Arnergy to scale operations and provide solar energy systems for 1,500 small and medium-sized enterprises. 

Conclusion:

Therefore, the $40m social intervention by Shell Petroleum Development Commission, will no doubt throw up some benefits including children and young people getting early support to break the inter-generational transmission of disadvantage that come with lack of healthcare centres, and address the severe youth unemployment problems, thereby availing jobseekers to be integrated with more accessible support for finding work, such as skills development.

Women, especially from the benefiting communities would be availed with improved healthcare, aside some opportunities, better access to the labour market and thus better social protection, to name a few, while offering older people more opportunities for active participation in the society and the economy, bolstered with a larger, healthier and more skilled workforce.

In the near future, this kind of social investment being leveraged by Shell as a tool for empowering people and communities where it has operations and beyond, would leave our Nigerian society with anticipated higher productivity, greater employment, better health and social inclusion, more prosperity and an increased better life for all, across the nation. So, this social intervention is ever-commendable and should be sustained.

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