“Having witnessed severe poverty throughout my upbringing, I have always felt a deep responsibility to give back to my community,” Dewji wrote in his Giving Pledge letter made public yesterday.
He credited his parents with instilling the “ethos of philanthropy, particularly my responsibility as a Muslim to give and care for the less fortunate in our society.”
Dewji is the first person from Tanzania to join the pledge which Bill Gates and Warren Buffett launched in 2010 to spur more philanthropic giving globally.
The pledge now counts 155 members from 17 countries. In June, the pledge announced that 17 new members had joined over the past year, including the three co-founders of online lodging firm Airbnb.
Early members of the Giving Pledge include Eli Broad and his wife Edythe, venture capitalist John Doerr and his wife Ann, and Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.
There is no mechanism to require Giving Pledge members to fulfill their commitment. Many, however, were already active philanthropists before joining the pledge.
Dewji, whom Forbes estimates is worth nearly $1.1 billion, runs the METL conglomerate in Tanzania, with businesses that include textile manufacturing, flour milling, edible oil production and beverages.
His Mo Cola is deliberately priced below what it costs to buy Coca Cola. His father founded METL, though Dewji has been running it for a number of years. Dewji retired from Tanzania’s parliament in early 2015 after completing two terms.
Meanwhile, his Mo Dewji Foundation - founded in 2014 - has provided grants for health care, education and business development, among other things.
“All the current and future projects supported by the Mo Dewji Foundation will be aligned to my philanthropic vision of facilitating the development of a poverty-free Tanzania. A future where the possibilities, opportunities and dreams of Tanzanians are limitless,” Dewji wrote in his pledge letter.
He said he hoped that others would follow in his footsteps. “By signing this pledge, I hope to inspire my peers, fellow Africans and citizens of the world to take a close look at the funds they truly need to maintain their families versus their ability to give,” he wrote.
“I’ll leave you with a few words I share with many of my comrades: ‘When God blesses you financially, don’t raise your standard of living. Raise your standard of giving,” he added.