Access to books is fundamental to the promotion of literacy.  In Africa and other developing areas, the promotion of literacy through reading is hindered by the high cost of books and inadequate government spending on education, particularly in rural areas.  But two giant institutions through their unique partnership are, among other things, promoting access to books and changing Africa's future, “one book, and one child at a time”. The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF), a Nigerian Non-Governmental Organization and Books For Africa (BFA), based in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, are two of an iconic kind. Their shared vision, and the special relationship that they have developed, would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but it has now become a major driving force for literacy in Africa.


SEOF and BFA are, in their respective ways, quietly changing our assessment of how the African private sector can join forces with local and foreign NGOs to have a dramatic impact on the social fabric of the Continent.  Putting books back onto the once dusty bookshelves of rural schools and local libraries and into the hands of young schoolboys and schoolgirls is their overriding mantra. This is the new face of African corporate social responsibility as Africa becomes the home of some of the fastest growing economies in the world.  In Africa, a new kind of philanthropy, homegrown and focused on grassroots development, is emerging, and the collaboration between the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation and Books For Africa is helping to set the stage for this new trend.


Recently, a visit to Books For Africa at their main distribution center in Atlanta, Georgia gave me better insights into the robust synergy between BFA and SEOF and what these two very dissimilar but equally dedicated organizations are trying to achieve. The distribution warehouse, which holds several million books, is spread over 30,000 square feet.  To carry out its mandate, BFA depends on critical local support from thousands of volunteers, young and old, to receive, catalogue, and process the books that BFA acquires from multiple sources and sends out to recipients throughout the Continent.


According to BFA management, about 14,000 committed volunteers annually give their time and energy to sort and process books at the warehouse, which is a hub of volunteer activity.  The volunteers come from local colleges and universities, high schools, churches, fraternities and sororities, senior citizen groups, local companies, professional associations, and a host of other civil society groups. The volunteers supporting Books For Africa are considered to be the largest volunteer force of any non-profit establishment in the Atlanta area, and possibility in the United States.  Several years ago, BFA moved its new warehousing operation from St. Paul, Minnesota to Atlanta in order to be closer to East Coast ports in Savannah, Charleston, New Orleans, and Houston.  This strategic move has paid off handsomely in terms of lowering transportation and shipping costs and drawing on a much larger pool of volunteers and donors.


Most books donated to Books For Africa are for African primary and secondary schools, kindergartens, and public libraries, including reference books such as encyclopedias.  BFA also, however, sources liberal arts, science, math, and other specialized books for universities, jurisprudential volumes for law libraries, and books covering all aspects of business administration. Many of the books are new and current editions; other are slightly used.  For the latter, BFA has a very strict vetting process and no books are shipped to Africa that would not be used in American schools.  Old books are recycled and processed to make the cardboard boxes BFA uses to ship its donated books.  BFA receives donated books from publishers, schools, libraries, churches, companies, other NGOs and the general public.  It also sometimes purchases new edition surplus books from publishers at greatly reduced discounted prices.  


In addition to books, BFA occasionally responds to special requests for school supplies, including pens, pencils, tablets, rulers, book bags and the like.  On request, it will also supply like-new, reconditioned fully loaded desktop and laptop computers.  The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation has purchased more than 300 computers at a cost of approximately $200 per unit. It has 400 more on order.    

SEOF in its partnership with BFA ensures that donated books are shipped to    identified countries and regions in Africa, usually to local NGOs but sometimes to local and State governments. From the inception of the partnership in 2010, the SEOF has underwritten the shipment of more than 73 40-foot containers of books to Africa.  Sixteen containers have already been delivered to Nigeria, which is the largest recipient country.  Five containers have gone to the Gambia as SEOF’s contribution to that country’s “Million Books Campaign”.  Thirty eight containers have been shipped to 18 countries in all regions of the Continent, with 14 paid containers scheduled for delivery. The SEOF has made special efforts to provide books to some of the most disadvantaged countries on the Continent, including Chad, South Sudan, Niger, The Gambia, Somalia, Malawi, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, among others.


For 2015, the SEOF has recently commissioned the shipment of 16 additional containers of books to Nigeria, along with 400 desk and laptop computers, and 27 specialized library collections (e.g., law, map and agriculture). The financial burden for this crucial role includes the cost of shipping to destination ports and inland transportation.  This cost is borne solely by the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation., which so far has expended more than $1.75 million.   


Delivering books to Africa does not stop with paying the cost for freight and forwarding.  There are other inherent and unavoidable challenges, which are encountered along the transportation chain. For instance, moving container loads of books from seaports over local roads to inland distribution centers or local NGOs can be hazardous due to poor road networks and security risks, particularly in areas mired in conflicts. Getting the books to land-locked countries presents special logistical challenges because once the shipment arrives at the closest seaport, the destination country can be hundreds of miles away over treacherous roadways. .  Such was the case with Chad, Niger, Somaliland, Rwanda, and even Botswana.


So far, the SEOF has successfully facilitated the delivery of about 1.7 million books and computers with a commercial, off the shelf value of more than $18 Million to 19 African countries, including Nigeria. The SEOF’s financial and logistical role in these chains of events is the engine that keeps the books and computer supply going; it is also a fillip to greater literacy in Africa. BFA confirmed that Sir Emeka Offor is the single largest independent donor to their organization since its inception.



The unique union between SEOF and BFA brings smiles and sometimes tears to faces of African children, who do not take learning for granted and who see literacy as the gateway to a better life.  Through a labor of love between SEOF and BFA, a lifeline to knowledge and a new world is open for young aspiring African youth. Inevitably, through the strategy of “one book, one child at a time”, SEOF and BFA are empowering the future generation of Africans through access to literacy and education.


Dr. Edwin Ndukwe writes from Houston

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Written by Dr. Edwin Ndukwe

At the International Wheelchair & Amputee Sports World Junior Games at Stoke Mandeville, UK, a 23-year-old Paralympian and Powerlifter from Ahmadu Bello University, Emmanuel Godwin, won a Gold medal to make its sole sponsor, Sir Emeka Offor, The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation (SEOF) and the Federal Republic of Nigeria proud. 

Mr. Godwin bench-pressed a total of 145kg, clearing the bar in top form and outclassing fellow competitors from United Arab Emirates and The Republic of Kazakhstan. The powerlifting session, which took place on August 6 at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium (SMS), attracted a sizeable mixed group of spectators, both able and physically challenged. 

The powerlifting bar was stacked at the beginning of the session with an initial dead weight of 30kg. Thereafter, each new round saw an increment of 20kg. “It is not just the size of the weight that we consider, we also pay attention to the form of a power-lifter and his or her ability to maintain a perfect form through the clearing of the bar with the corresponding weight,” a judge quietly disclosed to SEOF official during the contest.

“There are strict guidelines under the laws of the International Powerlifting Federation,” the Judge continued. “                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

“For instance, after receiving the bar at arms length, the lifter must hold his elbows in a locked position until the signal to begin is given by the referee. Then after, the lifter must lower the bar to the chest before lifting upward with both arms stretched evenly and steady.” 

Sir Offor, who was present at the closing dinner celebration sponsored and hosted by his Foundation, congratulated the IWAS President, Paul DePace, other officials, parents and athletes for a memorable sporting outing marking the 10th anniversary of the ongoing Paralympic movement He said, “I am very pleased to be associated with IWAS and I share in their aspirations to promote unity, friendship and sportsmanship among persons with disability. I am also deeply moved to be standing here, at this historic venue in Stoke Mandeville, the birthplace of the Paralympic movement to commemorate with you, the 10th International Wheelchair & Amputee Sports World Junior Games. 

Like all of you, I believe that we have a tremendous ability even in our disability. I believe that we are "Differently Able." Whatever the able bodied person can do, we can do it and even better. No matter the form of disability we face, we can still dream, we can aspire to great heights and we can compete favorably in today's world. 

In his closing remarks, he sounded words of encouragement to all participants. “To all athletes and future Paralympians, through these games, you have shown amazing courage. You have demonstrated great strength, friendship, enviable camaraderie (solidarity) and a determination to win. So, keep winning and do not despair!”


Written by Dr. Edwin Ndukwe


“The Individual, in the isolation imposed on him by his freedom, must make his moral choices and accept responsibility for them”-Jean Paul Sartre           


The war against polio in the world rages on. In Nigeria, as one of the 3 remaining endemic countries apart from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the siege is real and Sir Emeka Offor, the first Rotary International Polio Ambassador to Nigeria is in the center of it.




In mid-2012, Sir Offor charged into the ring of the ongoing Global contention against Polio under the umbrella of Rotary International. With a donation of $250,000 to each of the Rotary International cardinal programs, Sir Offor began the journey of fulfilling one of his life's dreams; to curb his childhood community, hence his world, of the disease of polio.




Poliovirus has stolen many untold dreams and aspirations from Nigeria. It has crippled and twisted limbs and minds of millions of once vibrant and ambitious Nigerian toddlers; the future of the nation in its twilight of Renaissance. Yet, there had been many more undocumented casualties of this dreaded preventable disease. The economic burden to the state is unquestionably enormous. The Government of Nigeria, Rotary International and Sir Emeka Offor has waded in and hence are not resting, in spite of the security challenges that often impede immunization exercises, particularly in the Northern part of the State.




Two years since 2012, with a total contribution of 3.3M dollars donated to Rotary International towards Global Polio Eradication Initiative, polio cases are down to 5 in Nigeria, from 53 in 2013.  As a Rotary International Polio Ambassador to Nigeria and a member of Arch C. Klumph Society, Sir Offor remains vigilant and committed to the cause of eradicating polio here and in the world.




 What about Polio survivors? The challenges they face are easily visible in our cities and communities. Too often, their plight attracts very little attention to our conscience. Sir Offor has a different stance when it comes to relating with PWDs. He believes in not only stamping out polio from the world, but he also believes in doing something about survivors. He believes the streets are not the place for them. "Begging for alms on the streets is not an acceptable option for the Disabled. They are Differently Able and should be encouraged. We have the choice to help and we should," he said.




Sir Offor is, therefore, taking bold steps towards empowerment of people with disability. This August, he sponsored a team of Paralympians from Paralympic Committee Of Nigeria to participate in the 10th international Wheelchair & Amputee Sports (IWAS), which held in Stoke Mandeville, UK. The lone Nigerian Paralympian, Emmanuel Godwin, who Sir Offor sponsored brought home a gold medal, making the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation and Nigeria proud.This would mark the first time a private sector entity has risen to the challenge of supporting people with disability to represent Nigeria on the world stage; a gesture, which the Paralympian Team expressly shared their gratefulness.




Speaking at the closing dinner during the IWAS World Junior Games, he reaffirmed his commitment to introduce the Differently Able campaign in his philanthropic agenda and to promote social integration of PWDs.


“Like all of you, I believe that we have a tremendous ability even in our disability and that we are "Differently Able,” he said. Echoing the voices of many Paralympians, he said, “Disability is a matter of the heart.”

Sir Emeka Offor Foundation Cheers on Nigerian Team at IWAS Junior Games

It's Day 1 at the International Wheelchair & Amputee Sports (IWAS) Junior Games at Stoke Mandeville, UK, and like a typical English day, it drizzled and drizzled. Then, it drizzled a bit more and while it did, the dark cloud briskly dissipated, giving way for the warm heat of the sun to heal our cold skin.



The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation is proud to be supporting athletes from the Nigerian Paralympic Committee at the IWAS Junior Games. The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, a non-governmental, philanthropic organization focused on youth employment, families, education, healthcare and infrastructure development donated 2.6 million Naira to help send the Nigerian athletes to the event. The Foundation is the only private sector sponsor of future Nigerian Paralympians.

The mood around the stadium was unchanging unlike the weather and the excitement all around was visibly captivating. There was equally a palpable feeling of nervous anticipation as athletes from about 32 countries around the globe slowly disembarked from the bus, which brought them from Heathrow Airport. Our team, the Nigerian athletes from the Paralympic Committee, after much anticipation, soon arrived and were warmly received by contingents from Sir Emeka Offor Foundation.


Miles and miles away from the grandeur and glamour of the more publicized Commonwealth games underway in Glasgow, Scotland, the IWAS junior games commanded a much simpler notoriety in the public domain and the apparent clash of schedule between the two distinct events further affected publicity of the later. Nevertheless, the sports complex was much alive as teams hurried about to make final preparations for the games.


On Sunday, the 3rd of August, amid the abiding spirit of unity, friendship and sportsmanship among persons with disability, the IWAS Federation will draw the curtain back at exactly 4pm, to mark the official opening of the 10th International junior Games at the birthplace of the Paralympic movement.


The Under-23 World Junior Games offers the world’s best young athletes with disabilities the opportunity to compete in diverse games that used to be the exclusive reserve of able-bodied men and women. 

Sir Offor has made relentless efforts in the fight to eradicate Polio from Nigeria and indeed the world by his generous donations of over $3 million USD to Rotary Polio Plus. Meanwhile, the Sir Emeka Offor Foundation has organized massive Polio Immunization campaigns.

The effects of Polio cannot be over-emphasized. Polio victims face the daily challenges that life presents and the challenges of living with disability.


“The fight against Polio starts with vaccines but the real challenge is in supporting those already affected by Polio," said Rosaline Agiamoh, Polio Ambassador Representative at an earlier ceremony. "We want to let Polio survivors know they are not alone or forgotten. We are here to help them through their daily struggles."


The Sir Emeka Offor Foundation hopes Nigeria's athletes competing in the Under-23 World Junior Games serve as role models for those in developing countries like Nigeria to encourage those with disabilities to strive for more.

The 10th Under-23 World Junior Games continues through August 8th.


Source: Sir Emeka Offor Foundation

Edwin Ndukwe

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