The Vodacom Group Sustainability Report for the 2021 financial year shows companywide commitment in action when it comes to delivering sustainable socio-economic value and adherence to the philosophies of King IV on sustainable development.
“To date, we connect 123.7 million customers across our markets and are committed to providing affordable internet access to the next 100 million customers. Connecting for a better future is the purpose that drives us,” says Takalani Netshitenzhe, Executive Director of External Affairs at Vodacom South Africa.
“This Sustainability Report highlights our progress in meeting our purpose in an environmentally responsible way,” continues Netshitenzhe. “It documents our journey in creating a digital society that leaves no one behind. To this end, we are pleased to share a few cross-market milestones, as published in the report.”
Shaping a Strong Digital Society
Vodacom champions digital and financial inclusion in many ways. This includes offering low-cost data bundles and mobile devices, extending network coverage across urban and rural areas, and making fintech accessible through our M-Pesa mobile platform.
We expanded coverage in countries like Lesotho, Tanzania and most notably in South Africa, where 192 new network sites were set up across rural areas. 4G coverage now reaches 97.3% of South Africa’s population, which includes nearly 83% coverage in rural parts of the country where communities are most at risk of exclusion in an increasingly digital society.
Affordability was tackled on both the data and device fronts. In three of our markets – South Africa, Mozambique, and Tanzania – over 1.3 million low-cost smart feature phones were sold in total, clearly highlighting the need for affordable devices. Meanwhile, over the last three years, we slashed mobile data prices by 76% in the DRC and by 26% in Lesotho. In South Africa, we also cut the cost of 1GB of data from R149 to R85.
Enabling online access to health and education resources is an example of how we addressed the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are a key priority in our markets. This was done by zero-rating over a thousand key websites across all our markets, empowering citizens with free access to crucial health and education information, including ambulance services, and government communication services.
Additionally, we promoted financial inclusion via M-Pesa, the Vodacom and Safaricom mobile financial-services platform. Dubbed as Africa's most successful mobile money service and the region's largest fintech platform, M-Pesa is fast becoming a gateway to the digital economy for the customers it services which was over 44.5 million in the last quarter of the 2021 financial year.
Digital and financial inclusion are key focus areas in Vodacom’s Sustainability strategy, which also extends to the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) we support. In line with the SDG 8 target of nurturing economic growth, VodaLend, part of our Financial Services offering, helped over 330 South African SMEs remain financially viable in the tough pandemic climate. We did this by extending a total of R74 million in credit to SMEs and by issuing a total of R1.1 billion in early payments within three days of SME invoicing.
Continually Driving Inclusiveness
In the last financial year, the Vodacom Foundation invested over R173 million to empower women and young people by facilitating financial inclusion, supporting skills development and quality education and improving health and well-being.
We helped democratise access to connectivity for thousands of young people through various education initiatives, such as the Vodacom Instant School programme and the e-School platform, which now has 1.25 million users. In the DRC and Tanzania, we now provide free access to online learning materials to over 260 000 students.
In South Africa alone, Vodacom connects 14.6 million female customers and supports 1.9 million users on our zero-rated mobile health service, Mum & Baby. After great success in South Africa, Mum & Baby was introduced to the DRC and now has a user base of 3 300 women.
Leveraging technology to address gender-based violence (GBV) remains a priority. In the 2021 financial year, we launched Bright Sky SA, a zero-rated mobile app that provides educational resources and support to GBV survivors. During this time, we also invested R4.5 million in digital-skills training for South Africa’s GBV survivors.
Remaining Environmentally Conscious
Business success should never come at a cost to the environment, which is why Vodacom is committed to operating in a sustainable way that helps preserve our planet’s resources. Through long-term investments in energy-efficiency programmes, we have successfully decreased our electricity consumption in core networks and buildings over the past three years. In addition, Vodacom South Africa purchased more than 2GWh of electricity from renewable energy sources provided by independent power producers, recycled 573 tonnes of e-waste and, from 2017 to date, have cut water consumption by 77% and reduced single-use plastic by 67%.
Connecting for a better future – an inclusive and sustainable one – is something Vodacom keeps top of mind. While the face of the business landscape is changing in ways we can’t always predict, Vodacom remains steadfast in providing relevant, real-world, tech-savvy solutions with the ability to positively transform our customers’ lives in the most sustainable ways possible.
To view the entire Sustainability Report, please click here.