Fortune, it is said, favours the brave. That may be said of the man Aliko Dangote a multi-billionaire who became famous for large-hearted philanthropy. Outside his familiar circles of business and manufacturing, his donation to worthy causes stand him out among the greats.
The Dangote Foundation, which he founded and finances is the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) arm of his group. It is responsible for contributing over $100 million in charitable funds to several causes in Nigeria and Africa over the past four years.
Through this foundation, he has been able to reduce the number of lives lost due to malnutrition and disease. The organization started off being largely grant based but has evolved to operate and implement programmes with interventions in various areas, most notably health care and disaster relief, focusing on helping the less privileged. Established in 1997, with an endowment in 2014 of N220 billion, the equivalent of $1.25 billion, it is unarguably the largest private Foundation in sub-Saharan Africa.
The contribution of the foundation, in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, has led to the ongoing work to eradicate polio and strengthen routine immunisation in parts of Northern Nigeria.
Perhaps, it is important to enumerate some of the acts of charity to bring to the fore the humane dimension of the business mogul. Starting with the education sector, Dangote endowed N1 billion for Nigerian universities including N500 million for development of a business school in Bayero University and N100 million for the proposed Otuoke University in Bayelsa State.
Also Dangote, through his foundation disbursed N230 million to women in Kogi State as a micro grant as part of the Kogi Human Capital Development initiative. Plateau State, plagued at some point with recurring incidences of ethno-religious crises and to alleviate the suffering of communities in that state, the Dangote Foundation, in 2010 made a donation of relief materials worth N50 million to the community leaders. His philanthropy is not limited to Nigeria as he also extends his humanitarian activities abroad.
The Foundation donated $2 million to the World Food Programme as part of efforts to help Pakistani nationals devastated by floods in the year 2010. When flood ravaged parts of Nigeria, the federal government mobilised the private sector to help in managing the crisis.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote was deservedly made the chairperson of the Presidential Committee on Flood Relief which raised in excess of N11.35 billion, of which his Foundation contributed N2.5 billion, an amount higher than the entire contribution from the 36 state governors in Nigeria.
Dangote is ranked by Forbes magazine as the 67th richest person in the world and the richest in Africa; he peaked on the list as the 23rd richest person in the world in 2014 surpassing Saudi-Ethiopian billionaire Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi in 2013 by over $2.6 billion to become the world’s richest person of African descent.
Dangote hails from a very prominent business family that lived in Nigeria for many years. He is the great grandson of Alhaji Alhassan Dantata, the richest African at the time of his death in 1955. Aliko Dangote, an ethnic Hausa Muslim from Kano State, was born into a wealthy Muslim family.
Like most successful businesses, he started small as a trading firm in 1977. Today, it is a multi-trillion naira conglomerate with tentacles in Nigeria and other African countries, including Benin, Ethiopia, Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Togo, Tanzania, and Zambia with major investments in real estate, banking, transport, textiles and oil and gas.
On 14 November 2011, Dangote was awarded Nigeria’s second highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) by the President, Goodluck Jonathan. That honour is usually reserved for Vice President and the heads of other arms of government.
It is a measure of government’s appreciation of his roles in human and community development in Nigeria and elsewhere. Dangote was named as the Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2014. As a self-employed person, with minimum basic education, he proves that business success is usually through strength of mind, honesty and perseverance.
His managerial skills, surely, are the envy of many. A devout Muslim, he is married with children. As he marks his diamond anniversary, we wish him many more years of service to humanity.