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Emile Francqui
Fondation d’Utilité Publique  –  Stichting van Openbaar Nut

Emile Francqui

Emile Francqui was born on June 25, 1863 and died on November 18, 1935.

When the « independent state of Congo » was founded, his first sovereign, King Leopold II, recruited young officers to organize his new state. Emile Francqui was one of them: he took part of the anti-slavery campaign and wandered through Katanga.

King Leopold had recognized his talents: he sent him to China to negotiate a contract with a Belgian company, the establishment of a large railway network. Francqui arrived there in 1897 and stayed until 1902.

As part of this mission, his most important business rival was Herbert Hoover, who later became president of the United States.  

When the First World War erupted in 1914, Emile Francqui was back in Belgium, where he became the Managing Director of the «Bank of  Outremer».

 The Belgian population was threatened with famine after the occupation of the majority of the territory by the German armed forces. The American public opinion took care of the fate of our people: a large-scale expression of generosity arose under the name « C.R.B.-Commission for Relief of Belgium ». Its Chairman was Herbert Hoover. Funds that were collected in Belgium and in different countries, including the United States, were used to transport food to Belgium through the Netherlands, which had remained neutral in the conflict. In search of a strong partner in Belgium, Herbert Hoover remembered Emile Francqui, who was a formidable competitor during the discussions in China. A partnership was established and Francqui organized on our territory a « National Committee for Aid and Food », responsible for receiving food from America, and distributing it to the population. This committee functioned until the end of the war.  

At that time, Emile Francqui and the Commission for Relief of Belgium headed a major capital. He and Herbert Hoover decided to dedicate it in the first place to the reconstruction of Belgium. In their minds, the best investment was to do this at university level.

For example, more than half of this capital was reserved for Belgian universities. Later the University Foundation was founded in Brussels (in 1920), the Belgian American Educational Foundation (BAEF) in New York, and then – at the initiative of King Albert I – the National Fund for Scientific Research (in 1928), of which Francqui used to be the driving force behind it.

The University Foundation had important resources that would allow young Belgians to undertake university studies, even if they were not well funded. The National Fund for Scientific Research received a financial contribution, intended to support scientific research. Later Emile Francqui was called upon by Prince Leopold, the future King Leopold III, to take an initiative for the benefit of the people of Belgian Congo.

This led to the foundation, in 1931, of the « Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine » which moved into its current buildings in Antwerp in 1933. Emile Francqui was the first Chairman of the Board of Directors of that Institute and obtained an important financial support from the « Belgian American Educational Foundation » for starting it up.

Francqui, director of the Mining Union of Upper Katanga, was director of the General Society of Belgium, where he became governor in 1932.

Several times minister, he was appointed to be Minister of State in 1934.