• Monday, April 22, 2024
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How ASR initiative is propelling African economies with $100m grant

Ubon Udoh

It is a new dawn for Africa, a continent of 1.3 billion people living in 54 countries which accounts for 20% of the world’s population but with only 3% of global GDP.

Today, individuals and organisations are making self-initiatives to further propel development in the continent. On this path, a Nigerian businessman and philanthropist, Abdul Samad Rabiu had in March 2021 set up a $100 million yearly African development intervention fund under his Abdulsamad Rabiu ASR Initiative for Africa.

Abdulsamad Rabiu is the founder and chairman of the BUA Group, and he is ranked 7th richest African with net-worth of $4.5 bn. He established BUA in 1988.

The Africa initiative is an intervention fund in the areas of Health, Education and Social Development on the African continent and it is considered a single biggest private humanitarian gesture by an individual in the continent.

This fund is informed by the poor economic status of many African countries occasioned by poor investment in critical sectors. The African picture was further exposed during the thick of Covid-19 in Nigeria when philanthropists such as Abdulsamad Rabiu, through his experience in intervention during the Covid-19 identified gaps in the African needs in health, education and social development.

Read Also: Nigeria, Ghana first beneficiaries of $100m ASR Africa development grant

In Nigeria, the private sector had put together a team of philanthropists who pooled their resources to support government and according to the CEO of Abdulsamad Rabiu Initiative, (ASR Africa), Ubon Udoh, a lot of gaps were made clear to Rabiu in terms of needs in those critical sectors. He therefore thought of how he can use better structure to fill those gaps.

“Because of the global gaps, he saw there were gaps across the continent where countries were doing a lot but there could also be some support and this essentially spurred ASR Africa”.

Read Also: Abdul Samad Rabiu initiative propels African economies with $100m yearly intervention grant

Indeed, the worrisome situation in Africa calls for significant interventions in critical sectors to make quick impact on Africa, a continent that has many poor economic indices.

Allocation of the fund

Under the annual fund, $50 million is to be spent in Nigeria while $50 million will be spent in other African countries, specifically on the three identified key sectors- education, health and social development -to improve well- being of the society.

Already, managers of the fund have started disbursement. While disbursement for the year 2021 has commenced in Nigeria to some targeted projects, Ghana government last week received $3 million for interventions in education. The fund managers also approved $500,000 for Rebecca Foundation, an education project initiated by Ghana’s first lady, Rebecca Akufor Addo. She is constructing libraries in some select communities that will benefit thousands of students.

The grant to Ghana also followed a visit by Abdulsamad Rabiu about a month ago, when he came back with impression on the quality of governance that is being implemented in Ghana and the strides the President Addo has made especially in education and health.

BUA chairman also felt that Ghana qualified greatly for additional support to actualise the President dreams.

At Ghana’s Jubilee House, the presidential palace in Accra that serves as a residence and office to the President of Ghana, Udoh who led a three-man delegation including Otega Ogra, the Head of Communication of BUA Group to make the $3m presentation on behalf of Abdulsamad Rabiu to the Ghana government explained that the grant was the first intervention with a foreign government outside of Nigeria.

Other African countries are on the queue for the grant either in education, health or social development. Udoh did not mention the countries.

The ASR Africa CEO who has over 20 years of international development and project management experience, was delighted that Ghana chose an intervention in education which he said is part of the President Nana Addo’s vision to end under-the-tree classrooms in Ghana and advance education.

The Chief of Staff to the President, Akosua, Frema Opare Osei who received the ASR Africa delegation said Ghana has been fortunate to be chosen as one of the recipient countries outside of Nigeria. She was pleased that the interventions aligned with government development needs and desires particularly in the areas of health and education.

With new renaissance in Africa looking at supporting itself, Frema Opare Osei who commended ASR Africa for its initiative called on other individuals who have advanced in Africa to see the need to lift others.

“It is good to know that you are looking at health and education, they are inter-related.

“There is research evidence that shows that when people are educated, they tend to have better outcomes. For instance, when women are educated, the more they will have children surviving at early stages”, she said.

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She reiterated the belief that Africa has a lot of potential and if the continent educates its citizens, it will be a foundation for growth. “Education in Africa can change things for the continent and we must give the opportunity to Africans from early age”.

The delegation, including the technical team had earlier met with the minister of education of Ghana, Yaw Osei Adutwum and his team as the area of focus for Ghana grant concerns education. Yaw Osei Adutwum told the delegation how he was pulled from America by his president to help transform Ghana’s education sector.

Presenting the $500,000 grant to Rebecca Foundation, Udoh told the Ghana’s first lady that the grant was a reflection of her commitment to Rebecca Foundation and the good work she is doing for the people of Ghana.

“The grant is a clear sign of Abdulsamad Rabiu remaining active partner in solving development problems in the continent and a commitment of BUA Group as an organisation to supporting NGOs and private sector initiatives that will spur development in Africa”, says Udoh who made the grant on behalf of the billionaire philanthropist.

Rebecca Foundation qualified for the grant after a review of NGOs in Ghana. The spread of its impact, especially the Library programme for the communities and the intervention for malaria were major determinants of the grant.

In her response, the Ghana’s first lady assured ASR Africa that her foundation would apply the fund appropriately and believed that it will go a long way to change many lives. She is building libraries in schools clusters that will serve about 5,000 children at a time.

What we try to do is champion the well-being of women and children especially in the areas of education, health and economic empowerment of women, she said.

Beneficiaries of the grant in Nigeria

This year, the Abdulsamad Rabiu Initiative, according to Udoh has exhausted the $50m for Nigeria in tertiary education grant projects and health interventions. It has also provided direct support for building teaching hospitals in states in Nigeria.

From the fund, six Nigerian universities received N1 bn each, as part of the ASR Africa tertiary grant scheme.

It also gave N5 bn to Akwa Ibom state government to build teaching hospital. “We are giving N2 bn to two other states each. We have some interventions for security sector side.

Criteria for the grant

The technical team of ASR Africa has some considerations before a project could qualify for the grant. First, the project must have systems and processes. The team also looks at governance indices, progress in SDG achievement, experience, financial management practices, how the country is approaching sustainable solutions and the need and the level of impact so far of the project.

“One of the strategies we use is first of all geographical spread. We ensure that there is geographical balance in those projects we address every year. We are interested in countries that have shown the seriousness and have applied themselves already in trying to intervene in some of these areas and we use the criteria we developed to make sure they fit into the goals and aspirations of ASR Africa Initiative. Also we run every application we received through a prioritisation filter, to see how they fit into our priorities and into the impact model”.

The release of funds, says Udoh is predicated on certain things. The ASR Africa technical team and the owners of the project must agree on designs, costing, and review and agree on the type of contracting and procurement processes.

The money is tied to milestones of implementation. The owners of project have direct supervision but ASR Africa has some level of oversight functions without necessarily interfering but the parties must agree with implementation levels.

“The Issue of costing is important, if we have a cost effective model, it means we can do more”, says Udoh, a consummate International Development and Monitoring and Evaluation expert. The ASR Africa applies the World Bank cost model.

Basically, for each project, there must be focus on systems, programme development and deployment, monitoring and evaluation as well as focus on sustainability.

Redefining philanthropy in Africa

The setting up of ASR Africa and appointment of Ubon Udoh who has a strong Monitoring & Evaluation background, and has provided expertise and support in several capacities with multiple agencies like The World Bank, African Development Bank among others, underscores the seriousness with which the initiative is carrying out its mandate with a focus on systems and monitoring and evaluation.

This is a shift from donations which donors are not really in control of and impact not measured.

Africa, as Udoh said, can be developed by Africans as the continent has all it takes in terms of capacity and resources to lead the world. What is required in Africa for impact is proper management of the resources as implemented by ASR Africa.