Mo Dewji: My gratitude to Tanzanian society

Monday May 23 2022
Dewji pic

Mr Mohammed Dewji delivers the Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business commencement address in Washington. PHOTO | COURTESY

Dar es Salaam. Business tycoon Mohammed Dewji has explained his focus on offering basic and quality products at affordable prices, saying it was a way to thank society for always being by his side during highs and lows.

He made the revelation at the weekend in Washington when he delivered the Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business commencement address, an event which also saw him being awarded an honorary doctorate by the university.

The honorary doctorate, presented by Georgetown University president John DeGioia, was in recognition of Mr Dewji’s significant contribution to society through his philanthropic work across Tanzania.

He said Tanzanians earn a couple dollars a day, and those precious dollars were allocated to basic necessities that include food, water and clothing.

“So, that’s how we developed the force behind MeTL (Mohammed Enterprises Tanzania Limited Group) manufacturing activities: to provide basic quality products at an affordable price,” asserted Mr Dewji.

Today, he described his company’s identity as “the people’s brand” coming from the fact that it touched nearly every point in the daily lives of Tanzanians.

Advertisement

From their first cup of tea in the morning, to the soap they bathe with, the khanga fabric they wear, the oil, flour, sugar, and rice they eat, the water and colas they drink, the detergent they do laundry with, the bicycles they ride to work on, to the candles they put out at night before they sleep.

“My products didn’t enter Tanzanians’ homes by luck. I got there by understanding and prioritising their needs first,” said Mr Dewji.

He stressed that the need for community is universal, because it brings responsibility and purpose to the lives.

“The world is never about you, but it should always concern you,” Mr Dewji said.

“Once we embrace the reality that the outcomes in our lives are truly in the hands of others, we become motivated to understand each other. We become better stewards of our community. By clearing paths for others, we find our own.”

Mr Dewji, who graduated from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business 24 years ago, understands the power of community better than most.

Four years ago, he was abducted and held captive for nine days – bound by ankles and wrists, and beaten, according to him.

After nine agonising days, he was driven to a random location and set free.

“It was determined that my release was encouraged by immense global outcry. Media, press and social networks covered the kidnapping and pleaded for my freedom. Friends wrote letters,” said Mr Dewji.

This emphasises the importance of leveraging the people around you, devoting oneself to others, and building strength in community.

Now, he urgef the 776 undergraduates and 330 graduates in the McDonough School of Business Class of 2022 to follow suit – find life’s purpose by connecting their pursuits to the betterment of others.

“I have no doubt that each of you will follow your unique paths in service to the highest levels,” said Mr Dewji.

“But know this: when you reach that level, that’s when it’s easiest to forget how much you need your community.

“Class of 2022, today is a high point that you have anticipated, but it is impossible to anticipate the real twists and turns of life. Be kind to yourself and to others. Be ethical.”

Noting that today’s world makes it easier to forget the community, he said like many parents today, he was worrying about the challenges facing the current generation.

“New apps offer simulations of human connection, but make us feel more isolated,” stressed Mr Dewji.

In 1998, Mr Dewji packed his newly degree and boarded a plane back home to East Africa, where his father ran a commodities trading house.

He launched his career as President of MeTL Group and Founder of the Mo Dewji Foundation. In the next two decades, he transformed the business into the largest homegrown company in East and Central Africa, with 35,000 employees and annual revenues topping $2 billion.