The Kisima Resilience Initiative: Scaling the Success & Survival of African Philanthropy

In this exclusive interview with Prof. Bhekinkosi Moyo, Director of the  Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI) –  a centre established to bridge the gap in the study, research and practice of philanthropy and social investment in Africa, he takes us through the idea behind the Kisima Resilience Fund and its intended effect on the African continent.

Q: What is the Kisima Initiative?

Prof. Bhekinkosi Moyo: Launching the Kisima initiative was basically responding to what normally happens in Africa when a pandemic hits. Africa is normally found wanting or rushing governments to look for support and in most of these cases, governments don’t usually have a budget for such unforeseen disasters. There is always a scramble for resources immediately after a pandemic hits and we have had that example in the past with Ebola, Measles, Cyclone, and are now experiencing the same with Covid-19.

‘’Whenever pandemics hit, we are always looking for help from outside, but rarely do we consider that our local communities are usually the first to respond’’.

With the Kisima initiative, we want to make sure when a pandemic hits, there is already a fund and an initiative in place that could be deployed. The whole initiative is framed from the Swahili world ‘Kisima’ – meaning well. Wells in most parts of Africa are sources of life. So, we are thinking about a well that will be available throughout the continent whenever there is a crisis.

Q. How has this initiative been framed?

Prof. Bhekinkosi Moyo: The Kisima Resilience Initiative is framed around three areas that are very critical to the success of and representation of what philanthropy is in Africa.

Harnessing storytelling 

The first component of this initiative is to access, harness and showcase the power of the stories across Africa. These stories of solidarity, resilience and giving are very powerful and a huge catalyst for change. We want to put the stories of the local communities in the spotlight. The stories will be published online for everyone to access. We want to mobilize these stories to celebrate our own stories of success, survival, and resilience. It’s about changing the narratives and inspiring people to take focused actions inspired by the many stories we would have published.

The Continental Fund

The second aspect is the creation of a continental fund where everyone can contribute. Africa has over 1 billion people. If everyone gives 1 dollar annually, we would have realized USD 1 billion in a year. With the realization that not everyone will give, we will be appealing to individuals, companies, foundations, governments, and other stakeholders, to think about a fund that can exist. This fund will be managed and disbursed continentally by credible individuals who will ensure the funds are secure and the resources disbursed according to the need of the time.

Currently, we are working with several organizations and individuals such as the Open Society for Southern Africa and affiliates, Africa Center for Disease Control (Africa CDC), and others on building processes and frameworks for the fund. We are still busy building infrastructure for the fund, payment modalities and the governance. In due course, we will be announcing the processes and modalities around the fund and how people can contribute.

Highlighting the impact of interventions 

Thirdly is the impact of the intervention that philanthropy and other forms of help has on resolving some of our continental challenges. It is one thing to tell stories of what we are doing, another is to raise resources and give them out. The question we are asking is, are these resources working? Are they getting us the kind of impact that we want? This component will highlight and tell the stories of success from the Kisima fund, thereby spurring others to also give and contribute to the sustainability of the fund.

Q: What is the level of collaboration around the fund?

Prof. Bhekinkosi Moyo: Our organization is  wired to collaborate with like-minded institutions, and we are bringing that into the entirety of this initiative. Prior to the pandemic, we were already conducting research across the continent with Trust Africa, African Philanthropy Forum, East Africa Philanthropy Network and other organizations and they are all helping in shaping some of our interventions majorly from knowledge perspectives. Emanating from one of these research projects on community philanthropy in Malawi, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda, it was very clear that communities always have ways of responding to pandemics. They always have readied infrastructure to support any form of interventions. We discovered that communities thrive not because of external aid accessed but because of the help they have within. 

In essence, we are collaborating with groups, organizations, philanthropies, foundations, and high network individuals across the continents. We will also be working with grantmaking organizations for the administration of the funds. We will reach out to everyone in Africa for the actualization of this pan African initiative. Everybody and every organization is welcome to be part of this initiative.

Q: How much are you looking to raise?

Prof. Bhekinkosi Moyo: The fund does not have a target cap. Fundraising in Africa is different from elsewhere. For the Kisima initiative, we are not just counting on money as the only resource. The stories of help, resilience, solidarity from across the continent is one huge resource we want to gather. We want to get as many stories as possible and share to help in changing the narratives of what communities can do in times of pandemic. Those stories can’t be monetized and if that’s the only thing we can achieve, we would have done something significant.

Additionally, we want to raise enough funds, especially to respond to the urgent vaccine needs in Africa. Africa philanthropy doesn’t always start with money. It usually starts with identifying the problems/needs and then followed by resource mobilization to meet the need. We want to identify and showcase the African-ness in this initiative.

Q. Why do you feel now is the right time to launch the Kisima Initiative?

Prof. Bhekinkosi Moyo: There have been initiatives of this nature in the past from several organizations and they never seem to succeed majorly due to overdependence on external aid. In particular, the overdependence of the African Union on foreign donors. However, some are doing well, example is the Urgent Action Fund, set up to address the needs of women activists within 24hours of request. The bottom line is that most available funds are responding to specific sectors or addressing identified needs.

In all of this, there is no fund across the Africa continent that has been established to respond to pandemic or issue of crisis from a philanthropic point of view. That is where the Kisima initiative comes in – a specific fund set up to address any form of crisis or pandemic that might hit any country in Africa in the future. The truth is whatever amount of money we raise now will not be adequate to respond to any pandemic or crisis, but it will form the beginning of a helping process. It gives us somewhere to start to do something from ourselves and for ourselves.

An example is the issue around Covid-19 vaccine. It’s majorly revolving around resources. We simply didn’t have enough resources to procure enough doses for our people. Most countries had to legislate to access funding from government coffers or immediately created a solidarity fund which didn’t exist before. 

The idea is to focus on a specific need per period. The initial focus of this fund for now is to raise enough to work with the Africa CDC in securing enough vaccines for Africans. The fund will always be there to meet various needs as they occur.  Of course, after Covid, we will focus on other needs of the continent per country ranging from weak governance systems, violence extremism, climate change and other needs that might come our way.

Q. When will the portal for stories and fundraising open?

Prof. Bhekinkosi Moyo: The portal for stories and donations will be launched at the second webinar hopefully in September.  

We are grateful to the team at  Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI) and Dr. Bhekinkosi Moyo for granting us this exclusive. We invite you to follow and interact with the Centre via their website and benefit from their numerous programs.

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