IPP Executive Chairman Reginald Abraham Mengi on Saturday accepted two international awards he has been honoured with by making an impassioned appeal to the rich in Tanzania and around the world to selflessly share their wealth with the poor and disadvantaged, including people with disabilities.
He said people get whatever wealth they boast only thanks to the Grace of God and not because they deserve it, adding: “The rich are therefore obliged to share their riches with the poor and the less advantaged.”
The world would be a much better and happier place to live for both rich and poor if the culture of giving became a universal phenomenon, he noted.
“It important to understand that when our lives come to an end, we will not be remembered by the size of the wealth we accumulated in our lives, but by what we did with the wealth which God endowed us with,” he intoned.
The awards Dr Mengi was honoured with – at a historic ceremony in Dar es Salaam – are the 2010 Global Leadership and Humanitarian Award and the first United Nations NGO Lifetime Achievement Award. Both are in recognition of his contribution to the development of humankind at the national, regional and global levels.
Dignitaries at the well-attended occasion included high-profile representatives of UN agencies, members of the diplomatic corps, Members of Parliament, business and government executives, and senior officials of political parties.
Also present were representatives a wide range of special interest groups, among them people with disabilities, children, media practitioners and performing artistes.
Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman, who graced the ceremony as chief guest, presented Dr Mengi with the first UN NGO Lifetime Achievement Award. The UN Global Leadership and Humanitarian Award for 2010 was meanwhile presented by UN Resident Coordinator Alberic Kacou.
An official statement said both awards were specifically in recognition of the IPP Executive Chairman’s “outstanding work over the years in global human resource development and the war against poverty, diseases and hunger”.
In remarks shortly before presenting the award, Kacou described Dr Mengi as “an extraordinary individual who somehow manages to operate impressively at all levels – local action, regional engagement and global presence”.
“Here is a person who dedicates his energy, time and resources working to alleviate poverty, protecting the earth, and helping those most in need,” he added.
Kacou said the United Nations in Tanzania and around the globe relies on institutions and individuals like Dr Mengi “for its drive to achieve the poverty reduction objectives of the Millennium Development Goals, which is a shared responsibility that we must all embrace”.
“Dr Mengi, in his unwavering commitment to helping those in need not only here in Tanzania but around this region, has set the standards very, very high… He merits our awe, his actions warrant this recognition…his dedication to society is unwavering,” said Kacou.
Meanwhile, the UN official revealed at the ceremony that Dr Mengi is also one of seven people selected for the Business for Peace Foundation and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)-2012 Oslo Business for Peace Awards.
He described that as the highest form of recognition that can be bestowed upon a person in business, adding that the award giving would take place in Oslo sometime next month.
Former East African Community Secretary General Ambassador Juma Mwapachu described Dr Mengi, whom he fondly refers to as “Reggie” as a distinguished and fine businessman devoted and dedicated to helping the poor.
“Reggie is a businessman with unique qualities to support disabled, poor children needing education, street children, youth who have no jobs, women who are subjected to numerous problems, in our society. He is a strategic thinker who cares for the vulnerable social groups,” said Mwapachu.
Dr Mengi said he was born into a poor family and raised in a mud hut shared with cows, goats, sheep and chickens, adding that he was lucky to have been enrolled in school, to which he went barefoot while his family could afford only one meal a day.
After many years of schooling, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant in the UK and was employed for some time “before starting my own modest business ‘in which I have been relatively successful”.
“But my success in business has not given me cause to live a life of wealthy celebrations…It has always reminded me of my past, of the poor standard of living which my family and I were subjected to.
When I see the poor today being subjected to dehumanisingly extreme poverty while I and others are wealthy and living comfortably, I become sad,” he stated.
Global 2000 (2010) International Founder and CEO Dr William T. Morris told the gathering that Dr Mengi was first nominated for the UN NGO’s Leadership and Humanitarian Award in 2009 and is the first African to win it. Liberian soccer star George Weah was once nominated, but he lost the race.
He described the IPP Chairman as “a very distinguished Tanzanian, a proud African and the first individual in the world to be nominated and win this most prestigious and coveted award that can be equated to the Nobel Peace Prize in the area of humanitarianism and philanthropy”.
“UN NGO Awards, which are usually given once a year at the United Nations headquarters in New York, involve a rigorous voting process by more than 10,000 registered NGOs,” said Dr Morris.
“This is a once in a lifetime occurrence for such an award to be given outside the UN headquarters,” he added, as he congratulated Dr Mengi on a “job well done”.
He said when Dr Mengi was first recommended in 2008 he was not even shortlisted “because his profile was not so popular at that time”.
“In 2009 we had to make consultations with the US Embassy in Tanzania after the name was submitted for the second time,” he noted, adding that they were amazed by the role Dr Mengi was playing in supporting women and education as well as in fighting poverty.
“When Dr Mengi’s name was subsequently submitted for consideration, he scooped more than 80 per cent votes. After realising that he was sure to win, the selection committee put off the process for almost two years, but still he was the one who emerged the winner,” he pointed out.