UAE businessman Abdullah Al Ghurair donates third of his assets to charity
One of the UAE’s most prominent business families is to give a third of its wealth – more than US$1 billion – to charity in the latest example of Middle East corporate philanthropy.
Abdullah Al Ghurair, the head of the eponymous Dubai-based conglomerate best known as founder-owner of Mashreq, unveiled the Abdullah Al Ghurair Education Foundation and pledged Dh4.2bn to fund its first 10 years.
The foundation will “equip Arab youth with the knowledge and skills they need to become the leaders of tomorrow, and drive the sustainable development of their communities”, a family statement said.
“It will invest in innovative high-impact programmes that improve the quality of education at the primary and secondary levels, while also helping a minimum of 15,000 promising Arab youth from underprivileged backgrounds pursue quality higher education,” the statement added.
Abdulaziz Al Ghurair, Mr Abdullah’s son and the chief executive of Mashreq, said he hoped to appoint a board of trustees imminently and begin charitable operations in the first quarter of next year.
The first phase would aim to provide 15,000 scholarships to Emirati students hoping to study at top universities around the world. In the next phase the foundation’s resources will be opened to non-Emirati Arabs in the UAE, and later to Arab students across the region.
“The foundation will forge a path for greater collaboration between philanthropic organisations, the private sector and education institutions,” Abdulaziz Al Ghurair said. “The bold ambitions of the UAE and our neighbouring Arab countries can only be realised if our region’s future leaders are given the necessary tools.”
The foundation said: “Access and the quality of education at all education levels in the Arab world lags behind the most developed regions and, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (Unesco), less than a third of high school graduates in the Arab states are enrolled in tertiary education, below the world average. That compares with 70 per cent in western Europe and North America.”
The foundation will award grants based on a highly competitive process, it said. It will work in partnership with the best education institutions in the region and the world. It will also promote academic subjects that address the needs of the local and global economy and the priorities of nation building. Grants for higher education will be made through a clear and transparent process and awarded based on merit to Emirati and Arab youth in need of financial assistance.
The Al Ghurair family is one of the oldest and wealthiest of the merchant families that emerged in the UAE. With interests in construction, real estate, retailing and food, Forbes magazine estimated family wealth at a total of Dh17bn last year.
Launch of the foundation was announced at a Dubai press conference on UAE Humanitarian Work Day, held to honour the legacy of the founding father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The holy month of Ramadan is traditionally a time of charitable generosity across the Muslim world.
Last week Saudi Arabia’s Prince Al Waleed bin Talal pledged to direct most of his multibillion dollar fortune – some $32bn – towards charitable purposes in the kingdom.
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Updated: July 7, 2015 04:00 AM