The unprecedented and uncertain times we are facing during the corona virus pandemic requires extraordinary collaboration at multiple levels in society, both globally and nationally, to successfully combat the severe threat which the pandemic poses to our way of life. Our first priority is to save lives. As a group with deep roots in Namibia and a footprint in Botswana and Zambia, we recognize our responsibility during this concerning reality of economic and social challenges, to contribute in a meaningful way and on various levels, to fight the pandemic and provide support to our customers, employees and other stakeholders. Capricorn Group and its subsidiaries in Namibia namely Bank Windhoek, Capricorn Asset Management and Entrepo Holdings are pledging a combined N$5 million towards the nationwide efforts to help address some of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Contributions in the form of cash or specific goods are vital, but our support as a group will go far beyond that.
There is no perfect time for a storm, but during these times, the importance of community and working together comes to the fore. A crisis like this does not discriminate – it has an impact on all levels of society, the private and public sector. There has never been a more urgent need for everyone in Namibia to work together. Our group has actively engaged with a number of stakeholders including the offices of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health and Social Services as well as the City of Windhoek. Specific areas of support of Capricorn Group include the poor and vulnerable communities, medical staff protection and equipment, as well as assistance to our clients, including small and medium sized businesses to support sustainability of jobs and businesses.
Our group’s contribution to the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic can be categorised as follows:
N$1 million targeted pledge to the National Disaster Fund
We pledge N$1 million to the National Disaster Fund to mitigate the impact of Covid-19.
N$1 million towards the direct procurement of medical supplies and equipment
We will procure the most critical medicine, medical equipment, supplies and personal protection gear, as advised by the ministry of health and other specialists in the medical field, to the value of N$1 million. This includes Bank Windhoek’s procurement of testing kits for Covid-19 as well as nasopharyngeal swab collection kits to the value of N$332 000.
Targeted support in the amount of N$3 million
When everyone is impacted and when the needs are immediate and extensive, it is difficult to prioritize who should benefit from financial or in-kind support. The most vulnerable in our society should be one of the main priorities. Apart from their daily challenge to provide food for their families, the communities living in the informal settlements don’t have readily available access to basic resources like water and sanitation to protect them from the virus and the spreading of the virus. Capricorn Group and its subsidiaries will therefore contribute N$3 million over a period of 4 months to address the needs of the most vulnerable of society, through a partnership with Imago Dei, a longstanding partner of our group’s social investment initiatives, as well as other registered welfare organisations.
In addition to the contribution of N$5 million by Capricorn Group and its subsidiaries, Bank Windhoek and Entrepo will support business sustainability and job security by providing financial assistance to businesses to bridge the current environment.
The SME sector makes up a significant part of the formal and informal economy of Namibia and it is important that they are supported during this time when business activity is being limited, to assist them to weather the storm and continue to employ and pay their employees. Bank Windhoek therefore announced several measures to assist both SMEs as well as individual clients. The measures include the waiver of certain fees, special interest rates for senior citizens and the deferment of capital and interest payments on term loan facilities, vehicle and asset finance, mortgage loans and overdraft facilities. Although large corporations are better positioned to withstand and absorb the crisis and ensure business continuity, we are committed to also support them in their unique circumstances and with their varying needs.
Bank Windhoek will also be facilitating certain assistance measures in support of the stimulus package announced by the minister of finance on 1 April 2020. More details in this regard will be announced following discussions between the banking industry and the office of the Minister of Finance.
Protecting the health and safety of our employees:
From the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, the health and safety of our employees in Namibia, Botswana and Zambia as well as the customers visiting our branches and offices, were a key area of focus. We have to date provided all the necessary materials including masks, cleaning material, sanitizers and gloves which were needed by all branches and departments in all three countries that we operate in. Many of our employees are still working on the frontline as part of essential services being offered during the lockdown and we will ensure that they continue to have the supplies they need to protect themselves and their clients.
As a group, we have always been committed to be connectors of positive change. Not only positive change for our shareholders, but positive change for our employees, customers and our community. We have always been committed to support our stakeholders not only in the good times, but also in the bad times. We therefore encourage clients of our subsidiaries and associate companies to engage with their relationship managers, service consultants and advisors on their specific needs.
As a regional financial services group, our scope of responsibility goes wider than Namibia and we are committed to support our operations in Botswana and Zambia as the situation unfolds in those countries. We will therefore continue to monitor developments in the region, with an emphasis on Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zambia and adopt our plans and response in an appropriate and responsible manner. We thank all our stakeholders for their positive embrace of calmness and resilience during this time of uncertainty and urge everyone to adhere to national guidelines and rules.
*Marlize Horn is the Executive Officer: Brand & Corporate Affairs at Capricorn Group