Dr. Anton Bizzell: Blazing a Trail in Philanthropy, Reconnecting with His Roots
Dr. Anton C. Bizzell is a medical doctor who received his B.A in Biology from the University of Virginia, his M.D. from the University of Virginia School of Medicine, and his postgraduate training in family medicine from Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. As an African-American CEO, who is personally invested in the prosperity and longevity of the African continent, Dr. Anton Bizzell is the Chief Executive Officer of The Bizzell Group and the Bizzell family of companies – one of the fastest growing businesses in the United States, which was ranked on Inc. Magazine’s Top 5,000 List for 2020. Prior to that, Bizzell was named to the 75 Fastest Growing Companies of 2018 and 2019 by the Washington Business Journal, WBJ. Furthermore, the U.S. Small Business Administration, SBA, selected him as Maryland’s Small Business Person of the Year for 2020.
Dr. Bizzell sits on several boards across different sectors and with the resources available to him, he has carried out countless philanthropic acts globally, meeting the needs of underserved communities and the vulnerable. Having traced his ancestry to Nigeria and by extension, Africa, he has embarked on so many philanthropic projects in the nation and continent, respectively. Meanwhile, in recognition of his contributions to the development of Africa and Nigeria, he was recently conferred the chieftaincy title of Balógun Akórewọ̀lú of Odo Ayedun-Ekiti, thus cementing his return to his motherland, especially with the christened name Ọmọ́wálé. In this interview, he shared insight into what his company stands for, tracing his ancestry to Nigeria and what the future holds. Chiemelie Ezeobi brings excerpts;
Asides the tons of philanthropic work you do, what are you most grateful for?
I have the great fortune of being the Chief Executive Officer of The Bizzell Group (Bizzell) and the Bizzell family of companies – one of the fastest growing businesses in the United States. This is a feat I did not reach singularly but through the cooperative efforts of many talented individuals. When I reflect on the greatest successes in history there isn’t one that hasn’t been achieved without partnership. A diverse group of people galvanising their talents to attain a common goal.
What is your philosophy of life?
My philosophy is quite simple… whenever a door presents itself, quickly assess what’s behind the door and walk through to see what blessings lie behind the door Also, I’ve learned that hard work always pays off in the long run.
What is it about Bizzell Group and your areas of interest?
Bizzell is a medium-sized governmental and management consulting firm, headquartered in New Carrollton, Maryland with additional, international satellite offices around the world (including Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Uganda, Thailand, and Guatemala).
I founded Bizzell, in 2010, with the intention of fostering a positive global impact by working with ministries of health and economic development in various jurisdictions to create flourishing, sustainable communities. Bizzell, through our work with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is committed to advancing public health interventions, policies, programs, and systems in response to current, emerging, and future public health threats and diseases.
We partner growing countries around the world to unlock global workforce, health, and technology opportunities to improve the lives of residents and economies. We focus on optimising resources and cultural values to enable sustainable progress in economic development and resident wellbeing. For reference, I have listed some of Bizzell capabilities that details the work we do globally.
In summary, our work across the world rests on three pillars: 1- Public Health Strengthening – We build capacity and provide technical assistance to local government, government departments and community organisations especially public health agencies and Ministries of Health. We deliver global health security and surveillance to combat epidemics and pandemics worldwide; 2. Economic Development – As a trusted liaison and partner, Bizzell collaborates with policymakers, trade organisations, and local entrepreneurs to convert economic development potential into employment for youth and global business opportunities.
To date, our work has helped growing countries unlock new opportunities in manufacturing, health resource development, food production, technology, and other industries. 3. Youth Empowerment and Workforce Development – We train, build youth skills, and prepare youth for the job market through our workforce development program.
Your organisation is described as involved in “high-impact fields that address critical issues of our time.” What are your corporate social responsibility objectives and what has been your impact so far?
Bizzell is committed to building healthy, secure, connected and prosperous communities around the world. Bizzell recognizes the importance of investing in communities where we exist around the globe. Through positive relationships, we support the resilience of communities where we operate and work closely with communities and local organisations to create solutions and allocate resources to enable sustainability within the communities.
Bizzell was founded with the goal of creating high, social impact through healthcare, economic development, and youth empowerment worldwide. We believe healthy people are productive citizens. Therefore, we are committed that every person has the opportunity to receive adequate healthcare and employment to sustain themselves, their families, and their communities.
Bizzell and its employees’ ability to highly impact social change is driven by four core tenants:Centralised focus on investing in people and their communities; Commitment to an inclusive, diverse, and collaborative workforce; Equity, inclusion, and shared prosperity for all employees; and emphasis on sustainable corporate investment at home and abroad.
Bizzell’s global philanthropic efforts focus on the provision of effective, efficient, timely, and fiscally responsible health, youth, and economic solutions that improve the overall quality of life for people in low, emerging, and middle-income countries.
For example, we support the Leve Moi Orphanage in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Bizzell provides ongoing humanitarian support to the Leve Moi Orphanage, an organisation founded to serve children orphaned by natural disasters like the May 2021 Mount Nyiragongo volcano eruption, on-going political conflict and tension, and health epidemics including HIV/AIDS, Ebola, and COVID-19. In December 2021, Bizzell donated 30 bunk beds, 60 mattresses, and dozens of mosquito nets to the Leve Moi Orphanage.
The donations, locally sourced from DRC businesses, help the orphanage serve the ongoing needs of the children in Goma, as they do not receive state funding and rely on the goodwill of donors like Bizzell to deliver essential services such as free education and meals.
Leve Moi Orphanage serves nearly 500 children each day from the surrounding community with free education, school meals and houses dozens of children overnight. In January 2021, Bizzell donated water tanks and sinks for young children living in the orphanage. That’s just the tip of the iceberg of projects that we support around the world.
You recently donated water projects to communities in Ekiti State. What is the impact you anticipate the intervention to have?
Water saves lives. Without adequate water, we will continue to have health challenges within communities. The facilities have standard boreholes 100m deep powered by a Grundfos grade 1 solar powered pump of over 120m capacity.
It comprises a 5,000 liters capacity ground tank that first steps down the water received from the water table before transmitting through two fiber cylinder bottle water treatment plants, and then sends the water to the 10,000 liters overhead tank before delivery to the water point platform to be fetched by end users in the community.
It is powered by state of the art energy efficient solar panels. The two identical projects are sited in Odo Ayedun-Ekiti and Oke Ako-Ekiti communities in Ekiti State. We are very proud of this intervention which is pursuant of SDGs Goal 6 on Clean Water and Sanitation. We are gratified that we have contributed tangibly to expanding international cooperation and building capacity in developing countries for water and sanitation related programs.
You once mentioned that you have traced your ancestry to Nigeria, how does this make you feel visiting your homeland of origin and receiving the chieftaincy title of Balógun Akórewọ̀lú of Odo Ayedun-Ekiti.
Nigeria holds a very special place in my heart. People like me who are descendants of the generation of Africans who were taken from the homeland to the Americas hundreds of years ago have always had that void in our hearts to know our source and reconnect with our roots.
I am pleased to reconnect with my roots and to have witnessed the massive homecoming ceremony which the good people of Odo Ayedun-Ekiti hosted for me. I also have a new name Ọmọ́wálé for which I am grateful. I am indeed happy to be back home.
What are your thoughts on the role of the African diaspora in the development of African countries?
My thoughts on the role of the African diaspora in the development of African countries is found a Swahili proverb “Unity is strength, but division is weakness.” When I reflect on the greatest successes in history there isn’t one that hasn’t been achieved without partnership. A diverse group of people galvanizing their talents to attain a common goal. Our goal is to ensure that every person of African descent is at the table or part of the solution. As an African-American CEO, I am personally invested in the prosperity and longevity of the African diaspora.
As a leading global authority on mental health, what can African countries do to improve awareness and deepen access to mental health care services?
For example, in 2020, Bizzell completed a study on Strengthening Nigeria’s Ability to Tackle and Reduce the Impact of Prescription Drug Abuse. The health, social and economic consequences of drug abuse are on the rise globally and the Republic of Nigeria is no exception.
Opioid use disorders and other substance abuse are not only a major public health and social problem in Nigeria, but a threat to national growth and development. The problems are a result of both systemic and social failures making the drugs readily accessible contributing immensely to the problem.
One solution is to facilitate the creation of a high-level National Stakeholder Working Group on Substance Abuse. Another solution is providing guidance, technical assistance and capacity building to strengthen surveillance, prevention, treatment and law enforcement initiatives aimed at reducing the impact of drug use and its consequences on Nigerian communities.
On a broader note and based on your experience contributing to addressing global health challenges such as Ebola and more recently the COVID 19 pandemic, what in your view are the imperatives for strengthening health security and resilience in Africa?
In my opinion, there is going to be a different Africa that emerges from the recent global pandemic known as COVID. The Africa that emerges will be very different from the pre-pandemic Africa. At the start of the pandemic, African nations found themselves on one hand trying to save lives by purchasing and distributing vaccines to save lives while on the other hand trying to stabilize and re-open a spiraling economy. African leaders found themselves relying on others outside of the continent to secure vaccines, etc.
The post-COVID Africa must partner with the private sector especially in the manufacturing and delivery of critical equipment and medicines, but more so around improving disease management and response, Universal Health Coverage, and improved trade and investments. When we begin to address those three areas is when we address national security.
What next should Nigerians expect from you in the future?
The Bizzell Group and our families of companies are committed to Nigeria and the continent. We are looking to expand not just water projects but also additional projects of significance in the healthcare space, and training of our youth who are the leaders of today and tomorrow.
As you might know, young people make up the majority of the population in Nigeria like most African countries; as an African-American reconnecting to your roots, what is your message for young Nigerians?
My message to young Nigerians is found in an old African proverb that states “It is the young trees that make up the forest.” Simply stated, Nigeria’s youth are the future of the nation. Each one will shape their individual destinies and collectively the destiny of the entire country.
As you know, where Nigeria leads the whole of Africa goes, so if Nigerian youth get it right, we can witness a great African Renaissance in this generation. The whole world is looking to the youth of Nigeria to change the narrative and lead the advancement of an improved, innovative, technology-driven, and inclusive country, where no one is left behind.