Impact and data are changing African Philanthropy for the better - Dr Maximilian Martin

Oct 16, 2018

African Philanthropy is entering a new era. A hotbed of innovation, it can make a decisive contribution to addressing the continent’s challenges, and also inspire work in other parts of the world. 

Aligned with the general formalisation and greater impact orientation of philanthropy, African self-made entrepreneurs are now also engaging in structured giving and are promoting the discourse of “giving back” to the benefit of individuals, communities and countries.

While African Ultra High and High Net Worth Individuals ((U)HNWIs) have a deep desire to contribute towards socio-economic empowerment and many also want to leave a legacy, it should be noted that their giving is not on a similar level to their counterparts across several other markets.  The African Grantmakers Network Sizing the Field Report suggests that HNWIs in Europe, for example, allocate 9% of their wealth towards philanthropic efforts while the estimated 145,000 African HNWIs holding wealth of approximately $800 billion1, give only 1% of their wealth. 

Adapting philanthropic models to the local context

There is also a powerful, observable trend among African philanthropists to select elements of established models of philanthropy, and then adapt them to on-the-ground needs, structures and preferences, realising results in the local context.  This mirrors what is happening in private sector projects too – a recognition that while global methodologies can offer best practices for incorporation, their assumptions do not always apply in Africa.

The co-joining of the two approaches is however, regularly at the root of commercial successes.

Therefore, it is no surprise that given the multi-faceted nature of African philanthropy, these efforts often co-exist with philanthropic action on the ground by foreign philanthropists, international organisations and national governments’ to fast-track socio-economic development.  In turn, these all increasingly converge under the shared social impact framework of the Sustainable Development Goals.

All in all, this makes for an exciting environment for philanthropy, but also one that is challenging, requiring sound analysis, humility, and the expertise of the right partners to sustainably translate aspirations into action across the full spectrum of philanthropic opportunities.

Key trends and opportunities

African philanthropy is a powerful way to express African humanism. This spirit of Ubuntu and the universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity has all the potential to be instrumental in helping translate the tremendous opportunities associated with scientific progress and advances in technology to help solve many of the continent’s challenges and create opportunity for all.

Three key trends in particular can distinctly shape the trajectory of African philanthropy, and help it drive impact:

  1. Africa can be an innovative hub for philanthropy. The need for sustainable philanthropic efforts in Africa is critical. Combined with the strides made using mobile payment technology, such as M-Pesa, this could see the continent rise as an innovator and early adopter.  Another example is Safaricom, which in partnership with UNHCR, launched Bamba Chakula enables people to turn leftover data into cash donations towards refugees or event to top up refugee accounts.
  2. African philanthropy will increasingly integrate the continent’s rich cultural heritage in its twenty-first century approach to giving. As the numbers of (U)HNWIs multiply, this will influence the philanthropic identities African (U)HNWIs want to build. They will draw on their rich history, culture and the needs intrinsic to their countries/ regions. Equally, these contributors will desire to incorporate their own aspirations, family dynamics and preferences for a specific type of philanthropic infrastructure and will require the flexibility and access to expertise in order to ensure these needs are met.
  3. African Philanthropy is at the forefront of leveraging technology for good. Already, the global nature of technology is increasingly enabling access to expertise, infrastructure and other essential resources. CodersTrust, a Bangladeshi company, provides opportunities to young Kenyans to become ‘rockstar freelancers.’ Learning an IT skill enables them to make a living anytime, anywhere in the online IT labour market. This also helps fill the growing global programming skills gap, create much-needed high-value youth employment opportunities and build the local expertise.  Ultimately, philanthropic investment in initiatives such as this will meaningfully enable the country to seize the possibilities of the digital revolution.

Driving development today and tomorrow

Philanthropy around the world is itself in the middle of an impact/ effectiveness revolution and in Africa, this is equally relevant.  The Sustainable Development Goals are gradually becoming a new frame of reference and experimentation with new forms of financing is moving mainstream. As the rigour demanded of measurement methodologies increases, the process of incorporating the use of data to create transparency and accountability is becoming more sophisticated.

While much of what is highlighted within global philanthropy is consistent across the world, the African continent has a distinct identity and set of challenges.  Illiteracy, poverty, poor sanitation and a myriad of other challenges persist, creating a strong need for philanthropy to be relevant on the ground now, while also making a strong contribution tomorrow in a continent that will undergo deep transformation. 

This means that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not meaningful in Africa. The combination of different perspectives and modes of intervention ultimately render African Philanthropy extraordinarily multi-faceted and innovative.  Surely no one is better qualified to consider how to address these than the philanthropists who call Africa home?

 

- Dr Maximilian Martin, Global Head of Philanthropy at Lombard Odier

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