Vodafone Ghana CEO, Patricia Obo-Nai

Vodafone Ghana CEO Patricia Obo-Nai has joined world influential figures on two separate panel discussions on transforming the lives of women within sub-Saharan Africa at the United Nations General Assembly.

As a panellist at the event, she disclosed interventions made by her outfit to make life bearable for vulnerable groups.

Speaking to the theme, ‘The Role of Technology in Unlocking Gender Equality; Connecting Women to Maternal Health and Girls to Education’, Madam Obo-Nai at September 24 event acknowledged that the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic presented multi-dimensional challenges to Africa achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

She said despite the pandemic, leveraging digital technology is a way out in accelerating the achievement of the 169 targets under the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Madam Obo-Nai said given that Africa is currently the world’s fastest-growing market for mobile phones, with Vodafone’s commitment to creating a ‘Digital Society’ of connected people, communities and things, “we are digitally empowering millions of people across the continent.”

“Our pioneering interventions have seen some incredible success stories, where mobile phone capabilities are now being used to transform healthcare delivery, improve access to educational resources and deliver digital financial inclusion to the unbanked,” she said.

Regarding Gender Gap in Mobile Phone Ownership and a GSMA report showing women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa still 13% less likely to own a phone and 37% less likely to use the mobile data that can help them to live healthier lives and access better medical care during their pregnancies, the Vodafone Ghana CEO explained it is why the telco giant made a commitment to add 20 million women living in Africa and Turkey on to the internet by 2025.

“We have made progress towards our goal and have an estimated 46.2 million active female customers across these regions, 9.3 million more since our original goal was set in 2016,” she added.

Vodafone is also through the power of the mobile technology abating Maternal and Infant Mortality in Africa. Reducing child mortality by 1% could increase GDP by as much as 5% in African countries.

With an expectant mother in sub-Saharan Africa is 50 times likely to die from pregnancy related issues than a woman in Europe, Vodafone is taking steps to address this issue of maternal health with three transformational initiatives across sub-Saharan Africa involving “educating and empowering adolescent girls to make well-informed decisions about their health; giving emergency support for expectant mothers, and support for new mothers.”

These interventions, Madam Obo-Nai stressed are already helping mothers become better informed on healthy pregnancy as well as promoting safe delivery and infant and child protection.

According to her, Vodafone Foundation has made over US$24 million (€20.3 million) of philanthropic investment to support maternal health over the past decade, enabling 1 million women, girls and babies to receive lifesaving treatment, transport, medical care and health education.

“The Foundation’s M-Mama programme uses mobile technology to provide free emergency transport for pregnant rural women in obstetric crisis, delivering lifesaving interventions in partnership with governments,” she said.

She explained that “In the regions of Tanzania where it has operated to date, M-Mama has been proven to reduce maternal mortality by 27% and it is sustainable within local health budgets. Early this month, the Foundation announced the expansion of M-Mama to Lesotho and other sub-Saharan markets by 2025.

‘…In Ghana, Vodafone is working in partnership with the government and relevant stakeholders to implement this initiative in April 2021. The Office of the President and the Ghana Health Service have all shown earnest commitment in playing their part to help the country address the issue of ‘accessibility’ with M-Mama, which is projected to save about 400 lives each year”.

Despite all the positive interventions, Vodafone across the continent depends on the availability of spectrum. “Governments must continue to invest in mobile communications infrastructure and introduce policies and regulations that will enable the telecoms industry to thrive and ultimately propel broad-based digitalisation across the globe,” Patricia Obo Nai said.