By OBINNA EZUGWU
Alhaji Aliko Dangote, undoubtedly, is a household name in Nigeria, the country of his birth, and the continent of Africa, where he is impacting greatly, and beyond. Whether it is quest for food or shelter – two of humanity’s basic needs – there is hardly any escaping Dangote products in one’s daily life.
As the continent’s richest man it is not by any means out of the ordinary that his name is mostly associated with wealth. But perhaps not more than a few people are aware that as big as his pockets are, Dangote’s heart is even bigger. He is, as statistics have proven, the continent’s most generous individual.
Rich, yet very gentle and down to earth, if there is anything Dangote values more than his determination to keep succeeding, it is friendship. Be it a birthday party, marriage ceremony, burial event as long as he calls the celebrant friend, Dangote often made out time to attend. But of course, his life does not revolve around his friends.
In a clime where being rich often goes with a bit of arrogance, the Kano-born, Lagos-based billionaire changes one’s mental picture of an ideal “big man.” Often in his simple native attire, and wearing his trademark smile, Dangote betrays such affection for humanity that immediately overwhelms those around him.
It is indeed, humanity that he has continued to dedicate himself and his wealth to serving. Be it in the country’s North East beset by Boko Haram insurgency, or just anywhere there is need to assist the downtrodden, he never shied away. And now he has even bigger plans to “give a chunk of my wealth to charity in the next few years.”
Dangote has continued to use his wealth to assist those in need, albeit mostly silently. Through his Foundation, the Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF) to which he has donated over $1.2 billion, and which he says is dedicated to “reducing the number of lives lost to malnutrition and disease,” he has continued to touch lives in very unique ways.
“Combating Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children is at the core of our programming. Improving the outcome of children’s lives, forms the basis for the work the Foundation is engaged in, using our investments in health, education, and economic empowerment to help lift people out of poverty,” he says.
The Foundation is the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of the Dangote Group. It is responsible for contributing hundreds of billions of naira in charitable funds to several causes in Nigeria and Africa over the past few years. And the gesture has continued.
Last week, the Foundation announced its resolution to empower 106,000 women across four states in the Northern region with a whopping N1.1 billion. The process of selecting eligible beneficiaries has since begun. The foundation seeks to empower 23,000 women in Sokoto, 34,000 women in Katsina, 21,000 women in Kebbi and 28,000 women in Zamfara with the latest gesture.
Launched in 2011 in Kano, the programme is a N10 billion programme targeting one million indigent and vulnerable women and is being systematically rolled out nationwide to cover the 774 local government areas of the country. So far, 334,500 women and youths have benefitted from the programme across Kano, Jigawa, Kogi, Adamawa, Borno, Yobe, Lagos, Nasarawa and Niger States.
The above is but a fraction of the activities of a Foundation which is the largest private foundation in Africa with $1.25billion equivalent endowment. It may not be common knowledge, but Dangote, through his Foundation, is the biggest single supporter of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the country. In about seven years, the foundation, according to its MD, Zouera Youssoufou, has expended over N7billion in support of IDPs.
The Foundation, had in 2018, commissioned the Dangote Housing Estate in Maiduguri, Borno State, to support the effort of the state government in providing shelter for victims of Boko Haram insurgency. The education sector has not been left out, too. A few years ago, Dangote donated a N300million Complex to University of Ibadan while he delivered the third Eminent Persons Business lecture and inauguration of the Aliko Dangote Complex.
He had indeed assured, during the event, that his Foundation will continue to prioritize education as a means of raising entrepreneurs that will change the face of the nation’s economy and lead to real growth and development. In his over 20 years of doing charity work, Dangote has had his hands on every pie.
It is courtesy of him, in partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that polio has been eradicated from the country, particularly the Northern part where it was prevalent for long periods. And speaking of his partnership with Bill and Melinda Gates, the continent’s richest man told a capacity audience at Goalkeepers Summit in New York last week that he hopes to emulate his tech giant friend, Bill Gates by dedicating a chunk of his own wealth to charity.
“When I started my Foundation in 1994, I never realised that we had this massive challenge in our health sector,” he said. “Really it was mind-boggling when we had this agreement to cooperate with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. That really opened my eyes to the challenges we have in our health sector.”
Speaking of the influence Gates has had on him, he noted: “Honestly one of the things that shocked and surprised me is that at that time I hadn’t had the opportunity of meeting Bill but meeting Bill changed me into a different person.
“This is somebody that has nothing to do with us in Africa or Nigeria but he is putting his money and his soul, everything. He is very committed to helping humanity and that really surprises.”
“It surprises me a lot and I realised that he is a simple person and I never knew Bill would be this simple. He is a very soft-spoken guy and kind-hearted. It is very difficult to find people like Bill in this world.
“Bill, we are very grateful, and I can assure you that with my association with Bill, my only prayer is that in the next few years, I will try and give my chunk of wealth to charity.”
But even as Dangote has continued to pay attention to country’s health care, he has not neglected the security sector, especially as the country continues to face mounting security challenges.
Last year, the Foundation, donated 150 fully kitted operational cars worth several hundreds of millions of naira to the Nigerian Police Force in Abuja, what was described by the Police IG, Ibrahim Idris, as “the donation was the single biggest donation ever by a private sector operator to the Police.”