By GODWIN DUNIA
Gentle, unassuming and extraordinarily calm, Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote disarms you with his infectious smile. Fit and often dressed in simple native attire, Dangote immediately changes your mental picture of an ideal “big man.” But Dangote is as big as it gets, and he is not just big in terms of wealth, he is without a doubt, the continent’s biggest philanthropist.
Dangote’s business footprints has continued to expand beyond African continent, such that he has become a house-hold name across the continent and even outside its shores. But very few people are aware that the man behind these businesses is also heavily into philanthropy. Not for the fun of it, or to achieve fame – which he has already attained in the vast growing business – but because he has a dream for his fellow man, his country-Nigeria and the entire African continent.
The Dangote brand has matured into an undeniably global force, to the extent that renowned Forbes Magazine showcased it as one of Africa’s most successful business enterprise and rated as world’s 6th largest donors, and Africa’s richest person for almost a decade. Alhaji Aliko Dangote was also listed by Forbes Magazine among the 75 people that make the world turn.
In an attempt to actualize his dream and change the narratives of poverty and backwardness about his country and the African continent, Alhaji Dangote, in 1994, was propelled to start a Foundation, now known as ‘Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF)’.
The purpose of ADF as a dream, is explicitly captured in the main objective of the Foundation, which reads, ‘To reduce the number of lives lost to malnutrition and disease and to combat Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children’. The objectives of the Foundation is also to Improve children lives and using investment in health,
education and economic empowerment to help lift people out of poverty.
All these, among others have formed the basis and objectives of the ADF. And without doubt, the Foundation has done considerably well, changing the cause of humanity since inception. And it has formed the core of the programmes of the Foundation.
It is not possible to highlights efforts and contributions of ADF to humanity since inception, because from 1994 and now, the Foundation has done tremendously well in uplifting human development and contributing to change negative impression that has been created about the continent.
However, Aliko Dangote, a merchant Prince from Kano, is not doing it alone. In 2013 and 2014, which have formed a defining period for the Foundation, he (Aliko) joined hands with Bill Gates, to work with the government of Nigeria to attack the then lingering scourge of polio in its last bastion on the continent.
Thereafter, as Nigeria eagerly awaits her certification as polio-freeby the World Health Organisation (WHO), ADF boosted the nation’s efforts to finally end the scourge which had affected thousands of children across the country. The Foundation, in support of government’s efforts to end polio, released a detailed report which showed the impact of a partnership agreement on Routine Immunisation(RI) and polio eradication, which was signed between the ADF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and six Northern states comprising Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Sokoto, Borno and Yobe.
The 114-page report, which showcased the efforts of the ADF in the fight against polio, was released in Lagos. It also catalogued RI activities before and after the MoU was signed between the tripartite partners, with a marked upsurge in RI efforts after the MoUs were signed. It also revealed that hundreds of thousands of under-five year children, who are most prone to polio, have been successfully immunised against the virus.
The document, which contains analyses, interviews and pictures, was based on findings obtained from a recent spotlight visit undertaken by the philanthropic arm of the Dangote Group to the six MoU partner states, while tracking the progress made by each of the six states on RI and polio eradication under the partnership agreements. It revealed that the tripartite agreements have helped to strengthen RI and also provided technical, material and financial support to the partner states and their relevant agencies and stakeholders; with resultant rise in RI coverage for eligible children in both rural and urban areas, including those in hard-to-reach and in accessible communities; and also greater involvement of traditional and religious leaders in the process.
Health and Nutrition
Most importantly, the document highlighted the back-up roles of the ADF and BMGF through improved logistics; which have ensured better access to healthcare in both rural and urban communities in the six Northern partner states; some of whom have devoted higher parts of their annual budgets to ensure adequate healthcare for millions of their citizens. Apart from this, has also constructed 11 Primary Health care Centres, PHCs in seven LGAs in Kano State and two PHCs in two LGAs in Yobe State. Speaking on the impact of the MoU on RI, the Managing Director/CEO ofthe Aliko Dangote Foundation, Zouera Youssoufou said, the state governments were able to abide by the letter and spirit of the MoU, which has largely accounted for the success of the RI process and stamping out of the scourge of polio”.
The enormity of the task involved in the project later demanded for are structuring and realignment within the operation of the Foundation and how it would work to deliver on Aliko’s vision.
After 20 years of intense charity works across Nigeria and Africa, theFoundation was restructured to become the largest private Foundation in the sub-Saharan Africa with $1.25billion equivalent endowment, making it the largest endowment fund by a single donor on the continent.
Following the endowment, the Foundation rebranded to better reflect Aliko’s commitment as Aliko Dangote Foundation (ADF). The Foundation was refocused to concentrate on four key areas namely: Health and Nutrition; education; Empowerment and humanitarian Relief with particular attention to women and children.
Also, in order to achieve his national and continental vision, Alhaji Dangote, appointed his daughter and like-mind, Halima Aliko Dangote, as the Executive Director of ADF Halima, has so far proven to understand her father’s vision for his country, Africa and the global stage. She has a background of a versed manager of men and resources, who would not want to be overshadowed by her father’s towering stature. And she has epitomized this at every stage she found herself. As a director at the Dangote Flour Plc, Halima has effectively combined th edynamism of the youths with the wisdom of elders.
Today, the Foundation’s special interest in nutrition, have commenced with the development of the Aliko Dangote Foundation Integrated Nutrition (ADFIN) programme. This is another design to tackle the scourge of Cholera and malnutrition that claim 300,000lives annually and cripple the future of 11 million chronically malnourished children in Nigeria.
In another massive intervention, the Aliko Dangote Foundation, in January 2019, officially launched a major philanthropic programme in Zamfara State, doling out food items running into several millions of naira to support victims of insurgency.
According to official reports over 3,000 people have been killed, about 100,000 displaced, of which about 30,000 are in Maradun LG, and over 500 people kidnapped. Group Executive Director Government Relations and Strategic Relations Mansur Ahmed, who presented the food items on behalf of Aliko Dangote said ADF was supporting the government and traditional leaders in meeting the needs of the IDPs.
Aliko Dangote Foundation had also injected over N7billion to create succour in North East in the wake of the Boko Haram insurgency.
Ahmed said “Dangote was very disturbed about the plight of the displaced persons and quickly directed that everything possible bed one to provide succour”.
Towards the middle of 2018, ADF inaugurated 200 housing units and aschool it constructed for widows among Internally Displaced Persons(IDPs) in Borno. Alhaji Dangote, said at the inauguration in Maiduguri that it was in fulfilment of a pledge he made through the Foundation two years ago. He disclosed that the foundation had so far expended over N7 billion in providing humanitarian assistance to those displaced by Boko Haram in the Northeast and would provide N2 billion more.
Also that same year in an unprecedented show of philanthropy, the Aliko Dangote Foundation, donated 150 fully kitted operational cars worth several hundreds of millions of naira to the Nigeria Police Force in Abuja. According to the then Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris, “the donation was the single biggest donation ever by a private sector operator to the Police”. Also speaking during the formal handover of the cars at an event attended by the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Ministers, State governors as well as the entire police hierarchy, Aliko Dangote explained that, “the gesture was informed by the fact that security is essential to economic development.” Depending on how well the vehicles are maintained, Dangote promised that his foundation may consider donating another batch of vehicles The Federal Government, through Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo lauded the Aliko Dangote Foundation for the rare gesture and expressed the Federal Government’s appreciation to Alhaji Dangote, for his untiring support to the government, adding that the donation of patrol cars to the Nigerian Police Force will help the Force at combating crimes across the country. Under its micro-grant scheme, ADF had last year disbursed N130millionto 13,000 women in Nasarawa state. Alhaji Aliko Dangote, chairman of the foundation, while flagging-off the disbursement in Lafia, said the scheme was one of the components of the economic empowerment programme of the foundation. He said the grant was aimed at providing the disadvantaged and vulnerable in the society with an unconditional N10,000 cash transfer to boost their household income generation.
“This we believe will help the beneficiaries meet their livelihood needs,” he added.
He explained that the scheme, which was launched a few years back, was targeted at a minimum of 1,000 women in each of the 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs) of the country.
Alhaji Dangote also 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 said 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.
As its successes has grown, so also the proportion of its earnings increase to tackle some of the ever present demands, from individual assistance to community level water and sanitation projects and supports to international humanitarian efforts.
The Foundation is committed to directly reaching on million households with community based management of acute malnutrition, which provides access to improved water and sanitation, improved behavioural change, livelihood support, strengthening locals and national health system as well as global advocacy by 2025. The ADF vision is not limited to Nigeria.
In realizing the vision fora better Africa, the Foundation is strategically supported and working with like-minded international organizations in changing the Africa narratives. It currently partners with ABC Health, One Campaign, CHI, Gain, Africa development Bank and a host of others.
Recently, at the launch of the Africa Business Coalition for Health(ABC), in Addis Ababa, Halima Dangote, was there to represent her father. At the occasion, there was one on one interface between her and the African legendary footballer, Didier Drogba.
They both have something in common and that is, the desire to see Africans living a healthier life by having unhindered access to basic healthcare facilities. And this they share to a selected audience on the side-line at the event. ADF has a mandate, and it is to realize the Aliko’s vision of an Africa, whose people are healthier, better educated and more empowered. The vision is driven by the desire to change the current Africa narratives, to one which emphasizes Africa’s successes,
contributions and accomplishments over the time.
ADF envisions an African Continent where Africans and their leaders are ever more empowered in their various spheres of interest. The ADF is also set out to achieve the vision of creating room for opportunity to give his growing philanthropy a structure.
So far, as the Executive Director of ADF, Halima Dangote has also taken the Foundation to the global stage, where she is working to position the Africa Centre in New York, as a forward looking platform that encompasses culture, business and policy to promote trans-Atlanticexchange and partnership between Africa and the rest of the world, in efforts to ensure a healthier and more prosperous Africa.
Therefore, it was no big deal to her, speaking on behalf of her father at the Africa Business Coalition for Health launch.
At a particular time, speaking about her father’s commitment to the Foundation, Halima went on to give an insight into the push behind her father’s philanthropic spirit and her own disposition to helping others especially in the health related issues and she explained that her father started the ADF in 1994.
She was quoted: “I grew up knowing about my father’s philanthropy, a trait which he also took over from his mother. We used to follow my grandmother to hospitals to see the sick and how they could be helped – from hospital to hospital rending assistance to get treatment”.Halima went further to buttress the fact that philanthropy is in born and it runs through the family.
“My grandmother did not like seeing people bogged down by sickness. So it was natural that he would later use his wealth to help other disadvantaged. And to God be the glory, he has been able to touch many lives.
“The task to make Africa and Africans healthier starts from everyone. Everyone has a role to play. You can give your money, you can give your time; you can give support or prayer. You just have to be therefor one reason or the other.
“Our Foundation is part of this arrangement because it is involved in matters of health and nutrition. Like I said we learnt from our mom, dad, and grandmother on the importance of good health. We have visited internally Displaced persons (IDP) camps severally. There you will feel the pain of malnutrition seeing children and babies malnourished. We had to go back to the drawing board to re-strategized on the form of intervention from the ADF Foundation to help.
“We discovered that when you see a malnourished child, his problem started from the mother. What she is giving the child, does she know the implication, and that is even if she has anything to give at all that will nourish the child.
“When we intervened by providing some of their basic needs, we keep going back to see if there is improvement. Of course there are always improvements, but is never enough. That is why we came up with the ABC Health.”
Consequently, it is not by accident that Aliko Dangote Foundation is the biggest private Foundation in Africa, but a well thought out principle as the founder, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, once said that he does not want to be remembered as the richest black man on earth but the biggest philanthropist.
“The ADF vision is not limited to Nigeria. In realizing the vision for a better Africa, the Foundation is strategically supported and working with like-minded international organizations in changing the Africa narratives.
Moreover, as the Dangote business footprint expands across the continent, so has his appreciation of the challenges facing the continent and his desire to do something about it. Since 2017, the ADF and GBC Health have been working together to finally berth Africa Business Coalition for Health, drawing lessons from the successes of the GBC Health model. The ABC Health was launched in Addis Ababa, recently.
The ADF Executive Director also reiterated that there is a vital relationship between health and economic growth and development in Africa as healthy populations live longer, are more productive, and save more; and added that access to essential health services is an important aspect of development.
She said, “Governments from both developed and developing countries are increasingly looking at public-private partnerships (PPPs) as away to expand access to higher-quality health services by leveraging capital, managerial capacity, and know-how from the private sector.”
According to her, Africa’s healthcare systems demand significant investments to meet the needs of their growing populations, changing patterns of diseases and the internationally-agreed development goals.
Speaking on ADF efforts to change negative narratives of Africa in the world, she said, “I am also involved in the African Centre programme, in the New York. I am the President. ADF is involved to the extent that we believe that our narratives have been told by others on our behalf. So we are now making conscious efforts to change the negative narratives by telling it ourselves.
“We need to tell the world that, stories from Africa is not all negatives. Though we have our challenges but good things are happening too in Africa”.