Emile Francqui was born on June 25, 1863 and died on November 1, 1935.
When the « Congo Free State » was set up, its first head of State, King Leopold II, appointed young officers to organize and run it. Emile Francqui was one of them. He took part in the fight against the slave trade and travelled throughout Katanga.
King Leopold II soon recognized his talents and sent him to China to negotiate the awarding to a Belgian Company of the contract to build a large railway network. Francqui arrived there in 1897 and stayed until 1902. His main rival in these negotiations was Herbert Hoover, who was later to become President of the United States.
When World War One broke out in 1914, Emile Francqui was back in Belgium where he had become Managing Director of the « Banque d’Outremer ». With the German army occupying most of the country, the population of Belgium was threatened with starvation. American public opinion decided that America should do something about the fate of our people and a large-scale demonstration of generosity was launched under the name « C.R.B.- Commission for the Relief of Belgium ». Its chairman was Herbert Hoover.
Funds collected in Belgium and other countries, mostly the United States, were used to organize a supply of food to Belgium via the Netherlands, which remained neutral during this war.
Looking for a reliable partner in Belgium, Herbert Hoover remembered Emile Francqui who had been a formidable opponent during negotiations in China. This led to the two working closely together and Francqui organizing the « Comité National de Secours et d’Alimentation » – « Nationaal Hulp en Voedingscomité » (National Relief and Food Committee) in our country. This was to take delivery of the food which arrived from the United States and distribute it among the population. This Committee continued its work until the end of the war.
When the war ended Emile Francqui had, with the « Commission for the Relief of Belgium », considerable financial resources at his disposal and it was decided to use them for the rebuilding of Belgium. In his opinion the best investment for the rebuilding of the country lay with the universities and this led to the setting up of the « Fondation Universitaire/ Universitaire Stichting » (University Foundation) in Brussels (in 1920) followed, in 1928, with the visionary encouragement of King Albert I, by the « Fonds National pour la Recherche Scientifique/Nationaal Fonds voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek » (National Scientific Research Foundation). Francqui was the key figure in all this.
The University Foundation had large resources at its disposal, the purpose of which was to make it possible for young people to undertake university studies even if they were not well off. The National Scientific Research Foundation also received financial donation to be used to support scientific research. Later on, Francqui was approached by Prince Leopold, who was later to become King Leopold III, and asked to take steps to improve the health of the population of what was then the Belgian Congo. This led in 1931 to the Foundation of the « Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine », which was transferred to its present location in Antwerp in 1933. Francqui was the first Chairman of the Board of Trustees of this Institute ; he managed to obtain important financial support from the « B.A.E.F. »(Belgian American Educational Foundation) in order to get this Institute started.
Already Managing Director of the « Union Minière du Haut Katanga », Francquialso became Director of the « Generale Maatschappij van België – « Société Générale de Belgique » and in 1932 became its Governor. He was appointed Minister of State by the King.
In 1932, Emile Francqui and Herbert Hoover together decided to set up a different foundation, which they entrusted with a large amount of money. The purpose of this foundation is « to further the development of higher education and scientific research in Belgium ». It was Herbert Hoover who insisted that this foundation should bear the name of Emile Francqui in order to perpetuate the memory of someone who had done so much for his country and for science.