Prominent UAE businessman Abdullah Ahmad Al Ghurair has pledged one-third of his company’s assets in perpetuity to establish a regional education foundation.
His son, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, CEO of the family’s Mashreq Bank, announced on Tuesday an initial $1.1 billion would be directed to the foundation over the next 10 years.
The Abdullah Al Ghurair Education Foundation will aim to provide an initial 15,000 Emiratis with scholarships to the top universities, Al Ghurair said. In a second phase, the program would be opened up to non-Emirati Arabs living in the UAE, and later to Arabs from all across the Middle East, with the foundation funding scholarships to the best universities in the region. No timeframe for the implementation of the various phases was given.
Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair said a CEO and board of directors would hopefully be appointed this month, with the foundation officially launched in Q1 2016.
Four members of the Al Ghurair family – himself, Ali, Rashid and Sadam – have been appointed as trustees, and the foundation has enlisted the help of Boston Consulting Group to decide which priority academic programs would be supported.
Al Ghurair said as long as the economy remained stable and the family’s group of businesses continued to perform well, it should be able to maintain its objective of donating one-third of its assets over decades to come.
Abdullah Al Ghurair started Mashreq with $1.6 million worth of investment capital 40 years ago. The bank is now the largest private lender and oldest commercial bank in the UAE.
He has long been committed to improving education in the UAE, having established the country’s first boarding school in Masafi in 1964. He founded a second school in Bur Dubai in 1990 that accommodates 1,000 students and is still regarded as one of the emirate’s best schools.
“Improving the quality of education and equipping our youth with the skills to succeed in the 21st century is key to reducing unemployment – among the Arab world’s most pressing challenge – and to building peace and prosperity in our region.
“And it is through education that we will tackle inequality, enabling youth from low-income families to fulfil their potential and help communities thrive.”
It is common for philanthropic announcements to be made during Ramadan, a time of giving.
Last week, Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz said he would channel $32 billion of his fortune to his re-branded charity, Alwaleed Philanthropies. It would initially provide 10,000 homes and 10,000 cars to poor Saudis