Haim Taib, Founder and President of Mitrelli Group and President of Save a Childs Heart* Africa, an Israeli entrepreneur and philanthropist, who has been operating in Africa for the past 30 years , came to Rwanda with a medical team who will conduct the screening of approximately 70 Rwandan children suffering from congenital heart disease and will undergo surgery in Israel with the support of the Minister of Health in Rwanda
However, before he began talking of money and setting up operations, Taib was busy caring for less fortunate children suffering from different heart diseases.
Taib has been engaging the Ministry of health cardiologists and with the kind support of Minister Gasumba.
About 70 children have been identified and 20 of them with severe cases will be flown to Israel for surgery. Others will be treat from Rwanda.
It is his hope to establish cooperation with a medical facility in Rwanda in which training, capacity building and with modern cardiology equipment this centre will carry out the medical procedures for the benefit of the Rwandan children and possible become a hub for the neighbouring countries too.
This philanthropic work is done under the foundation of the Save a Child’s Heart, a humanitarian organization with a mission to improve the quality of paediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries who suffer from heart disease, and who cannot get adequate medical care in their home countries.
The businessman spoke to Taarifa’s Chief Editor, Magnus Mazimpaka, broadly about his investment plans and the relevancy of his philanthropic work.
Taarifa: Why are you passionate about children and how did it begin?
Taib: It started a long time ago. I have been working in Africa since 1991 after realising how children suffered while they are the future of the continent. Then, I tried to find out how I could help them.
Later on, we found out that 50 per cent of the children aged between 0-5 years in Africa succumb to congenital heart disease. I joined an organization called Save a Child’s Heart. In the beginning; I brought 140 children from Angola to treat them. Since we did not succeed to get any kind of support from the government of Angola, I made a decision that we start working and helping the children in every country in Africa first and then do business. At the same time, I understood that our obligation as a business was to give part of the profits that we make in the countries we work back to the society. I think there is no way of making money without helping the society.
Taarifa: What has been the feedback, or what have you seen happening since this program started?
Taib: First of all, it is important to mention that this organization is helping thousands of children across Africa, and Asia and many devolving countries , even from neighbouring countries with no diplomatic relationships with Israel where they bring children and help them. this is the charities obligation. Personally, I love children. When you see a child with a heart problem and you do not help them, they will die. Mainly here in Africa, we do not have the same facilities and conditions to trat the children . If you can give a hand, take a child to Israel, which is one of the most developed countries in the world in the aspect of medicine and cardiology in particular.
Taarifa: Have you met some of these children after recovery?
Taib: Yes, mainly here in Africa. They love me; I can show you a picture of a child that I took to Israel. It is for a young lady aged 13, who could not walk and moved in an armchair. She had a hole in the heart and it was not pumping enough oxygen throughout the body. I took her to Israel for an operation and after three months, she left and went back walking. She is at the university. She is like everybody. It is amazing!
Taarifa: Some governments feel uncomfortable when someone comes in and fixes a problem that they were supposed to fix. Do they shy away from you taking on the responsibility?
Taib: No, it is not taking on the responsibility; it is helping the children. Then, I ask the government to join me and do it together.
Taarifa: How do they feel about that?
Taib: When I told the minister of health here in Rwanda, she immediately agreed to cooperate.
Taarifa: You came with doctors to conduct diagnosis and then go back. Training doctors is better instead of flying children to Israel. Not so?
Taib: Yes. First of all, those doctors came to care for all the children. We are going to choose 50 to 20 children and take them to Israel. This will be the first step. Then, of course, there will be the second and third step hopefully to solve all the problem for good. Secondly, we are going to exchange doctors from Israel to Rwanda and vice-versa. Then, the last step will be to build a hospital for children in Rwanda. The idea is to make this hospital a hub for the whole region. It will be easier and sustainable.
Taarifa: Is this going to be your investment?
Taib: Yes. This is going to be our investment, but I believe that we will raise funds from different people in the world who donate to support our activities.
Taarifa: One of the biggest supporters is the Pope, tell us about that.
Taib: Five months ago, when I started a meeting him, he started telling me that what I am doing in Africa is good and he shook my hands in appreciation for my contribution. He urged me to continue doing what I am doing and told me not to hesitate to ask for help from his side. Meeting his Holiness the Pope was a monumental moment for me, it was a moving moment in my life, and to hear what he is saying. Secondly, he told me to continue this program and report to him on the progress of the project.
Taarifa: Apart from this philanthropic program, you are going to invest in Rwanda in different sectors. Could you tell us some of those sectors that are going to be your immediate area of focus?
Taib: There was a signing of a memorandum of understanding with RDB the last time I was here to build a part of our houses here in Rwanda. The first step will be ten thousand for the ministry of health. It will start towards the end of the year and will be done in one year and a half.
Taarifa: Why did you choose the health sector?
Taib: It was the government of Rwanda’s choice. They will be for medical staff who need housing. Then we go into agriculture. The idea is to build a poultry farm that will provide the egg demand in the country and create new employment opportunities and develop this sector to be self-sustainable and reduce the need of import. We are considering producing of about 700,000 eggs a day, and we have that capacity because we do it in different countries across Africa. Today, we are producing 650,000 a day in Angola.
Taarifa: Is this going to happen one after the other or at the same time?
Taib: It is going to happen in parallel. We have different companies and sectors with which we are working in. Again, for the ministry of health, we are going to build health infrastructure after which we will expand to other sectors.
Taarifa: Do you have an estimate that you expect to inject in Rwanda’s economy?
Taib: Not yet. In order to estimate it, we will have to calculate everything, but in housing, I can tell you that it is going to be more or less half a billion.
Taarifa: What is your observation about the Rwandan market?
Taib: First of all, Rwanda is an amazing beautiful country. It is a very organised and structured country. Unlike elsewhere in Africa, here every single organ is organised. Each minister knows exactly what their duties are. It is amazing. It is very interesting; I think that the government invests a lot to improve the country and give better life to a better nation. I also want to be part of this.
Taarifa: Of all the 54 countries in Africa, some bigger economies, how did you end up in Rwanda?
Taib: I am working in eight countries in Africa. Every year, we start to look for a country in which we can start operating in. We made a tour to learn and evaluate the potential and environment in Rwanda, all the procedures and the capacity of the government.
Taarifa: Who was the first Rwandan that you met?
Taib: I cannot tell you right now. If my memory serves me well, it was the president of Rwanda in Israel on the sidelines of the event that Israel hosted for His Excellency.
Taarifa: Is that the time you picked interest?
Taib: Yes. Your president is remarkable.
Taib: He likes to talk to a person in order to get what is in his mind very direct and informal yet quite assertive and knowledgeable of the details , and I like it. I like the way he thinks, the way he does what he thinks and how it meets the people’s needs, the ideas and the future of Rwanda. It is amazing.
Taarifa: You believe this is what other investors think?
Taarifa: Do you have hope and belief that your investment in this country will have returns?
Taib: Yes. I came here because I believe in the country, its people and potential and I am here because I believe in good things. Save a Child’s Heart is a non-profit organization active in many countries that provides surgical assistance and capacity building in cardiology https://www.saveachildsheart.com/