Abimbola Akosile examines the various efforts by the Sahara Group to ensure improved development through literacy and learning in Africa, showcased in library and vocation projects from Nigeria to Tanzania and beyond

Learning in Tanzania
One of Africa’s leading energy conglomerates, Sahara Group, has opened a new world of learning and development in Tanzania, by renovating the library at Pugu Secondary school for over 900 students and 76 teachers of the prestigious institution.

The school, which is known for producing presidents and notable Tanzanians, had hitherto experienced a lull in its reading culture due to the dilapidated library.
The library project was carried out by Sahara Group’s subsidiary, Sahara Tanzania in conjunction with Sahara Foundation, the Group’s Corporate Responsibility vehicle and READ International, a non-government organisation.

Golden Opportunity
Speaking at the inauguration of the library in Dar es Salam, Head, Corporate Communications, Sahara Group, Bethel Obioma, said the organisation was delighted to be given the opportunity to empower youths in Tanzania.

“In addition to renovating the library and refreshing its ambience, Sahara also donated new books which we believe will inspire the students to pursue their dreams and aspirations with renewed vigour. At Sahara, we are passionate about providing platforms that transform lives,” he said.

Whist formally inaugurating the library, Acting Commissioner for Education, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Mr. Nicolas James Buretta, said he was confident it would “improve access and equity in education for the current and future students of Pugu Secondary School.”
“Sahara’s gesture resonates with the resolve of the Tanzanian government to sustainably improve access to quality education. We commend Sahara for identifying with youth empowerment in Tanzania and I urge the students to make maximum use of the library and care for the books to ensure sustainability,” he said.

New Experience
Pugu’s Headmaster, Juvenus Mutabuzi said the library was a “new dawn experience” for the school, adding that it had paved the way for Pugu to reinforce its position as a leading institution of learning in Tanzania. “The excitement of the students says it all. We are proud of Sahara. The teaching staff and our students will definitely take advantage of the new library to enhance the school’s academic excellence,” he stated.

Also speaking at the event, President of the Students’ government, Elias Rwegerera said the new library would rekindle the students’ passion for reading and ultimately improve their academic performance. “On behalf the students, I would like to thank Sahara Foundation and READ International for renovating our library. We would like you and other oganisations to continue donating more books to enable us read more in order to become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Extrapreneurship Model
Sahara Foundation’s Manager, Babatomiwa Adesida, said Sahara was also exploring the introduction of its extrapreneurship framework in Tanzania to provide a platform that finds, creates and connects young entrepreneurs in emerging markets.

“We will embark on projects that expose and connect young business owners to boundless growth opportunities. In keeping with our corporate responsibility initiatives in over 10 countries across four continents, where we operate, Sahara is bringing energy to Tanzania and we are grateful for the opportunity we have been given to contribute to the development of this great nation.”

Book-for-All Project
The Sahara Group is also focused on championing the cause for a world full of books that can be accessed by all, especially the less privileged across the globe.
This is the rationale behind Sahara’s literacy and empowerment projects at its various locations as it continues to support education and capacity building activities among children and youths.

In 2016, Sahara Foundation engaged in sustainable projects to improve the reading culture of children as well as improve their learning environment. One of such projects involves the donation of over 50,000 books and setting up of 10 rural libraries in selected rural communities and public schools in Benue State.
The initiative seeks to make books more accessible to more children and youths, and is to be replicated in Sahara locations, globally and other areas; with the support of strategic partners.

Sahara Foundation launched the ‘Read to Me’ School Project in 2014 to promote a reading culture amongst children. The initiative, spearheaded by staff members who serve as volunteers, encourages reading for knowledge and leisure.

Strides in Nigeria
Sahara Foundation in 2015 upgraded the library at the United Mission College (UMC) Primary School, Ibadan, Oyo State and also provided the library with books to enrich the minds of pupils. The foundation also refurbished and equipped a Guidance and Counselling Centre for Eko Akete Senior Secondary School, Lagos Island. The Centre effectively serves the academic, psycho-social, and career needs of the students.

Sahara Foundation, through various interventions and strategic partnerships has shown continuous commitment to building capacity and improving lives through the power of education and a reading culture. It believes its dream of a ‘Book World’ is achievable and will sustain its quest until a “book happens to every human on the planet.”

Vocational Centres
Through vocational centres supported by Sahara Group, around 2,600 beneficiaries in Lagos now have access to capacity building opportunities annually. The group said the gesture was in keeping with its quest to enhance economic growth and development in Nigeria.
The centres include the Lagos State Vocational Training and Skills Acquisition Centre, Surulere, and the Oshodi Community Vocational Centre, which received support in 2014 and 2015 from the Sahara Foundation.

In June 2014, Sahara Foundation refurbished the dilapidated Textile Laboratory in Oshodi Vocational Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. The main objective of this project was to provide opportunities for pupils and adults within Oshodi Community and its environs to gain vocational skills to support gainful employment and/or starting a business.

The project covered structural refurbishment and equipping of the Clothing and Textile Lab as well as capacity building in Arts and Crafts for 10 vocational teachers from various centers within the locality, to positively stretch Sahara’s impact.

Currently, over 1,000 pupils and locals now have access annually to a conducive, safe and fully functional Clothing and Textile lab for practical sessions, according to the organisation.
In 2015, Sahara Foundation also upgraded the dilapidated Food and Nutrition Vocational Centre in Oshodi to an ultra-modern Cooking Laboratory. Following the completion of the project, more than 1,000 pupils across 12 Government Primary Schools in Oshodi Local Government Area (LGA) can now access the fully functional Catering Lab for practical sessions annually.

Sahara Foundation also upgraded the Catering Department of the Lagos State Vocational Training and Skills Acquisition Centre in Surulere, Lagos in February 2014. The centre was established by the State Government to reduce the rate of unemployment.

With over 600 youths within the locality having access to the facility annually, this enhances prospects for income generation and employment of beneficiaries by notable establishments in the hospitality sector.
The Sahara Foundation is equally involved in several interventions in health, education and capacity building, environment and sustainability in its various locations across the globe.

Executive Belief
Executive Director and Co-Founder, Sahara Group, Tonye Cole said working with the centres had reinforced Sahara’s belief that people could be empowered to excel beyond their limitations when linked with the right platforms, partnerships and opportunities.

“In every one of these 2,600 people resides that innate God given idea that can create value for different people across the globe. Sahara Group is proud of the achievements some of the beneficiaries are already recording in their various disciplines. We are privileged to witness firsthand, the transformation of everyday people whose greatest attributes are their passion and commitment to pursue and realise their dreams,” Cole said.

According to him, the promoters of the centres deserve commendation and support to ensure sustainability and a brighter future for more Nigerians.
“When we consider the success stories that will emerge from these 2,600 beneficiaries every year and those they will impact directly and indirectly, Sahara Group is emboldened to remain committed in supporting and providing guidance to similar vocational centres,” he added.