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Mastercard Foundation: Disquiet over discrimination against Nigerian workers, by Adeyinka Ogunleye

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Mastercard Foundation: Disquiet over discrimination against Nigerian workers, by Adeyinka Ogunleye

Founded in 2006 through the generosity of Mastercard when the payment solutions company went public, the Mastercard Foundation is a Canadian charity organisation and one of the world’s largest foundations.

In concert with other organisations, the foundation works to advance education and financial inclusion to enable young people in Africa and indigenous youth in Canada to access dignified and fulfilling work. In Africa it has offices in Kigali, Rwanda; Accra, Ghana; Nairobi, Kenya; Kampala, Uganda; Lagos, Nigeria; Dakar, Senegal and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Between 2018 and 2020, the Foundation launched its Africa Works programme which it aims to use to help 30 million young people (out of which 10 million will be Nigerians) secure dignified and fulfilling work by 2030.

The Foundation also offers scholarships and information made available on its website indicates that since 2012 it has supported nearly 40,000 transformative leaders.

However, since the foundation started operations in Nigeria in 2019, there are indications that Nigerians are being discriminated against in the Nigerian office of the foundation despite its claim for global best practices. Concerning staff recruitment, the Foundation said it “will conduct all recruiting and selection activities in accordance with local legislation in each of the countries in which it operates and align with the global talent philosophies for the Foundation.”

It further said the purpose of the policy, among others, is to;

• Ensure legal compliance and non-discriminatory practices in the recruitment and selection process in line with relevant internal policies and local legislation.

• Ensure the acquisition of competent and suitably qualified candidates to meet current and future organisational employee needs.

• Ensure that recruitment is be based on a genuine business need and Executive Committee (EXCO) approvals must be obtained.

• Ensure that vacancies are filled through a competitive and transparent selection process, using fair and inclusive job-related criteria and selection tools.

• Ensure that selection for all applicants is made based on the experience, qualifications, competencies, behaviours, skills and values alignment required for successful performance in the role.

• Ensure that where a vacancy exists, the Foundation will advertise vacancies internally and/or externally as guided by the talent strategy. In exceptional circumstances, there may be a strong business case for making discretionary or confidential hires without advertising the vacancy.

Exco approval will be required;

• Ensure that applicants are, to be offered feedback following any kind of selection process.

• Ensure that no applicant will be discriminated against based on race, gender, pregnancy, marital status, family responsibility, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, political opinion, culture, language, birth or on any other grounds which may be considered subjective.

Documentation from any selection process should be kept for as long as is required by law in the country in which the recruitment is being managed.

• If a member of employees involved in the recruitment process has a close personal relationship with an applicant, they must declare this as soon as they are aware of the individual’s application and recuse themselves of any involvement in the recruitment and selection process;

• Appropriate assessment tools may be used for recommended vacancies. Only certified practitioners may administer assessments. Appropriate and reasonable adjustments must be made to accommodate applicants with any kind of disability or learning difficulty. The Foundation will endeavour to pro-actively remove any barriers that it reasonably can, in order to enable full participation in the process.

• Thorough and accurate notes should be taken throughout the selection process as evidence to ensure that the Foundation can justify and verify any decision made;

• Hiring managers will be held accountable for both their hiring decisions and how they conduct the processes leading up to them.

• Recruiting managers and panel members will be trained, where applicable, on the recruitment procedures and principles, to ensure consistent application, fairness and inclusivity.

• Foundation employees (i.e., those engaged on continuing or fixed term contracts of employment) are eligible to apply for any vacancy without prejudicing their current position provided they have been in their current role for a minimum period of 12 months. Exceptions may be considered where a compelling business case, supported by the Business Head and approved by Chief People & Culture Officer.

• All applicants will be subject to background checks which include employment, social media, criminal, identity, and education checks. Additional checks may be conducted where applicable i.e., Credit checks for finance roles, NYSC verification in Nigeria etc.

• Employees with roles at risk and seeking redeployment will be given priority consideration over other applicants, provided they have the relevant skills and experience required for the role. A complete selection process will apply.

• All recruiting and selection activities will be conducted in accordance with local legislation (applies to all countries where we hire from especially with remote working)”.

As elaborate and painstaking as it’s recruitment policy appears on paper, insiders say the process is not entirely transparent. They cite as example the appointment of Rosy Fynn, the current Country Director for Nigeria.

Investigation reveals that Rosy, then Country Director for Ghana, started overseeing the Nigeria office in acting capacity when the then country director, Mrs Chidinma Lawanson, went on maternity leave in late 2022. Upon return, Mrs Lawanson chose to resign and Rosy continued to act as country director. The role was then advertised and many Nigerians applied but the process was terminated before a shortlist could be drawn. Rosy was confirmed substantive Country Director for Nigeria in May 2023. Prior to that she had never worked in Nigeria and has no country context. It is not known how many Nigerians applied for the Mastercard Foundation top job in Nigeria but a reliable source said each time a position was advertised the Foundation usually receives not less than 200 applications with 99% of them being Nigerians.

Insiders say there is no clear reason why the Foundation did not proceed to shortlist and interview applicants to fill the position of Nigeria Country Director when there are qualified Nigerians who applied for the position.

Nigeria’s Ministry of Budget and Planning allows only a maximum of 30% foreigners to be brought in to occupy positions that should be left for Nigerians except in exceptional cases of special competence not available,  which in this case does not apply.

In addition, insiders say foreigners especially Ghanaians, are being brought in to occupy positions that should be left for Nigerians.

Adeyinka Ogunleye, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos State.

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