A RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY TO EM­POWER

CityPress - - Voices - KATY CHANCE voices@city­press.co.za This se­ries is de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the South­ern Africa Trust. To sup­port a cause, visit www.change4ever.org/do­nate

Of In­dian de­scent, Mani­lal Chan­daria was born in Nairobi. His fa­ther went to Kenya in 1916 “to earn a liv­ing”, which wasn’t easy be­cause he had a very limited ed­u­ca­tion. Now 86, Chan­daria is one of the con­ti­nent’s most re­spected busi­ness­men and a prod­uct of his fa­ther’s com­mit­ment to ed­u­ca­tion.

His fam­ily’s Chan­daria Foun­da­tion was es­tab­lished in 1956 with an em­pha­sis on ed­u­ca­tion and health. As its chair­per­son, Chan­daria en­sures that schools and clin­ics through­out Kenya, and the coun­tries in which his fam­ily busi­nesses op­er­ate, all ben­e­fit from the trust.

Among his many busi­ness ac­com­plish­ments, Chan­daria is also as­so­ci­ated with a long list of foun­da­tions, trusts and gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions. He was in­stru­men­tal in set­ting up the Chan­daria School of Busi­ness at the US In­ter­na­tional Univer­sity, the Chan­daria Busi­ness In­no­va­tion and In­cu­ba­tion Cen­tre at Keny­atta Univer­sity, and the Chan­daria Accident and Emer­gency Cen­tre and day the­atres at Nairobi Hos­pi­tal. The foun­da­tion has awarded sec­ondary school schol­ar­ships for 100 stu­dents ev­ery year for the past 30 years, and univer­sity schol­ar­ships for 30 stu­dents ev­ery year.

In 2011, he was hon­oured by Unicef and Global Com­pact in recog­ni­tion of his work as a cham­pion of chil­dren’s rights in the com­mu­nity. Some sources put his phil­an­thropic giv­ing at more than $100 mil­lion (R1 bil­lion). But he doesn’t con­sider him­self a phi­lan­thropist.

“All I can say is I am a so­cial worker,” he says.

De­scribe your early life and how you be­came what Forbes mag­a­zine de­scribes as a ‘Kenyan mul­ti­mil­lion­aire and manufacturing mag­nate’.

I am a mem­ber of a fam­ily of 50, so I would not like to call my­self a mul­ti­mil­lion­aire as all we have be­longs to the fam­ily. We four – my­self and my sib­lings – were the first grad­u­ates in the fam­ily and my brother and I went to the US, where I did a mas­ter’s in me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing.

When we came back, we were in a dilemma about join­ing the small fam­ily busi­ness, but we re­alised our par­ents had sac­ri­ficed their lives to give us an ed­u­ca­tion and we felt it was our re­spon­si­bil­ity to ful­fil their dreams.

One of our busi­nesses had six fam­ily mem­bers su­per­vis­ing it. It was small, but we were de­ter­mined to build it and cre­ate wealth for the fam­ily. To­day we are in 45 coun­tries and em­ploy more than 40 000 peo­ple.

Was it always your intention to be a busi­ness­man or was phi­lan­thropy always some­thing you felt strongly about?

I always in­tended to fol­low in my fa­ther’s foot­steps, but phi­lan­thropy was an ad­di­tion to this de­sire. In 1953, when we were still very young, we asked our fa­ther about es­tab­lish­ing a Chan­daria Foun­da­tion. He was up­set and said we were not Rock­e­fellers or Fords. We ex­plained the pur­pose of a foun­da­tion was to keep the fam­ily fo­cus on giv­ing to­wards the com­mu­ni­ties where we op­er­ate and that we have a ba­sic re­spon­si­bil­ity, if we do well, to look af­ter the peo­ple around us. In 1956, when we had more than 500 em­ploy­ees, he came back to us and gave us 10% of the com­pany to set up a char­i­ta­ble trust. This was the start of the Chan­daria Foun­da­tion.

As a Jain ad­her­ent, you are com­mit­ted to non­vi­o­lence and equal­ity between all forms of life. How much of a threat is in­ter­faith con­flict to the con­ti­nent?

In­ter­faith con­flict is a ma­jor threat to peace and pros­per­ity on the con­ti­nent. Re­li­gious con­flicts can be avoided if sec­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion is given in ev­ery school.

How im­por­tant do you think ed­u­ca­tion and schools are as a phil­an­thropic fo­cus?

My tar­get is still to build a Chan­daria school in ev­ery slum. With ed­u­ca­tion, it was pos­si­ble for my fam­ily to achieve what it has – a story from noth­ing to some­thing. Phi­lan­thropy has a ma­jor role to play in im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion and pro­vid­ing it where gov­ern­ments fail to do so through­out Africa. And health and ed­u­ca­tion go side by side; you have to be healthy to be ed­u­cated.

How do you feel we can best cre­ate a cul­ture of giv­ing on the African con­ti­nent?

This can only be achieved by having role mod­els. We need to set ex­am­ples of how we can change the cul­ture of giv­ing by peo­ple demon­strat­ing it. There is a feel­ing among the elite that as long as they are do­ing well, they do not have to sup­port so­ci­ety, in much the same way that com­pa­nies cre­at­ing jobs is enough – but it is not enough. We need a cul­tural change that sees giv­ing be­com­ing a part of life.

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