On an annual basis, trillions of US dollars exchange hands electronically through various e-ecommerce platforms. These transactions mostly happen between buyers and sellers who are often thousands of miles apart.
For decades, banks have been at the forefront of ensuring both clients and sellers get the best form of services available, no matter the distance that separates them. In Botswana, Rand Merchant Bank Botswana has found it fitting to be part of this all-important payment platform called e-Commerce. RMB is a division of Botswana Stock Exchange listed lender, First National Bank Botswana. The latter is a subsidiary of FNB, a JSE listed banking giant.
Within RMB Botswana, there is no other person to explain better this eCommerce platform, other than Onalenna Bhunu. He is the bank’s Client Implementation Manager. In this interview, he started by explaining what they do within e-Commerce structures. “We basically act as conduit between the client and our MS ecommerce offering. We are that connecting piece between the two, both from a sales and support perspective,” said Bhunu, adding that, their main focus is spread into understanding customers’ needs, engaging various stakeholders, “that are key in the value chain as well as ensuring product delivery in line with clients’ requirements.”
Bhunu, who has an Msc in Strategic Management (University of Derby) explains why RMB has found it necessary to be part of this concept of e-commerce. “As a Corporate and investment bank, we bought onto this concept as a value adding service towards our clients and at the same time making lives for the end users like you and me an easier one,” he explained and further that, e-Commerce, in addition, offers customers a value adding service that facilitates towards consumers a more convenient way to shop for products or services they need anytime and anywhere. RMB has been able to come with tailor-made solutions to take advantage of this consumer behaviour.
“The customers shift to mobile devices and online participation has meant this is a key strategic initiative for clients that wish to gain a competitive edge. We note that this trend is only gaining momentum especially for local services and products and thus customers that take steps now will definitely be winners later,” he added.
Most, if not all services within e-Commerce, are done electronically. This basically means physical interactions are limited. Bhunu, without giving specific figures explained to Botswana Guardian that, there has been a surge in the usage of e-commerce during COVID-19 pandemic. He noted, this surge has helped companies and individuals to do business remotely, especially during lockdowns and restricted movements. “E-commerce has the ability to ensure the economy continues to run even with restrictions in movement. This is because it allows for trade to proceed between parties thereby ensuring continuity in some of the sectors driving the economy. It has brought in the ability for businesses to reach more customers than traditional retail reaches. With so many people making their purchases online, it is the fastest-growing retail market,” he said as a matter of fact.
Global statistics support Bhunu’s assertion on eCommerce as the leading and growing retail market. Available statistics show that, in 2020, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to 4.28 trillion US dollars and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to 5.4 trillion US dollars in 2022. “RMB has always embraced the e-commerce journey and for that we have over the years developed products and our systems to support this. The bank offers both off the shelf products and bespoke solutions tailored according to our client’s needs. We also offer different plug ins for the payment gateway which include websites, App and USSD platforms,” he disclosed.
Transacting online also has its own risk, hence Security is of critical importance. Bhunu explains that they are well aware of these risks, and revealed why they have water tight systems in place to guard against possible fraud. Some of the key features that the bank has put in place is card holder Security which includes authentication of the transaction when making a purchase and secondly, RMB has ensured there is security for the solution at large against hackers which includes protection of information entered onto the platform. The bank also keeps to PCI standards, which is high level security of card association. .
The e-Commerce market is set to grow exponentially in the coming years, as more and more consumers transact digitally. “From Botswana perspective we anticipate growth within this space due to the ever-growing mobile usage in the country. This trend however, has moved in leaps and bounds in other parts of the world, specifically driven by the current co
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become a major part of corporates in the modern-day world. In fact, belief is that customers have sustained trust on companies which empower communities they operate in. Locally, one such company is First National Bank Botswana (FNBB).
The Bank, which is listed on the Botswana Stock Exchange (BSE), has found it fitting to establish a fully-fledged and independent foundation (FNBB Foundation), which is a vehicle that drives the Bank’s CSR mandate.. FNBB Foundation Manager, Onkemetse Montsheki has recently opened up about the importance of CSR for corporates and how as an institution they have not left this to chance. During the interview, she frequently talked about sustainability and how CSR is important in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“At FNBB we believe that CSR is basically empowering communities that we operate in,” said Montsheki who is completing her dissertation for Masters of Science (project management) athe University of Botswana. As things stand, the FNBB Foundation has chosen to focus on six strategic CSR areas. These areas are Arts and Culture, Youth Empowerment, Education, Sport and Recreation, Social Welfare and Environmental Sustainability. As recent as last year, the Bank has been at the forefront of helping artists across all spectrum by giving them an opportunity to compete and get rewarded through the Bodiragatsi Jwame, Lentswe Lame initiative.
The creative and performing arts industry has been hard hit by COVID-19 as entertainment had come to a complete halt since the first lockdown and current restrictions have had an impact on their primary source of income.. According to Montsheki, this empowerment was done under the focal area of Arts and Culture.
The Bank has also helped with tracking devices for rhinos at Khama Rhino Sanctuary. This initiative is crucial especially that rhinos are under siege from marauding poachers. Tourism is one of the major sources of income for the country. She is content that, the Foundation also managed to empower communities in remote areas that have limited or no electricity at all with solar bags. These bags are important to learners for studying at night more especially that they have capabilities of being recharged by solar energy. Areas such as Senyawe, Paragarungu, Letlhakane among others have benefitted from this gesture. The solar bag initiative has been driven with the collaborations of stakeholders such as the ministry of local government. The FNB Park in Broadhurst which has come as a result of a strong partnership between Gaborone City Council and the Bank has benefited the community immensely. The Bank has also helped built hostels for those living with disabilities.
The Foundation Manager has also made it clear that, social needs are not static and at FNBB they are consistently reviewing CSR strategies for relevance purposes. “Over the years we have come to understand that needs in society are not static as such from time to time we review our strategy to ensure that we are still relevant in our help, we look at global priorities like the sustainable development goals to see where the needs are in the global space as well as looking here at home to also assess the national priorities by reviewing the national development plans, so that in our quest to empower communities we do so by complementing the Government’s efforts of empowering its own,” she responded to Botswana Guardian questions.
FNBB corporate responsibility initiatives have been made easier by the fact that, staff members are always on board from day one. Each and every staff member is given two days off to contribute to CSR projects that they choose to be part of.
“On an annual basis, each department/branch is encouraged to do a community needs assessment where they operate in order to lend a helping hand where they can. Moreover, staff members are encouraged to engage with the community by sharing their professional or personal skills in bettering the lives of Batswana. On annual basis, FNBB as a bank reward the best volunteers through awards,” disclosed Montsheki.
Companies are now moving towards Corporate Social Investment (CSI) as opposed to CSR to be able to measure success and sustainability. Montsheki has confirmed they have also as FNBB adopted such an approach for sustainability purposes. Furthermore, FNBB also has internal systems to measure the success of their CSI initiatives. The Bank, which is the biggest in the country, has 3 principles that apply in every project. “The first one is the project should have a lasting legacy, that it is should benefit not only one person or one cohort but it should be able to benefit more people, secondly the project should be sustainable, even beyond the support of FNBB to avoid the dependency syndrome. Lastly there should be a positive impact on the community brought by the said project,” she explained.
COVID-19 has affected many communities and even front-line workers who are mainly government employees. The Bank has found it fit to shift focus to this emerging needs. The Bank has disinfected public spaces to curb the spread of COVID-19, supporting the hosting of emotional intelligence conference for the creative artists, supporting initiatives around substance abuse, awareness raising, supporting child care shelters like SOS, Childline, among other charitable organisations.
CSR initiatives requires a lot of funding, which is sometimes hard to come by. Montsheki is happy that, for sustainability purposes, FNBB has managed to create a funding mechanism. On annual basis, the Bank commits up to 1% of its after tax profits, which ranges between P6 million to P8 million annually. The funds are invested back in the society through the staff volunteer program as well as through direct support through the FNBB Foundation.
“Helping communities should no longer be seen as a one-way route, but rather we should remember that it is these communities that form part of our shareholders and customers, and the more they are empowered the more businesses also get empowered. The relationship is a symbiotic one; secondly, our helping should be more sustainable rather than once off donations,” said Montsheki.
She is upbeat that the organisation will continue to empower locals. “We believe CSR initiatives are part and parcel of government programmes aimed at achieving SDGs,” said Montsheki. SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. The 17 SDGs are integrated—that is, they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.