Dangote Renews Commitment To Fighting Hunger, Poverty
The Aliko Dangote Foundation has restated its commitment to fighting hunger and malnutrition, supporting education; and economic empowerment.
Zouera Youssoufou, managing director and chief executive officer of the Foundation affirmed this in an interview with TELL, where she also explained conditions under which the Foundation intervenes in areas of need. Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man behind the Foundation is said to be passionate about solving hunger related problems.
“We went to Borno last May, and he was shocked and devastated by what he saw in the IDP camps. And he immediately pledged N2 billion and then feeding for Ramadan. We brought 106 trucks of food, which fed more than 50, 000 families for a whole month. In addition to that, he gave them $2 billion for building and construction materials because the governor didn’t want cash. That, we will be disbursed to them whenever they are ready,” said Youssoufou.
According to the chief executive, the thing that moves Alhaji Aliko the most is people being hungry, starving and not being able to get something as basic as food. The Foundation spends between N7 billion and N10 billion on an annual basis, helping the needy across the world, particularly in Nigeria. She explained that “hunger and feeding people is one thing. The next thing is preventing severe malnutrition.” In some parts of the country, especially the northeast, which has been devastated by Boko Haram insurgency, communities and IDPs are ravaged by hunger and malnutrition.
For that reason, the Foundation embarked on a gigantic feeding programme in Kano that feeds 10, 000 to 12, 000 people every day. That programme is going to be on for 30 years.
Youssoufou pointed out that there are children in the country who die of hunger every day, citing Kano and Katsina as examples. “We have two and a half million children in Nigeria who are severely and acutely malnourished. That means they are at the break of death and what they need is ready to use therapeutic food that prompts them back to life.”
She also explained that the Foundation has a four-year N20 billion programme on acute malnutrition. “We are also working on polio eradication and vaccine for children, and we are doing this in partnership with Bill Gates Foundation. We are building Primary Health Centres; we are building a hospital in Kano. The first part of our intervention is to health. Within that, we have hospital renovation, primary health care centres and nutrition under the health programme.”
The second part, she explained, is education. “We have 10 million children who are out of school here in Nigeria. How do we make sure that we can get them back into school; and how do we make sure that we support the educational system that we have? We do scholarship programmes, and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure.”
Some of the ongoing projects in the education sector, according to the chief executive include 10 domes at the Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria where new ones have not been built in a long time. There is also housing deficit in the university for which the Foundation is building 10 new hotels. At the University of Ibadan, a business centre building project is also in progress. Similarly, the Foundation has built a business school at the Bayero University, Kano in addition to an Amphitheatre for science and technology. “We are supporting our own local tertiary education infrastructure,” she told the magazine. For the next academic session, the Foundation is targeting 500 Dangote Scholars in secondary schools across the northern part of the country due to the compelling need to improve the literacy level of children in that region.
“We are focusing on the north because the problem is acuter. The 500 scholars will be spread among orphans who just don’t have anyone to take care of them, smart kids whose parents cannot afford to send to school, girls who often in the north do not have the same chances. We have a plan for 500 kids that we will now follow from form one until they finish secondary school. Then we see what happens after that. And then, we will visit next year maybe we do another 500, and another 500.”
As part of its economic empowerment programme, the Aliko Dangote Foundation runs a micro credit scheme for less privileged women. The goal, Youssoufou said, is to reach a thousand women in each of the 774 local government areas in the country. So far, about 350, 000 women have benefitted from the scheme. However, in view of the fact that Lagos is more densely populated, the Foundation doubled the figure; instead of 1, 000 per local government, it selected 2, 000.
The women receive cash grants. The idea is for them to do something productive with the money in order to generate income, save a little and grow their businesses. Youssoufou described as amazing, what some of the beneficiaries have been able to do with the money. “We don’t train them, we don’t do capacity building. They are poor but they know what they need. They know what makes sense, they know what to do.”
Within the same economic empowerment programme, the Foundation also runs a project with the Bank of Industry, BOI, for micro, small and medium enterprise. Each of the parties contributes N5 billion to a fund from which the MSMEs are granted loans. On the side of the Foundation, the loan is interest-free. However, given that BOI charges the lowest interest rate, which is 10 per cent, the blended rate for the loan is five per cent.
The Foundation also focuses on the humanitarian crisis. Victims of the ethnic clash between the Hausa and Yoruba in Ife, Osun State a couple of months back benefited from the Foundation’s intervention. That is not all. “Any time there is a natural disaster, we are going to be there. How can we help the people who lost their belongings when their market was burnt down? People need to rebuild their lives and start their businesses again,” said Youssoufou. In Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the Boko Haram affected states the Foundation has been there, delivering relief products and materials.
“I was there recently, looking to see how we can do something more sustainable. This is what we are going to do with Bill Gates Foundation; supporting the state in a more long term rebuilding efforts. We have already started helping them, providing them with the housing building materials that we give them.
“Now the next step is to go back to work, go back to the farm. You can’t just live in IDP camps. The camp is not good, it’s not fun, it’s not nice, and it’s not good life. So, how do we get them out so that they can have means to live?”
Expectedly, the Foundation is overwhelmed by requests for intervention in various areas of need including sponsorship of brilliant ideas, educational programmes and medical tourism. Even though it is the largest Foundation in Africa, Youssoufou admits that it does not have limitless fund.