Posted on Monday, 15 June 2015 15:00

Are Africa's wealthiest doing enough to help the continent?

Africa's richest give an estimated US$7bn every year to charity, says a 2014 report by the African Grantmakers Network; but the figures also hint that giving is unbalanced among those who can afford to make a difference.


Dr. Ayo Ajayi, Africa team director, Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationYES. The philanthropy sector in Africa is still at an early stage in its evolution. However, there are notable exceptions. One of the strongest collaborations for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Africa is the Dangote Foundation in Nigeria. It is one of the few involved in structured philanthropy, and Alhaji Aliko Dangote's and Bill Gates' views are aligned on a number of issues. Dangote has worked very closely with us in ensuring that polio is eradicated from Nigeria and if this remarkable progress is sustained Nigeria will be on its way to being declared polio-free. It is a significant milestone in our efforts to eradicate the disease [worldwide], and the Dangote Foundation has played an intrinsic role in this. Our relationship has also extended to strengthening routine immunisation in states where childhood immunisation coverage is very low. More recently, we have been exploring ways to deal with malnutrition in northern Nigeria. The [Gates] Foundation wants to broaden its partnerships in Africa and that includes working with more African-based foundations through whom we can unlock domestic resources to help lift more people out of poverty. ● Dr. Ayo Ajayi, Africa team director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation


Ezra Mbogori, Vice Chairperson of the AGN board & Executive Director of Akiba Uhaki Foundation, KenyaYES. Africa's children have been giving back to the continent for generations but not in the way you and I acknowledge giving. Little is known about billionaires like Mohammed Dewji, a Tanzanian businessman who is making a difference through the Mohammed Dewji Foundation. Recognised as Africa's 38th richest man, Mohammed is using his privileged US educational background to not only grow his family's business but also lend his philanthropic voice to Tanzanian Politics by becoming one of Tanzania's youngest Members of Parliament. Today his Foundation gives grants to sports initiatives, a cause close to his heart and is exploring partnerships with various non-profits to expand the Foundation's impact. Several other High Net Worth Individuals continue, time and again, to live up to the often-stated generosity that resides on the African continent – without seeking explicit recognition. Instead they seek to make a tangible difference for their societies. Even less is known about technology related fundraising concepts like "Crowdfunding", led by young people, is becoming an increasingly popular source of growing capital on the continent. M-Changa's Kenya mobile money crowdfunding platform and South Africa's Thundafund are indigenous examples that are now competing with global outfits like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to raise money from the public for projects. So why are these dynamic approaches not visible? Knowledge sharing platforms such as the African Grantmakers Network provide an opportunity for isolated initiatives to collaborate with the Continental philanthropy dialogue and broaden the reach and results of their impact. Engaging in policy debates such as institutionalisation of tax legislation to create an enabling environment that encourages giving amongst the wealthy is just one of the ways High Net Worth Individuals like Mohammed can use their political voice and stature to change the African narrative of giving. ● Ezra Mbogori, Vice Chairperson of the AGN board & Executive Director of Akiba Uhaki Foundation, Kenya


Winnie Byanyima, Executive director, Oxfam InternationalNO. It is good news that people in this continent are establishing businesses, launching technologies, and running multinational corporations. But Africa's wealthiest are not doing enough. The global inequality crisis has taken root in Africa, as it has done across the world. The World Bank recently found that the 10 richest Africans own the same as the poorest half of the continent – that's over half a billion people. The 'Africa Rising' narrative begs the question: Rising for who? Wealth creators in Africa must work with governments to build economies that provide decent jobs for young people. Job creation will be the challenge as we see increasing foreign investment into African economies and manage wealth coming from natural resources. But they must also reward hard work with decent pay. In South Africa, a platinum miner would need to work for 93 years just to earn the average CEO's annual bonus. The wealthy must also take responsibility for investing in fair and cohesive societies. Too often their access to global markets and financial systems is used to avoid paying a fair share of tax. And finally we need to break the corrosive circular relationship between wealth and power that undermines our politics. It is wrong that in Africa so many leaders use their government positions to amass great personal wealth, and in turn that the wealthy have such undue influence on governments across the continent. ● Winnie Byanyima, Executive director, Oxfam International


Angelle Kwemo, Founder & Chair, Believe in AfricaNO. Notwithstanding the sacrifices made by wealthy African men and women, I would answer no. Indeed the continent is rising, but we are just at the beginning of a new era in which Africans are slowly but surely taking charge of their destiny; an era in which the private sector is playing a timid but reassuring role in global policies formulations. A lot remains to be done both in advocacy and philanthropy. With regards to advocacy, prominent Africans are now lending their voices to independently defend African positions in global fora, and helping to ensure we regain ownership of our economies. There are only a few countries where indigenous companies are in the driver's seat of their economy, such as Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa. In most countries however, organised trade groups are still dominated by foreign companies especially in francophone countries. As for philanthropy, Africans generally play a big role in their communities. As the saying goes, "every poor African has a rich uncle". However, this sense of social responsibility could be more efficient if Africans spend less money on burial ceremonies and instead dedicate more resources to building community hospitals, develop infrastructures, modernise and structure social activities and, most importantly, empower aspiring Africans to become the leaders of tomorrow. Of course, for Africa's wealthiest to be even more involved, it is crucial that African governments liberalise their economies, set the stage for private sector companies to be more successful, rather than setting up roadblocks as is often the case. One of their biggest contribution to the future of the continent is their sustainable success, and this is the challenge of our generation.● Angelle Kwemo, Founder & Chair, Believe in Africa

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