The nexus between philanthropy, social investment and the rebound of Nigeria’s economic growth is clearly not sufficiently emphasised, understood and appreciated.
However, to the extent that economic growth is basically an increase in the capacity of an economy to produce goods and services, compared from one period of time to another, which can be measured in terms of gross national product (GNP) or gross domestic product (GDP), good-willed efforts being made by organisations and individuals to empower over three million internally displaced Nigerians has direct impact on the emancipation of the nation’s economy from recession.
Nigeria’s recent descent into recession is not just the consequence of declining crude oil prices and prevailing policies that forced industrial capacity to drop below 20 per cent. It is also the result of about 6 million persons (human capital), most of whom are between the ages of 18 and 64 years, that are directly and indirectly incapacitated by the aftermath of the senseless insurgency and other ethnic crises that have ravaged the country for over six years.
Various pundits and regulators have stated different amounts as the economic cost of the crises in the country.
For example, the North-east Nigeria Recovery and Peace Building Assessment (RPBA) team hinted that the impact of the conflict in the region has a cost implication $9 billion.
Placing this figure side by side with only $8.1billion Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) attracted into the Nigerian economy in 2014 and 2015 provides insight into the enormity of the loss foisted on the country by the crisis.
The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), Dr. Mariam Masha, said Borno State was worst hit by the crisis with a loss of $6 billion. According to her, the region suffered damage worth $3 billion in housing alone while it suffered damage in terms of livestock which brought about the need to restore agriculture in the region.
That said, other experts have pointed out that the $9 billion figure is conservative in that it mostly computed the existing infrastructure and enterprises that were scorched by the crisis and not the prospect and potential of the economy which was also extinguished.
According to analysts, it is easier to work out the figures of what was consumed by the mayhem, but far more difficult to fathom what could have been that was never allowed to emerge. The growth in agriculture, tourism, solid mineral prospecting, micro enterprises, artisanal capacity enhancement, among others, which was not given an opportunity to happen due to the conflict.
How many children that carried special potential to be world-renowned economist, medical experts, technology giants, industrialists, farmers, etc had their lives violently snuffed out during the crises?
How many more potential world beaters survived the attacks but unfortunately have been left physically and psychologically damaged, rendered permanently incapable to ever live up to their original, God-given potential? How do experts quantify socio-economic loses such as these?
This is the reason why special efforts being made by Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, who is now pulling in international rock stars to drive efforts to revamp these crushed parts of the country are not just aimless philanthropy and social engagements, but direct effort and essential social investment that can help the nation’s economy rebound to healthy growth.
Dangote-Bono Partner for North-east
Last week, award-winning Paul David Hewson, (aka Bono) and Dangote, met with the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa to discuss the possibilities of a global partnership to address the humanitarian crisis in North-eastern part of the country through international advocacy.
At the meeting, Osinbajo who endorsed the effort stated that the federal government would welcome a global partnership that would ensure a concerted and focused international response to the humanitarian crisis in the North-eastern region.
Bono leads the ONE campaign group, an advocacy organisation with more than seven million people around the world taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable diseases especially in Africa.
It has on its board people like Mo Ibrahim, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg among others. It was founded in 2004.
Addressing members of the delegation that included former UK Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, Osinbajo said: “It is very important that you chose to come and offer some partnership. This is great and we are pleased…Partnership is certainly the way to go.”
He said no matter how prepared a country could be, handling the kind of crisis in the North-east with two million displaced people including children would prove a difficult task.
According to him, a global partnership to address the situation should be coordinated and more focused on what was required to be done, for instance, in addressing the issue of malnourished children and not attempting to do too much things at once.
The Irish-born artist, Bono, in his comments, said he had visited some of the IDPs, noting: “We want to be useful to you.” Bono added that what he saw in the region was “deeply disturbing.”
He also commended the social investment programmes of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, saying: “We have heard of the incredible plans, the social investment funds,” adding also that the level of transparency already seen in the administration is both “very exciting and transforming.”
Meanwhile, Dangote, Monday at the meeting, disclosed that a total sum of N4.5 billion had so far been spent by the Dangote Foundation in trying to provide succour to IDPs in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, which have been ravaged by the Boko Haram insurgency.
He added that the foundation would continue to reach out to the victims until the end of the current programme by government to restore normalcy to the people.
Bono, who is currently in the country to draw international support for victims of insurgency in the North-east said funding to the region needed to be scaled up in order to achieve maximum impact.
Bono further lamented that of the estimated $300million required as part of the reconstruction programme, only about $100million had so far been realised, stressing that going by the magnitude of destruction and deprivation in affected areas, there’s need to scale up resources to cope with the humanitarian crisis.
He said working with the Dangote Foundation, he would use his ONE Campaign NGO platform to garner global support towards addressing the plight.
According to both Dangote and Bono, the new partnership will focus on the most marginalised citizens, particularly girls and women, who face the brunt of poverty and help empower those most at risk from extreme poverty, extreme climate and extreme ideology.
Specifically, Dangote said: “I am in ONE and partners across Nigeria to strengthen civil society and help the government respond to our ongoing health needs and the urgent malnutrition crisis in North-east Nigeria. ONE’s extensive network of youth groups and its 2.3 million members will help bring international attention to and action on these issues. All of us can and must do more.”
On his part, Bono, an ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the leader of the rock group, U2, said: ”I am proud to be standing alongside Dangote, whose foundation works for the future of Nigeria and Africa through its young people. The youth of Nigeria, Africa and indeed everywhere are like rocket fuel- there are no limits to how far they can go, they can transform the continent-or they can blow up in your face. Harnessing their energy requires investment in their education, employment and healthcare.”
Bono said he was particularly heartbroken at the condition of displaced persons-some children never knew their parents and some severely malnourished.
A particular account was painted by Dangote, where Bono asked a woman in Borno State why she had not breastfed her child – only for the woman to strip her chest bare, revealing her breasts and telling Bono she had no milk to give to the child – once again, depicting the horrible condition of the humanitarian crisis at hand.
However, the new partnership will help amplify the calls of million of Nigerian ONE members, who have been campaigning for years on issues including health, anti-corruption and agriculture.
This year’s Make Naija Stronger campaign calls for the government to deliver on its commute, net to invest more in healthcare.
ONE campaign is a powerful global advocacy group which was instrumental in Nigeria’s debt cancellation, which led to its exit from the Paris Club and it’s incursion into the country at the request of Dangote is expected to produce more concrete results in the rebuilding of the North-east.
Dangote Foundation’s Efforts
Chairman, Dangote Group, Alhaji AlikoDangote’s recent pledge to invest N2 billion to create jobs and end hunger for Borno State residents living in Internally Displaced Peoples camps (IDP), no doubt will ameliorate the pains of Boko Haram victims, as well as provide them a means of livelihood.
The Foundation, has since commenced the disbursement of N400million micro-grant to 40, 000 indigent women in all the local governments in Lagos State. The disbursement is a continuation of grassroots poverty alleviation strategy of the Foundation that Dangote set up in 1993. The programme will cost the Foundation N10billion. A total of six states have so far benefitted from the programme.
During his visit to the Dalori and Bakassi IDP camps in Borno State earlier in the year, Dangote promised to spend N2billion on the IDPs to enable the State government to provide social amenities to residents.
He said: “I am here to see the IDPs by myself. This is my first time to visit IDPs in Borno but I want to assure you that it will not be the last. We shall continue to work with the State government to make sure the IDP camps are hunger-free.”
Dangote, who assured that his foundation would shoulder the costs of food for the IDPs during the Holy month of Ramadan, added: “Our partnership with Borno State aims to create jobs for our people. Also I assure you that the entire food for IDPs during Ramadan will be given by the Dangote Foundation to assist the State government.”
Dangote said apart from the funds and food items that will be donated by his company through the Dangote Foundation, he would explore avenues to drive investments and production in the war-torn states to promote entrepreneurship and create opportunities for the people to work and earn a decent living in the course of time.
“This is not the first time I am coming here and it will not be the last. So far, we have expended about N1.2 billion in efforts to alleviate the suffering of IDPs across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States.
“The first major challenge is the physiological needs of these people, and food, nutrition rank right on top of that ladder. So we will first make serious effort to ensure that hunger is eliminated from the IDP camps and thereafter, we will begin to make effort to create jobs and boost entrepreneurship.
“The effort to create jobs and boost enterprise in this case will not be about making money or returning investment, rather it will be primarily to create opportunities for the people,” he said.
Dangote expressed concern over the living conditions of the estimated 1.7 million people displaced in the state, making it the third place globally with the highest number of displaced persons after Syria and Afghanistan.
The Executive Director of Dangote Group, Halima Aliko-Dangote, stressed that her father, apart from the direct support he would be giving to the people, would also pull his partners and contacts in the private sector to collaborate and support the people of the state.
“As executive director on the board of the foundation, it was very important for me and others to actuality visit the IDP camps in Borno State ourselves. This experience has solidified our commitment to support the people during this difficult time,” she said.
The Managing Director and CEO, Dangote Foundation, Mrs. ZoueraYoussoufou, stressed that after dealing with the issue of hunger, the group will begin to boost education for children in the camps as well as create opportunities for enterprise.
“This is not the first time that I have visited the IDP camps and the Dangote Foundation’s commitment to easing the suffering of our fellow Nigerians is total.
“As early as next week, we will be meeting with the governor and his team to immediately start to bring relief and begin to think of medium-term strategies especially around education. “We will deploy all within our capacity, both man and material, to ensure that we improve the lives of these people,” she said.
Dangote Foundation has a history of alleviating the conditions of people in IDPs. The Foundation in 2011, gave the sum of N364 million to IDPs across Kaduna, Bauchi and Gombe states after the post-election violence.
The crisis had rendered many homeless while in another sum of N100 million and N60 million were respectively donated to victims of flood disaster in Lagos and Oyo States in 2011. Dangote Foundation donated N39.34 million to those IDPs displaced by the communal clash in Benue state in 2014.
While N42.5 million was used in feeding 5000 IDP households across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states last year, N100 million and N50 million were respectively contributed to the Appeal fund raised by Daily Trust to cater for the IDPs in the Northeast and to support the Adamawa Peace Initiative all for the IDPs. The sum of N1 billion was also recently pledged to Victim Support Fund for IDPs across the Northeast.
Dangote in 2012 donated the sum of N2.5 billion, the highest as an individual, to the fund for Flood Relief and Rehabilitation in 2012. The fund helped in resettling and rehabilitating of Nigerians displaced by flood in 22 states of the federation. Dangote through his Foundation travelled to all the states ravaged by flood and provided relief materials and funds running billions of naira.
The Foundation’s family empowerment programme meant to compliment the efforts of the government at all levels is targeted at the disadvantaged and vulnerable women and youths with a one-off N10, 000 cash transfer to boost household income generation.
Dangote who is concerned over widespread poverty among the people especially the youths and the women at the grassroots through his Foundation instituted a scheme that would help in addressing the menace.
Consequently, the Dangote Foundation came up with a micro grant scheme aimed at empowering the grassroots dwellers with funds to help them undertake petty trading so as to lift their economy. Already, 256,500 women in states such Kano, Jigawa, Kogi, Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe have benefited from the scheme that is expected to move round all the 774 local government areas across the nation.
Speaking at the launch of the Lagos end of the scheme, he said, “I started my foundation, Dangote Foundation back in 1993, based on the simple premise that to whom much is given, much is required…that has meant for me looking at the poor that suffer amongst us and being compelled to bring some relief.”
“I believe that supporting social and economic change through investments and interventions that improve the lives of the less fortunate is what will make a positive difference in the growth of my nation,” he added.
He said the foundation is focused on health and nutrition as to reduce the number of lives lost to malnutrition and disease through access to quality healthcare and nutrition with a particular emphasis on children. The Foundation drives activities in this area via building primary Health care centers, drilling boreholes for WASH (Water Sanitation and Hygiene) programs, Partnerships with the Gates Foundation and various States to eradicate polio and increase routine immunisation coverage, building a diagnostic center and operating theaters in the Murtala Mohammed Hospital in Kano and malnutrition eradication program across 13 states in the North.
The foundation’s education goal is to reduce the number of out-of-school children, support talented under privileged young people to achieve their potential, and educating girls and women on health related issues while activities already carried out include: Building classrooms, Scholarship programs, upgrading infrastructure across various universities, alternative education programs out of school IDP children, behavior change communication programs targeted to girls and women.
The donation to IDPs camps is part of its Disaster relief programme, to be responsive to people affected by disasters and helping them get back on their feet. Activities executed include: Support to stopping the spread of Ebola in Nigeria, support to the IDP crisis situation in Nigeria, support to flood victims in Nigeria, earthquake relief in Nepal, and support to the Republic of Niger during the recent meningitis outbreak.
The Economic Empowerment programme is geared towards supporting the poor in sustainably increasing their income. The Micro-grant Programme is one component of the economic empowerment programmes of Dangote Foundation.
However, for the first time since the programme started, the beneficiaries in Lagos are also to be given hand held mobile devices through Airtel telecommunication, while disbursement would be via electronic payments.
The programme, according to Dangote is to cover at least 1000 women in each of the 774 local governments in a bid to assist the federal government in the onerous task of poverty reduction by equipping the vulnerable women with some money to help them start a trade to improve family life. However, the number of beneficiaries in Lagos has been doubled in each local government in other to reach out to a larger population of women.
“We have chosen to partner with State governments to support women because in Nigeria, as in other developing countries, they bear the burden of poverty. And it is through their economic activities from the home, the market place or the farmlands that they keep the family, the community going meeting basic needs.“Our research at Dangote Foundation shows that just a little push can help establish, sustain or grow several types of economic activities by our women. We believe these small grants will improve the women’s businesses and the wellbeing of their families and communities.
“This is one of the goals of Dangote Foundation’s Community Development Services,” he stated.