Where are The African Philanthropists? A Case For Local Funding for Nonprofits in Africa

Over the past decade, Africa has experienced increased economic growth which translated directly to an increase in the number of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI) and super-rich in Africa. This has put the emerging class of philanthropists in a unique position to drive homegrown development and redefine philanthropy in Africa by supporting African nonprofits that are in the forefront of leading change efforts on the Continent.

At first glance, this seems like an opportunity of growth for strategic philanthropy and philanthropic funds on the Continent but sadly, the persistence of patterns of dependency to fund social causes have remained.

As a nonprofit executive who has been at the helm of affairs of three leading nonprofits in Africa, I can attest to the fact that international donors are more accessible and willing to support African nonprofits which begs the question, “Where are the African Philanthropists?”

Philanthropy, or giving, is an integral part of our African identity, whether in the form of contributing to family support, or community or national development, philanthropy serves as the glue that binds communities together and contributes to the development of the Continent. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that philanthropy remains an important contributor to development on the Continent, and Africa’s wealthy are keen to play a role.

Research drawing on the practices of philanthropy in Africa shows that while there is increased giving in Africa, a lot of the philanthropists are giving to their own foundations, which means most of the foundations are operating foundations and not necessarily grantmaking. The few that are grantmaking are overwhelmed with the overload of demands which they are unable to meet. Which leaves local nonprofit organizations relying on international donors.

Africa and indeed the world is at an inflection point. We have the opportunity to rise to the challenge that has been thrown at us and address the underlying issues and weak systems that the pandemic has uncovered or reminded us of. To do this, we need to ask some pertinent questions and provide practical solutions, which I will attempt to do in this piece. Why do Africans set up operating foundations? Is there a need to reinvent the wheel? Why do we work in silos? While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an operating foundation, there is a need to align resources and objectives to ensure we are making a maximum and sustainable impact.

Building Trust: There is a trust deficit in our society which forces philanthropists to opt for operating foundations. They are not sure their funds will be used for the purpose for which they are intended, but this is a valid concern that can be easily addressed. For instance, philanthropists can identify credible nonprofits through networks such as African Philanthropy Forum and local networks of NGOs/CSOs. These networks have a database of vetted organizations with track records of success, integrity and established systems and structures that ensure they deliver on mandates.

Do Not Reinvent the Wheel: Our objective is to solve problems using the most efficient vehicle. As a solution, philanthropists can identify nonprofits that are aligned with their objectives and give to them, rather than implement projects that are already addressing the same issues. We need less initiatives and more impact.

Get it Done Faster and Cheaper: In addressing and scaling many social issues on the African Continent, local knowledge and engagement is the currency and it is expensive. However, nonprofits have significant experience implementing programs from cities to the most remote parts of Africa. They have developed trust within the communities they operate, they are skilled and efficient with execution, what more, they can get work done cheaper!

Increase your Visibility: Nonprofits make donors look good! Supporting causes through nonprofits gives the added advantage of getting your story told on multiple platforms that they have access to.

Promote Homegrown Development: Supporting local nonprofits helps drive homegrown development, development by Africans for Africa. A rise in the number of philanthropists giving in Africa, elevates the quality of philanthropy on the Continent and forces philanthropists to be better organized and strategic in their giving.

Now more than ever, philanthropists need to contribute more to their communities and they can do this by partnering with local nonprofits who have boots on the ground and need support to increase the scale of years and decades of documented impact.

This article first appeared in  The Guardian and was written by Mosun Layode

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