HelpNow, an initiative of Softcom supported by MTN, Lagos state government and 12 other companies, is on a mission to crowdfund help for Nigerians in need, starting with Lagos.

The platform, launched today, June 18, is crowdsourcing funds to support over two million vulnerable and most-needy people and families in Lagos State. HelpNow would disburse ₦5,000 to each of the beneficiaries’ bank account or phone number (mobile wallet).

Those who receive funds in their mobile wallet can access it via Eyowo app, USSD, or through any SANEF (Shared Agent Network Expansion Facilities) agent, according to HelpNow website. Eyowo is a digital bank launched by Softcom in 2019.

"The pandemic is no respecter of person, age, religion or social status. Yet, its effects are not equal across the board", Yomi Adedeji, CEO of Softcom, said.

"Millions of people who survive on daily income and blue-collar workers are still struggling to find their feet due to economic restrictions and loss of jobs caused by the pandemic. These are people we know, who serve us daily and keep the economy running but due to the pandemic, they are vulnerable and unable to go about their business seamlessly".

The Lagos State Government, following the presidential recommendation to gradually lift the lockdown implemented from April 27 to May 4, had released guidelines that will help secure the safety of Lagosians as economic activities resumed.

"With the launch of HelpNow today, we now have a platform that aggregates support for government’s efforts at alleviating the sufferings of the poor and vulnerable in our society. Government alone cannot address the socio-economic problems of any society. It needs the support of well-meaning individuals and corporate organizations to cater for the needy amongst us", Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said at the launch of HelpNow.

"For creating a platform that encourages collaboration and speedily mobilises succour for the needy and vulnerable, I commend Softcom Limited and its partners. The people of Lagos State appreciate your ingenuity and thoughtfulness".

In addition to the compulsory use of face mask in public and social distancing, the state government also rolled out a 'register to open' initiative. Lagos state's safety and environment agencies assess the readiness of businesses cleared to reopen in relation to the safety measures put in place.

Adedeji, however, noted that even as economic activities gradually return back to normal, "they [these businesses and people] need our help to recover from the impact of the pandemic” to be able to take care of themselves and their families. "We are not safe until all of us feel safe. Hence, why we need your help now", Softcom’s CEO said.

To arrive at the 2 million+ figure, Softcom said the identities of vulnerable people in Lagos were sourced from reliable sources. Sources such as the Lagos State World Bank Data on the poorest households, LASRRA Data on aged Lagosians, Lagos state residents who are with disabilities, Bank of Industry Data on Market Women and Telco data (MTN and Airtel) on the poorest Lagosians.

Consequently, the beneficiaries of HelpNow are in five categories: the elderly (273,708), petty traders or market women (337,484), physically challenged (5,289), poorest households (13,036), and poorest Lagosians (1,691,991).

HelpNow impact, thus far

So far, HelpNow has received ₦650,500 from 20 donors and disbursed ₦85,000 to 16 people. Of whom 13 are male and 3 are female; 10 of them are 30 years old, two of them are 50 years old, and four of them are 60 years old.

"We verified each person and got their consent to raise support for them", HelpNow said on its website.

Softcom partnered with Ernst & Young, Deloitte, Banwo and Ighodalo, John Ashley and other corporate organisations to provide regulatory compliance, accountability and transparency needed for HelpNow.

The other partners of  HelpNow are Bank of Industry, GT Bank, Wildreams Agency, Providus Bank, Future Africa, SANEF, and Qrios Network Limited.

"No amount is too little or too much to support and ensure that those whose livelihoods have been sorely affected by the pandemic are given a hand up", Adedeji concluded.

"Your N1,000 or N500,000 cash donation will go a long way in keeping households alive. You can also support this cause by sharing with friends and families".