Early life Reginald Abraham Mengi was born into a poor family in Northern Tanzania and raised in a mud hut which the family shared with cows, sheep, goats and chickens. He had one meal a day and sometimes none at all and walked to school barefoot. Notwithstanding these circumstances he managed to study accountancy and articles with Cooper Brothers in the United Kingdom and after being accepted as a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, he returned to Tanzania in 1971 and was employed by the accounting firm of Coopers & Lybrand Tanzania. He stayed with Coopers & Lybrand Tanzania (now PriceWaterHouseCoopers) up to September 1989 during which time he became its Chairman and Managing Partner.
Dr. Mengi as a businessman and entrepreneur In October 1989 Dr. Mengi left Coopers & Lybrand Tanzania to concentrate on his own businesses. Today his flagship IPP Limited and its associated companies rank amongst the largest private companies in Tanzania. IPP Limited and its associated companies are engaged in amongst other things: print media (The Guardian Limited publishes The Guardian and Nipashe newspapers which are amongst the largest selling in Tanzania); electronic media (ITV- Independent Television Limited runs the largest coverage private television and radio stations); manufacturing (Bonite Bottlers Limited produces Coca Cola drinks under license and the Kilimanjaro drinking water which is the most widely sold bottled water in Tanzania); and mining (IPP Resources Limited has directly and through joint ventures one of the most extensive mineral portfolios in Tanzania).
Philanthropy Dr. Mengi has pioneered corporate social responsibility in Tanzania by contributing his time and resources to worthy causes. These have included:
(1) Poverty eradication and economic empowerment. For many years he has financed youth and women based economic groups and community development projects through various grassrootprogrammes including Village Community Banks and Savings and Credit Co-operative Societies (SACCOS).
(2) Challenges facing the disadvantaged. For many years Dr. Mengi has contributed his time and resources to helping improve the lives of disadvantaged sections of society especially those with disabilities. As a result he has consistently participated in setting up development projects which focus on people with disabilities and has stood up to speak out against the discrimination which they face. For example, he was one of the first persons to publicly condemn the barbaric practice of attacking and mutilating the limbs of Albinos and played a significant role in creating public awareness of this atrocity and promoting the Government to address the matter more seriously. Another example is the luncheons which he has been hosting for the last eighteen years for people with disabilities. These annual events which are attended by over five thousand people have become an important stage for raising awareness of the challenges which face people with disabilities. (3) Education. Over the last three decadesDr. Mengi’s efforts in this area have included setting up scholarships to encourage students to do well in their studies and to assist those who do well but are unable to pursue further studies due to monetary constraints, and funding schools which target disadvantaged sections of the community. For example, Dr. Mengi has part financed the running of a boarding secondary school for the daughters of nomadic Masaai who had no access to education and were destined to become child mothers and live in poverty. Now hundreds have been educated and through a scholarship programme which he sponsors some of those who passed have gone on to receive university education.In his capacity as a United Nations WFP “End Hunger” Ambassador in Tanzania Dr. Mengi has also successfully supported a national scheme to provide free meals to school children. This has enhanced school enrolment and attendance.
(4) Health. Dr. Mengihas taken part in many health initiatives including publicly championing the use of condoms as a way of combating the spread of AIDS despite criticism and opposition from many quarters of society including the Christian faiths. He has also been actively engaged in the fight against fistula which is not a widely known health problem. This illness has now been brought to the forefront of public awareness. However, Dr. Mengi is probably best known for his sponsorship of children to undergo lifesaving heart surgeries in India.
(5) Conservation and protection of the environment.Dr. Mengi’s initiative in the area of conservation has included initiating and funding a campaign to reforest Mount Kilimanjaro in order to reverse the melting of its famous snowcap due to global warming and deforestation. This campaign which he has been funding since it started in 1987, has led to over twenty four million trees being planted on the slopes of the mountain.
A champion for justice and transparency Dr. Mengi’s ethos has always been that we all have a moral obligation to expose and fight social injustice and for this reason he has been an outspoken campaigner against social injustice and in particular corruption. In this regard he has taken every opportunity to denounce corruption and those who perpetuate it at public rallies, public events and press conferences and organised and participated in symposiums, meetings and conferences to debate and sensitize the public about corruption and social injustice. In March 2005 Dr. Mengi went further and started two investigative newspapers called ThisDay (English) and Kulikoni (Kiswahili) with the primary objective of focusing on social injustice and corruption. These newspapers have had a significant impact on the fight against social injustice in Tanzania.
Public service Over the course of his career Dr. Mengi has held many public service positions including:
1. Director, Board of the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC) This is an organization which was established under the Commonwealth of Nations Charter. Its headquarters are located in London. Dr. Mengi was elected to its Board of Directors in 1998 and has held this position since then.
2. Chairman of the Media Owners Association of Tanzania (MOAT) This is an organization which represents media owners in Tanzania. Dr. Mengi was elected as Chairman in 2003 and has held this position ever since.
3. Chairman, People with Disabilities Trust Fund This is an NGO which mobilizes funds for people with disabilities and Dr. Mengi has been its Chairman since 1992.
4. Member, Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC) In May 2007 Dr. Mengi was appointed to be a member of the TNBC and has held this position since then.
5. Chairperson, Economic Empowerment Working Group of the Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC) The TNBC is a public/private sector initiative established to serve as a forum for public-private sector dialogue on strategic direction for promoting investments, and accelerating economic growth and poverty eradication. The Working Groups are actually think tanks made up of experts who advise on various issues. In May 2007 Dr. Mengi was appointed by the TNBC Chairman, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, to chair one of these working groups which was entrusted with formulating practical strategies for empowering Tanzanian businesses especially SME’s. Dr. Mengi has been its chairman since.
6. Member, International Investors Round Table, Tanzania This organization was established by the President of the United Republic of Tanzania with the stated purpose of promoting international investment and Dr. Mengi was invited to become a member. The Roundtable Committee presents its recommendations to the Government of Tanzania and these have greatly influenced Tanzania’s foreign investment policy.
7. Chairman of the Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) This is an umbrella organization representing the private sector industries in Tanzania and Dr. Mengi was its Chairman between 2005 and 2009.
8. Commissioner, Tanzania HIV/AIDS Commission (TACAIDS) This is a statutory Commission established in 2001 to create and implement a cohesive response to HIV and AIDS. Its Commissioners are appointed by the Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania and Dr. Mengi was a Commissioner from 2002 to 2009.
9. Chairman of the East African Business Council (EABC) This is an organization within the East African Community which is an economic and administrative union of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi (the Partner States). The EABC was established with the primary objective of setting a common regional business agenda and advising the Partner States on matters which affect business and economic development in the region. The organization draws members from businesses in the Partner States. Dr. Mengi was elected its Chairman for the year 2008. The organisation’s headquarters are situated in Arusha Town in Northern Tanzania.
10. Chairman, ICC Tanzania (a National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce) Dr. Mengi was chairman of this organization from 2000 to 2007.
11. Chairman, the National Environment Management Council of Tanzania (NEMC) The NEMC is an independent body established by law to regulate environmental matters. Dr. Mengi was appointed by the President of the United Republic of Tanzania to chair this body for three consecutive terms of three years each from 1997 to 2006.
12. Board Director, Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD)International LEAD International is an initiative established by the Rockefeller Foundation in 1991 for the purpose of training selected mid-career professionals in issues related to environment and development. Dr. Mengi was unanimously elected as a director in May 2000 and remained a director until he resigned in 2003.
13. Chairman of the National Board of Accountants and Auditors (NBAA) The NBAA is the statutory organization for all accountants and auditors in Tanzania. Dr. Mengi was appointed by the President of the United Republic of Tanzania in 1984 to be its Chairman and reappointed so that he eventually held this post for four consecutive terms of four years each up to 2000. 14. Chairman, Commonwealth Press Union (CPU) Tanzania Chapter Dr. Mengi was chairman of this organization from 1997 to 1999.
15. Chairperson Board of Directors, Tanzania Standard (Newspapers) Limited This company owns and publishes the Government newspaper Daily News and Habari Leo. Dr. Mengi was appointed Chairman of its Board of Directors before resigning.
16. Commissioner, Salaries Review Commission This Commission was formed in the 1980’s by the Late first President of Tanzania Julius Nyerereto advise the Government on salaries.
Public Recognition of Dr. Mengi In recognition of his philanthropic achievements and his unwavering commitment in the fight against social injustice, Dr. Mengi has received several awards including:
1. The Environmental Conservation Award Grade One Thismedalwas given by the People of Tanzania to Dr. Mengion 9th December, 2012 for his tireless efforts and contribution in environmental protection and conservation.
2. Token by the Dar es Salaam Religious Leaders Committee for support to society without religious, racial or tribal discrimination 2012.
3. The Business for Peace Award 2012 The Award Giving Committee of Nobel Laureates of the Business for Peace Foundation which is based in Oslo and is supported by business leaders, politicians and academics around the world selected Dr. Mengi as one of seven Honourees of the Business for Peace Award 2012 which was awarded to him on the 7th May 2012 in Oslo. This award is given to “Business persons who, through their own actions and commitments, promote socially responsible and ethical business practices in an outstanding way, and stand out as examples to others”. His nomination was preceded by a global search for Honourees involving the world business organization, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) through its global network chambers of commerce and its national committees.
4. Doctor of Humanity Degree awarded by Japan Bible Institute on the 10th March, 2012. Dr. Mengi was bestowed this honour for his dedication to social development.
5. Certificate of Appreciation by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania Dr. Mengi was given this award on 31st March, 2011 by His Excellency JakayaMrishoKikwete, The President of the United Republic of Tanzania for his significant contribution towards the success of the 2010 General Elections Campaign.
6. 2010 Global Leadership and Humanitarian Award and the 1st United Nations NGO Lifetime Achievement Award Dr. Mengi was given the two awards on the 28th May 2012 by the Global 2000 (2010) International, a registered member of the World Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, member NGO of the United Nations Department of Public Information and registered NGO in consultative status with UNESCO of the United Nations. These awards are given to individuals and institutions throughout the world who are making a significant contributions to the work of the United Nations in achieving the millennium development goals and objectives especially in the areas of poverty reduction and helping people with disabilities. Dr. Mengi is the first recipient of the United Nations NGO Lifetime Achievement Award.
7. Certificate of Appreciation by the International Association of Lions Clubs This certificate was awarded to Dr. Mengi by the Tanzania and Uganda Lions Club MD 411-B in recognition of distinguished services to Lions for the years 2009 to 2010.
8. The 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award Dr. Mengi was given this award by the United States of America for his efforts in combating corruption and fighting for justice.
9. Msama Promotions – Trophy for High Respect Award – 2007 Dr. Mengi was given this award for his dedication to community development.
10. Certificate of Appreciation from BAKWATA – for support and Dedication to Society – 2006
11. Trophy of appreciation from Command and Staff College – Arusha 2006 Dr. Mengi was given this trophy for his outstanding leadership in business.
12. Msama Promotions – Trophy in recognition of caring for and valuing people with disability – 2006
13. Certificate from Tanzania Institute of Media Education (TIME) for Creativity. Awarded to Dr. Mengi on 29th January 2005 in recognition of the enterprise, patriotism and diligence with which he has stood out as a leader in crusading for improvements in the status of journalists and the media in Tanzania.
14. Certificate of Appreciation – Founder Benefactor of the University of Dodoma – 2005 15. Certificate of Appreciation from Arusha Women Development Initiative Support – 2004 Dr. Mengi was given this certificate for supporting women economic initiatives.
16. Certificate of Appreciation from the Registered Trustees of the Community Development Services (RTCDS) – 2004 Dr. Mengi was given this certificate for his contribution to community development.
17. Certificate of Appreciation from Rombo Development Trust Fund – 2003 Dr. Mengi was given this certificate in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the historically successful fundraising campaign for Rombo District for year 2003.
18. Most respected Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in East Africa Dr. Mengi was voted East Africa most respected CEO 2nd position by the East African Business Community for the years 2000, 2001 and 2002. Voting for this purpose was discontinued in 2002.
19. Trophies from PriceWaterHouseCoopers and Reliance Insurance Company (T) Limited Dr. Mengi was awarded these trophies for winning East Africa’s Most Respected CEO in 2001 and 2002.
20. AJoint Certificate of Appreciation from the then National Chief Commander of CCM Youth Mzee Rashid Kawawa and the then Commander of CCM Youth Coast Region Hon. JakayaMrishoKikwete. Dr. Mengi was given this certificate in recognition of his support for the 2001MwalimuNyerere Memorial Walk.
21. A token of Appreciation from the National Board of Accountants and Auditors This was awarded to Dr. Mengi for invaluable contribution to the accounting Profession in Tanzania as Chairman of the Governing Board from 1984 to 2000.
22. The Environmentalist of the Century Award 2000 – Kilimanjaro Region Dr. Mengi was given this award in 2000 in recognition for his efforts to conserving and protecting the environment of Mount Kilimanjaro and in particular his role in the forestation campaign.
23. Certificate for supporting National Sports Day for the Disabled – 2000
24. Tanzania Muslim Hajj Trust – Certificate of Appreciation for Service and Cooperation 1998 25. Uhuru Torch Ceremony Support 1996 Dr. Mengi was awarded this award for his contribution to the success of the 1996 Uhuru Torch Ceremony.
26. The Order of the Arusha Declaration of the First Class Dr. Mengi was awarded this medal by the People of Tanzania in 1995 in recognition for earning great distinction for Tanzania economically, politically, socially and in defence of Tanzania diligently and at considerable personal sacrifice. It is one of the highest decorations ever awarded to a civilian in Tanzania.
27. The Order of the United Republic of Tanzania Dr. Mengi was awarded this medal by the People of Tanzania in 1994 in recognition for acts and conduct earning praise and distinction for the United Republic of Tanzania and it is one of the highest decorations ever awarded to a civilian in Tanzania.
28. The East Africa Environmental Network (EAEN) Environmental Leadership Award Dr. Mengi was awarded this award for efforts in in environmental protection and conservation.
29. Token from the Africa Development Bank (ADB) for support and dedication to Society
Personal Life Dr. Mengi has three children with his estranged wife, Mercy and twin boys with his partner Jacqueline. In 2005 he tragically lost his eldest child to heart complications. Dr. Mengi spends most of his time in Dar es Salaam although he has a residence in Moshi Town. He is an avid reader and a keen collector of African art.