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

Abdul Rabiu, Tony Attah named among top African leaders for AfriSAFE award

The $100m annual Africa intervention initiative by the Chairman of BUA Group, Abdul Samad Rabiu, has redefined African philanthropy as it has embedded in its systems, programme development and deployment, monitoring and evaluation to make the expected impact.

This is a shift from traditional giving in Africa where philanthropists are discouraged by the mishandling and lack of impact of their gifts. Rabiu believes that giving should be structured. In this report, Daniel Obi looks at the seriousness with which the ASR initiative managed by Ubon Udoh, a consummate International Development and M&E expert, is carrying out its mandate as it begins disbursement.

The birth of ASR Africa

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 Abdul Samad Rabiu Initiative for Africa (ASR Africa).

Abdul Samad Rabiu is the founder and chairman of BUA Group, and he is ranked the 6th richest African with a net worth of $5.5 bn as at January 2021 by Forbes. He established BUA Group – a foods, mining, manufacturing and infrastructure conglomerate in 1988.

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

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

This fund is informed by the development needs of many African countries occasioned by poor sustainable investment in critical sectors. The African picture was further exposed during the thick of Covid-19 in Nigeria when philanthropists such as Abdul Samad Rabiu led the private sector interventions to support various governments in their fights against the pandemic. Through Abdul Samad’s experience intervening during the Covid-19 crisis, he identified gaps in the sustainable development needs especially in the areas of health, education and social development across Nigeria and Africa.

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 Abdul Samad Rabiu Africa 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 and coordinated deployment of his resources to fill those gaps.

Indeed, the worrisome situation in Africa calls for significant interventions in critical sectors to make quick impact on Africa – a continent where many countries perform below par on various 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 bring about sustainable development and improve the well-being of the society.

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

The grant to Ghana also followed a visit by Abdul Samad 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 President Naana Akufo-Addo has made especially in education and health. The BUA chairman must have left the meeting with the impression that Ghana qualified greatly for additional support to actualise their development goals and he would not have been wrong.

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 Communications Chief of BUA Group to make the $3m presentation on behalf of ASR Africa and its promoter, Abdul Samad Rabiu, 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 the Ghanaian government’s development needs and desires particularly in the areas of health and education.

With new renaissance in Africa looking at supporting itself, Frema Opare Osei commended ASR Africa for taking the initiative in redefining what African Philanthropy means. She also called on other well-placed individuals in Africa to do more in contributing their own quota.

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.

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 is education.

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

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, Ghana’s first lady assured ASR Africa that her foundation would apply the fund appropriately and she is confident that it will go a long way to change many lives.

Beneficiaries of the grant in Nigeria

This year, the Abdul Samad Rabiu Africa Initiative, according to Udoh has provided extensive grants in tens of millions of dollars for Nigeria in the areas of tertiary education grant projects and health interventions. It has also provided direct support for building teaching hospitals in at least one state 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 the Akwa Ibom state government to build a teaching hospital for which a ground-breaking was done recently. “In addition, we have just given N2.5 bn each to four states with Kwara committing its received grant to the construction of a multi-billion dollars cancer centre as announced by its governor, Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman.

Criteria for the grant

The technical team of ASR Africa has some considerations before a project could qualify for a grant. First, the project must have existing systems and processes. The team also looks at governance indices, progress in SDG achievement, experience, financial management practices, approach to 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 as well as sign a mutual accountability framework and agreement.

The funds are tied to milestones of implementation. The owners of project have direct supervision but ASR Africa has some level of oversight without necessarily interfering but the parties must agree with implementation frameworks.

“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 and CEO of ASR Africa. ASR Africa applies an hybrid World Bank cost model developed with local needs in mind.

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

Redefining philanthropy in Africa

The setting up of ASR Africa and the 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 within Africa which most donors are not really in control of an 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.