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BARCELONA, Feb 28: Zain Group, a leading mobile telecom innovator in eight markets across the Middle East and Africa, announces its recognition as a winner of the GSMA’s “Outstanding Contribution to the Mobile Industry Award” for 2017. The award was presented to Zain Group and four other mobile operators Asiacell, Deutsche Telekom, Turkcell and Vodafone on Feb 26, 2017, the eve of Mobile World Congress, at the GSMA’s annual welcome dinner at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona, in the presence of His Majesty, King Felipe VI of Spain.
Zain’s recognition in this manner was based on the work the telco continues to undertake around the region to assist and improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable sectors of society, including those fleeing the crisis in Syria. In particular, GSMA applauded Zain’s creation of several commercial packages in the Middle East intended to facilitate connectivity, which is much needed amongst refugees and internally displaced people.
Recently, Zain announced that in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR) and Facebook, the companies had reached an agreement to provide Wi-Fi connectivity (free and high-speed) for refugees in Jordan for the next five years. Using UNHCR’s expertise and knowledge about where refugees are located, Zain agreed to provide Wi-Fi services to key areas across Jordan.
In a bid to empower refugees and not consider them as perpetual victims, last June Zain partnered with MIT Enterprise Forum Pan Arab to launch the Innovate for Refugees Initiative — a competition intended to promote innovative entrepreneurial businesses, providing tech-driven solutions that cater to the needs of refugees. The competition was supported by the UNHCR; UNICEF; Jusoor, an NGO established by Syrian expatriates supporting the country’s development; and Uber. There were over 1,600 applications, with 21 finalists shortlisted to the final round.
Commenting on the recognition from the GSMA, Scott Gegenheimer Zain Group CEO said, “We would like to express our appreciation to the GSMA for this honor, which is a great endorsement to adding dignity to the lives of so many who face challenging circumstances. We are committed to helping those in need and will always look to provide ways in which sustainable solutions may be found and fostered to alleviate the difficult circumstances afflicting so many.”
Jennifer Suleiman, Head of Corporate Sustainability at Zain Group said, “We are all well aware of the positive impact that mobile communications and connectivity can have on the lives of people, and we witness this first-hand in our own region. We feel a strong sense of responsibility to assist those requiring help and this has become part of our corporate identity within Zain. We appreciate GSMA having recognized our efforts in this manner, and we shall use the award to raise further awareness of the desperate situations people are living under, and the need to assist wherever possible.”
Another initiative that was identified by the GSMA was the #ZainWithRefugees Campaign, a joint initiative between UNHCR and Zain Kuwait, which aims to assist and support Syrian refugees who faced harsh winter conditions. The UNHCR donation portal campaign aimed to collect donations to raise awareness on refugee emergencies. The portal includes a social media aspect whereby Zain further raised awareness concerning the plight of Syrian refugees through its social media channels, and using a bulk SMS campaign.
Zain has also spearheaded a number of initiatives to improve the welfare of displaced people across the region. One of the most comprehensive of these was the Internally Displaced Person Assistance Project, a multilateral initiative launched in 2015 by Zain Iraq, involving the distribution of food, clothing and other supplies to nearly 20,000 people. This included food baskets for 2,500 people, 4,000 iftar meals, 700 bottles of baby milk, 1,000 sets of clothing, and 100 air coolers. The project also addressed the health concerns of displaced persons through collaboration with two specialized non-governmental organizations (NGO), Dary and Iraq Builder. Through this partnership, medical tents were established to provide medicine, medical consultancy and psychological care to people.
In particular, GSMA applauded Zain’s creation of several commercial packages in the Middle East intended to facilitate connectivity, which is much needed amongst refugees and internally displaced people. Most notable of these packages is the Tawasol Line offered by touch in Lebanon, which provides discounted rates for Syrian refugees for voice, SMS and data, as well as discounts for calls and messages to Syria. With over one million Syrian refugees hosted in Lebanon, there is high demand for the service, which was launched in 2015, and by the end of 2016 counted approximately 50,000 subscribers.