Category Five: Africa’s Beacon of Hope Awards for the Development and Promotion of Education-to recognize Top-Ten Africa wealthy individuals and entrepreneurs who devote their fortunes to the development and promotion of education in Africa.

They include:

Perhaps, Atiku Abubakar’s philanthropy is most eloquent through his promotion of education at all levels, particularly higher education. He is the sole founder of the American University of Nigeria (AUN), formerly ABTI; the first American-style private university to be established in Sub-Saharan Africa with faculty from 40 countries. The University which was started 11 years ago, presently, has about 1,500 students.

Although, a private university, the 60 per cent subsidy from Atiku Abubakar has enabled children of both the rich and the poor to gain access to world-class education. “Gifted children, regardless of their parental background, are also afforded opportunity to better their fortune in the university, according to statement by Atiku’s media office.

In August 2013, Atiku sponsored a students’ essay contest to generate solutions to Nigeria’s most pressing institutional educational challenges on the topic “More Learning to More People: How can Nigeria be more innovative in bridging its literacy and skills gap?”. The joint first prize went to Kenechukwu Nneka, Lily Nwagbo and Emeka Chigozie Ezekwesiri.

In 2011, while celebrating the 50th anniversary of the US Peace Corps, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) honoured Atiku Abubakar with the prestigious Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award. At the presentation of the award, the National Peace Corps Association described Atiku Abubakar as one individual who contributed to the development of higher education on the continent of Africa. "No private businessman in Africa has worked harder for democracy or contributed more to the progress of higher education than Atiku Abubakar," the NPCA said. In 2012 Atiku donated $750,000 to the National Peace Corps Association in the United States, "to fund a new initiative featuring global leaders who will discuss Peace Corps's impact." It was the largest ever individual donation in the Association's history.
Folorunsho Alakija is a fervent supporter of education in Nigeria. She has a foundation called the Rose of Sharon Foundation that helps widows and orphans by empowering them through scholarships and business grants. Her company is also a major sponsor of the Agbami medical and engineering scholarship scheme, one of the most reliable scholarship scheme in Nigeria with over a thousand people yearly as beneficiaries. In 2014, she donated a substantial amount of money to Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Minna Niger State. The money was used to complete the construction of a 350 Seat Lecture Theater, which was named after her. The Alakija family – Modupe Alakija, and his wife, Folorunsho Alakija, also donated a N1 billion building to the Faculty of Law of Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo State, saying the gesture was a testimony to God’s love for their family.

Her NGO, the Rose of Sharon Foundation (RoSF) also design and execute programmes that give financial independence and educational opportunities to widows, their children and orphans. The organization has empowered about 970 widows – 11 of whom are in university, and has awarded scholarships to 1,366 widow’s children and 72 orphans Since its inception. It also gives loans to widows at interest free and the scholarships have no conditions attached. It has also provided accommodation for residential/business purposes for 82 widows.

Folorunso Alakija was born in 1951 to the family of Chief L. A. Ogbara in Ikorodu, Lagos State. At age seven, she travelled to the United Kingdom to begin a four-year primary education at Dinorben School for Girls in Hafodunos Hall in Llangernyw, Wales. After returning to Nigeria, she attended Muslim High School Sagamu Ogun State, Nigeria. Afterwards, she returned abroad for her secretarial studies at Pitman's Central College, London. She also studied fashion design at the American College, London and the Central School of Fashion.

He started her career in 1974 as an executive secretary at Sijuade Enterprises, Lagos, Nigeria. She moved on to the former First National Bank of Chicago-now FinBank now acquired by First City Monument Bank where she worked for some years before establishing a tailoring company called Supreme Stitches. It rose to prominence and fame within a few years, and later as Rose of Sharon House of Fashion, which became a household name.

In May 1993, Folorunsho applied for the allocation of an oil prospecting license (OPL). The license to explore for oil on a 617,000-acre block—now referred to as OPL 216—was granted to Alakija's company, Famfa Limited. This is where the real journey to her wealth actually began.

In 2014, Folorunsho Alakija was listed as the 96th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes, and in May 2015 two Nigerian women, Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Alakija were listed among the world's 100 most powerful women according to Forbes.

Owelle Anayo Rochas Okorocha (born 22 September 1962) is a Nigerian billionaire businessman, education philanthropist and politician. He won the 6 May 2011 gubernatorial election in Imo State and was reelected for his second term on April 11, 2015.

Okorocha is the President, Nigeria Red Cross Society, President, Rochas Group of Companies Limited, Pro Chancellor, African Business School and President/Founder, Rochas Foundation Inc, a charity organization comprising a number of special schools that are spread all over Nigeria that gives scholarship to the less privileged children in the Nigerian society.

Rochas Foundation which was incorporated on the 24th of February 1998, has a firm commitment to the work of charity and philanthropy. The foundation says its aim is to build a credible future for Africans and the world at large by ensuring every child has access to free and qualitative education. The foundation’s vision for education is comprehensive and focused on under privileged and vulnerable children in Africa.

Okorocha’s difficulty in attending school as a child gave rise to the birth of this cause of bringing children out of misery, poverty and social oblivion. Rochas Foundation build schools that offer free education to the poorest of the poor in the society and rehabilitate abandoned children by providing free education in a way that is accessible to all, while providing them with food and clothing.

Yohannes Gebregeorgis, is an Ethiopian native and the founder of Ethiopia Reads, a philanthropic organization committed to bringing literacy to the children of Ethiopia. In 2008, he was recognized as one of the “Top 10 Heroes of the Year” by CNN.

Gebregeorgis grew up in the town of Negelle Borena, about 12 hours from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. His mother could not read, and his father could only decipher a few words, but he was committed to providing his son with an education. At age 19, he picked up his first book outside of school. ‘“Books saved my life”, Yohannes says”. From this point on, Gegregeorgis sought to read what he could get his hands on. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Yohannes Gebregeorgis was politically active and joined the resistance against the ruling military dictatorship of Ethiopia, the Derg. He sought political asylum in the United States and emigrated there in 1982. Once in the States, Gebregeorgis pursued his B.A. and eventually got his Masters of Library Science at the University of Texas. He was then offered a job as the children’s librarian at the San Francisco Public Library. In 1998, Ethiopia Reads, the program dedicated to fostering literacy in Ethiopia, was born. In 2002, Gebregeorgis quit his job at the San Francisco Public Library and moved back to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with 15,000 books and ready to open his first free library for children. On April 5, 2003, the Shola Children’s Library was opened for the children of Ethiopia. Since then, the organization has helped open 10 free school libraries. The organization also sponsors the Mobile Donkey Libraries program, designed to bring books to children in rural parts of the country where they cannot access one of the many other libraries Ethiopia Reads sponsors. Ethiopia Reads also publishes books in Amharic for young Ethiopian readers.

Reverend Father Emmanuel Matthew Paul Edeh commonly known as Father Edeh, (born 20 May 1947) is a Nigerian Catholic priest of the Holy Ghost congregation. Father Edeh is the founder of the Pilgrimage Centre of Eucharistic Adoration also known as the Pilgrimage Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Elele, Rivers State, Nigeria. This religious congregation run clinics and homes for the orphans, the sick, the disabled, and the mentally ill. They also run kitchens, schools, counseling and conflict resolution programmes. Father Edeh has been the recipient of several honors including the Nigerian Order of the Federal Republic (OFR)), an award he received in 2008 in recognition of his contributions to the advancement of education in Nigeria, conflict resolution and charity works.

Father is the founder of Madonna University (in Okija, Ihiala, Anambra State), Caritas University (in Emene, Enugu State), OSISATECH Polytechnic (also in Enugu), Our Saviour College of Education and Our Saviour Primary and Secondary Schools. He is also the brain behind Our Saviour Diagnostic Centres, Madonn Hospitals, the Fathers, Sisters and Brothers of Jesus and the Saviour Congregations

Father Edeh also established the Madonna International Charity Peace Award (MICPA). This Charity Peace Award has been a prime supporter of financial relief efforts to natural disaster stricken areas like the earthquake devastation in Haiti and the tsunami crisis in Asia. The Award has also provided relief and support to victims of religious extremism in Nigeria. The Award has also gone to some persons and organizations that have been taking care of orphans, Motherless Babies, and displaced people in places like Haiti, Cambodia, India, Philippines, England, USA and Cameroon. Gender equality is also an area where Father Edeh has made tremendous strides. In a male dominated society like Nigeria, he has been the biggest promoter of women education, through the establishment of dedicated institutions solely for the education of women, and also instituting a gender equality employment policy at all the institutions he has established.

Father Edeh had his first personal experience of practical charity work in 1968 when during the early days of the Biafran war, he had to work at three Caritas feeding centers in and around Awo-Omamma. (Caritas is a Catholic non-governmental organization that played a major role in providing Food, medicine and clothing to Biafra children during the Biafra war). This experience as he recounted provoked in him a desire to serve humanity through practical and effective charity. Thus, after the war he pursued and gained admission into the theology department of Bigard Memorial Seminary, Enugu, Nigeria for his theological studies in 1972.

Jim Ovia is the Founder of Zenith Bank Plc where he retired as pioneer Group Managing Director / Chief Executive Officer after two decades of meritorious leadership which positioned the bank as one of the largest and most profitable banks in Africa. As an accomplished banker with over three decades experience, he introduced a great deal of innovations into the Nigerian banking industry. Jim Ovia is also the Founder of Visafone Communications Limited. He is the Chairman of the Nigerian Software Development Initiative (NSDI) and also Chairman, National Information Technology Advisory Council (NITAC). He is a member of the Honorary International Investor Council as well as the Digital Bridge Institute (DBI). He is also the Chairman of Cyberspace Network Limited.

Jim Ovia is a noted philanthropist and has headed numerous Non-Governmental Organisations at various times including being the first President of the Nigeria Internet Group (2001-2003). He is the founder and Chairman of Mankind United to Support Total Education (MUSTE), a philanthropic organization focused on providing scholarship for the less privileged, of which some of the beneficiaries are now qualified professionals in diverse fields. He is also the founder of the Youth Empowerment / ICT Foundation, which focuses on improving the socio-economic welfare of Nigerian youths by inspiring and motivating them to embrace Information and communication technology.

Mr. Jim Ovia founded the Jim Ovia Scholarship Programme in 1998. The programme has provided financial aid to outstanding Nigeria youths. The scholarship was previously known as the MUSTE scholarship. Eligble awardees are supported for their undergraduate and graduate study for the duration of their program and includes tuition and maintenance allowances. The scheme offers an average of 100 opportunities each year for new applicants while renewing applicants are supported annually, conditional on meeting all eligible requirements of the scholarship. Beneficiaries of the Jim Ovia scholarship receive an annual award of 150,000 Nigerian Naira, renewable for up to the entire duration of the beneficiary’s educational tenure.

There is also the Jim Ovia ICT Entrepreneurs Programme which seek to empower budding entrepreneurs to tap into the emerging ICT market in Africa. The initiative seeks to nurture young entrepreneurs to their full potential over a period of 12 months. A total of 5- 10 of the competitively innovative ideas are selected and funded with the goal of impacting 50 young entrepreneurs annually and selected applicants are trained by world class professionals on developing mobile applications. Beneficiaries are provided access to necessary training, counselling and mentorship throughout the project cycle. This initiative hosts a software application business hackathon where viable and innovative ideas are selected for funding. Selected beneficiaries are awarded up to $30,000 per idea.

In 2012, Jim Ovia gave $6.3 million to the flood relief effort in Nigeria. He also gave $320,000 to help 10 young Nigerian entrepreneurs establish their technology businesses through his Youth Empowerment and ICT Foundation.

Femi Otedola (born 1962) is a Nigerian businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is chairman of Forte Oil Plc, an importer of fuel products. He is also the founder of Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, and the owner of a number of other businesses across shipping, real estate and finance. He is the second Nigerian after Aliko Dangote to be included on the Forbes list of dollar-denominated billionaires. He has recently invested in power generation as part of the liberalisation of the sector in Nigeria. In 2003, having identified an opportunity in the fuel retail market, Otedola secured the finance to set up Zenon Petroleum and Gas Ltd, a petroleum products marketing and distribution company.

Mr. Otedola has made tremendous contribution to the development and promotion of education in Nigeria. He made several donations to the Michael Otedola University Scholarship Scheme, which was established in 1985 to give underprivileged students in Lagos State access to higher education. In 2005, one of his companies, Zenon, donated N200 million to the scheme’s fund. Since its inception the scheme has benefited more than 1,000 students.

In 2005 Otedola made a N300 million personal donation to the completion of the National Ecumenical Centre – Nigeria’s primary place of Christian worship in Abuja. In 2007, he was among a group of donors who gave N200 million to the State Security Trust Fund in a drive to reduce crime in Lagos State. Later that year he donated N100 million to the Otedola College of Primary Education in Noforija, Epe. And in 2008, he donated N80 million to the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Port Harcourt.

Nicholas "Nicky" F. Oppenheimer (born 8 June 1945) is a South African businessman and philanthropist of German Jewish descent. In demonstration of his zeal for education, NICKY donated about $10 million (R75 million) for both undergraduate and post-graduate scholarships and bursaries to South African students during the diamond anniversary in 2008. Through the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, the South African richest man as rated by Forbes, committed himself to the disbursement of $6 million annually to education causes. The African diamond giant is also an influential campaigner against poverty. He is endowed with property-alleviation projects. Nicky is a philanthropic model any young and aspiring philanthropist will emulate anywhere in Africa. The sum of his giving may have changed or increased since this article was first published.

Nicky Oppenheimer was formerly the Chairman of De Beers diamond mining company and of its subsidiary, the Diamond Trading Company, and former Deputy Chairman of the Anglo American Corporation. He is the son of Bridget (née McCall) and Harry Oppenheimer, and grandson of Ernest Oppenheimer, founder of Anglo American and the first generation of the family to chair (from 1929) the De Beers diamond mining company in South Africa, established by Cecil John Rhodes in 1888.

The Oppenheimer family has recently directed much of its philanthropic efforts towards preserving the heritage and cultural importance of the Southern African region, as well as to broader community upliftment in the areas of education, health, nature conservation and the arts. Nicky Oppenheimer and his son, Jonathan Oppenheimer established the Brenthurst Foundation in 2005 as a way to contribute to the debate around strategies and policies for strengthening Africa's economic performance and enabling inclusive and sustainable development.

Cyril Ramaphosa is a South African investor and chairman of the Shanduke Group. He founded the Shanduke Foundation in 2004 and endowed the foundation with R100 million (over $12 million) to support the cause of social investments over a long period of time. Cyril has committed million in US currency to education and empowers black entrepreneur development. His Adopt – A – School Foundation under the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust has provided basic facilities to 50 schools in seven provinces across South Africa. The foundation is involved in organizing and mobilizing the private sectors, organizations and individuals to support schools. It works to improve the condition of schools abandoned by the government. So far, it has succeeded in adopting more than 100 schools in different provinces in his community base. The entrepreneur through a business development trust own by him, has given young and unemployed South Africans an opportunity to lay hand on something profitable.
Hakeem Belo-Osagie is a Nigerian businessman and philanthropist. He was listed by Forbes Magazine as the forty-first richest man in Africa in 2014. Belo-Osagie started his career as a petroleum economist and lawyer, following his graduation from Harvard Business School. For more than three decades, he has been a key player in the Nigerian economy through his participation in several private sector businesses; particularly in the fields of energy, finance and telecommunications. Belo-Osagie is also the founder and former chairman of First Securities Discount House, now known as FSDH Merchant Bank Limited. FSDH is Nigeria’s leading money markets and Treasury bill trading financial services firm. He also has a range of other business interests in Nigeria.

Hakeem Belo-Osagie and his wife, Dr Myma Belo-Osagie (a founding partner of Udo Udoma & Belo-Osagie), are among the largest donors to the African Leadership Academy (the "ALA"), a residential secondary school in Johannesburg that works to educate Africa's brightest students. Founded in 2008, the highly selective ALA immerses promising young people in a rigorous two-year curriculum of leadership, service and African studies. The ALA network of alumni includes almost four hundred young leaders drawn from forty-three countries across the continent. In 2012, the academy unveiled the "Hakeem and Myma Belo-Osagie Wing", named in recognition of the couple's support of the ALA and their advocacy on its behalf.

The couple have recently established the "Hakeem and Myma Belo-Osagie Fund for the Promotion of Africa" at Yale University, and are supporters of Harvard University's Center for African Studies. Belo-Osagie has also endowed a fund to provide scholarships for African students studying at Balliol College, Oxford. Belo-Osagie serves on the board of Alfanar, a charity which applies the principles of private sector investment to charitable giving to help build sustainable social enterprises throughout the Arab world. He also chairs the Nigerian National Committee for the United World Colleges, which assists the organisation's member colleges in identifying suitable candidates for their two-year International Baccalaureate scholarship programmes. Mr Belo-Osagie has also funded several scholarships to the United World Colleges.

Ashish J. Thakkar (Arabic: أشيش تاكر) is a fourth generation Indian entrepreneur in Uganda. He is the founder of Mara Group and Mara Foundation, and he is a co-founder of Atlas Mara. Thakkar was born in the United Kingdom, but he moved to East Africa as a teenager before founding Mara Group at the age of 15. Mara Group is a Pan-African multi-sector business services company. It operates in the technology, financial services, manufacturing, real estate & agriculture industries and is now active in 24 countries and employs more than 11,000 people. Mara Group is headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Thakkar is a member of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders, and was featured on Fortune Magazine's list of the top "40 Under 40" in 2013. He was awarded the Base Leadership Award at the 2014 MTV Africa Music Awards event. and Esquire Magazine names Ashish Thakkar Middle East Man of the Year in 2016. In 2015, Thakkar was appointed Chair of the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council.

Thakkar began his business by importing computer parts including keyboards, mouses, and desktops from weekly trips to Dubai. After he had received a $5,000 loan to start his company, he opened the small IT business in a shopping mall across the street from his father's shop in Kampala. Over the next ten years, Thakkar expanded Mara Group into manufacturing, real estate, agriculture and IT services. Thakkar later relocated the company headquarters to Dubai, but kept business in Africa. He founded the Mara Foundation, a non-profit company that mentors and supports young African entrepreneurs, in 2009. Mara Mentor, a mobile application that connects young entrepreneurs with business professionals, was launched through Mara Foundation.