Funding African movements? Philanthropic revolutions needed first.

Halima Mahomed

#Occupy; #BlackLivesMatter, #TimesUp - hands up if you are familiar with these movements. Le Balai Citoyen, Lucha, Y'en a Marre or Abahlali baseMjondolo. How many have heard of these? What about the Calama Revolution or Oromo Protests or #ThisFlag? Unless you’re directly involved in funding in their geographies, I wager, not as many hands.

Each of these, however, have played or continue to play fundamental roles in mass -based action demanding political, civic and socio-economic rights. Each of these is based on the African continent. Yet not a single one, or any of the other multitudes of African-based movements, is referenced in any of the literature on philanthropy and social movements to the best of my knowledge.

Granted, discussions on philanthropy and social movements has only begun to receive more prominence recently . While several debates on philanthropic support for movement building are underway in places like the United States, with new webinars, analytical publications and ‘how to’ articles and guides circulating – the conversation is only just emerging on the African continent – and even that, at a very nascent level. Literature reflecting potential or existing connections between philanthropy and movements in Africa appears non-existent.

The lack of engagement with social movements is arguably one of the biggest blindspots in African philanthropy. Change on the African continent is emerging from social movements. Alternative sites of protest, politics and activism are gaining traction as frontrunners in the fight for a more open, free and just society. New configurations of civic-led movements are playing an instrumental role in challenging political, social and economic abuses of power, at great personal risk. At the same time the organized and professionalised civil society spaces which are typically supported by philanthropy are losing momentum, relevance and connectivity to those whose interests they are meant to be working for.

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