Italian foundations join forces in Africa

Alliance magazine

The Fondazioni4Africa initiative, set up in May 2008, represents an important commitment to joint working by the four major Italian foundations engaged in overseas development work: Compagnia di San Paolo, Fondazione Cariparma, Fondazione Cariplo and Monte dei Paschi di Siena. Its aim is to provide a platform for more strategic intervention and collaboration among the partners in order to maximize the effectiveness of their work.

Italian foundations make a significant contribution to international development, estimated at €20 million to €25 million per year. With the reduction in donor money, both public and private, and the focus of what money is available on emergency projects rather than socioeconomic development initiatives, there is increasing need for partnership and cooperation to make the best use of available resources and to ensure the efficiency of new and existing projects. Fondazioni4Africa represents the first attempt at a systematic collaborative approach among Italian banking foundations.

Following research, Sub-Saharan Africa was the area selected for the initiative. Within this area, the group looked for small countries with a low level of economic development, a stable political environment and a well-defined target group on which the impact of any project would be more readily measurable. They also looked for countries where Italian organizations were present. In the end, Senegal and Uganda were chosen. Work started in both areas in autumn 2008.

How it works

Two project managers have been appointed, one for each area. Through a project committee, made up of representatives of all four partners, the project managers coordinate work with the NGO partners, manage the allocation of funds on the basis of quarterly monitoring meetings, and ensure the visibility of project activities. They also represent the initiative at international level when required and with local and national governments in the countries of operation. Overseeing these, and with ultimate responsibility for decisions, is the Gruppo Tecnico di Coordinamento (Technical Coordination Group – GTC), the political and strategic component of the initiative, made up of top-level staff from the member foundations.

In addition, each area has a coordinating body similar to the project committee, but with representatives from partners in the field, which is responsible for coordination at field level.

So far…

Early experience suggests that the system is working well. It’s a challenge and a new approach for both the foundations and the NGO partners, which differ among themselves in terms of size, annual budget, structure and personnel. The experience of working in partnership should help them to overcome differences and understand that the added value is better impact, sure funds, and a system of sound and transparent management based on good performance.

While there is in effect constant monitoring through the work of the various committees and project managers, external agencies have been appointed to carry out a formal evaluation and audit of the projects themselves.

Building on the experience

A Commission for Development Cooperation in Italy has now been established within Associazione delle Casse di Risparmio Italiane (ACRI), the national coordinating body of Italian banks and banking foundations, in order to extend the systematic, cooperative approach to development work exemplified by Fondazioni4Africa. The Commission’s aims will be to:

  • support and participate in the debate on ‘aid efficacy’;
  • share information and research with foundations in order to improve specific sector know-how;
  • have a level of ongoing dialogue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Association of Municipalities and NGO federations involved in development cooperation;
  • give direction to a strategic approach among foundations towards development projects.

The Commission will constantly monitor and disseminate information on such projects, always with a view to identifying the best ways of concentrating foundation resources on development issues, attracting other public or private bodies to the network, and initiating new joint development projects.  

For more information
Northern Uganda: contact project manager Cristina Toscano at
Senegal: contact project manager Marzia Sica at


Left hand side photo: In 2008, an association of Senegalese migrants based in Turin started a resort for sustainable tourism in Lompoul, a small village on the north coast of Senegal. The resort contributes to job creation and income generation for members of the local association of fish and agriculture producers. Fondazioni4Africa has helped to create the space for joint work among migrants’ associations, NGOs and local communities, and has provided the funds to support this work and improve job creation.

Right hand side photo: Fondazioni4Africa and its partners are working to facilitate the return of internally displaced people to their land of origin after decades of civil war. The work involves promoting better health and water and sanitation services, revitalization of agriculture, access to better education, income generation activities, and peace and reconciliation.

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