African philanthropy comes to the policy table

Lisa-Anne Julien

Foundations are increasingly prepared to join forces with government to achieve strategic policy improvements

Philanthropy, or the act of giving, finds itself on an exciting cusp in contemporary Africa. While the term ‘philanthropy’ may still conjure up perceptions of vertical charitable giving (the rich in the North giving to the poor in the South), many consider giving an intrinsic part of African life and customs. Horizontal forms of philanthropy, referring to peer-to-peer giving or assistance within poor communities based on reciprocity, solidarity and cooperation, have long been practised in Africa.

The past two decades have seen a rise in more formal forms of giving aimed at addressing specific issues and creating impact at a more structural level. Formal structures of philanthropy include foundations and trusts set up by high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) in Africa, as well as charitable organisations which, while established with external resources, are led by Africans and have distinct objectives relating to African development. Well-known foundations established by HNWIs include the Aliko Dangote Foundation in Nigeria and the Chandaria Foundation in Kenya, while charitable trusts and vehicles that promote philanthropy include the Southern African Trust as well as the Ghana-based African Women’s Development Fund.

By 2017, there were 167,970 HNWIs in Africa with a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion. This gives some indication of the potential for major giving.

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