African Philanthropy in Education: stepping into uncharted terrain


This blog is sponsored by CAPSI (Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment)

By the end of 2022, many African countries that are former colonies would have celebrated their 28th jubilee, with some marking more than 60 years of independence: Ghana, Guinea, Cameroon, Madagascar and the Democratic Republic of Congo to mention a few. African countries continue to count the years and gains post-colonial times in all spheres of life.

And yet, has all this time post-independence served our interests and changed our ways of education, comprehension of laws and socio-economic views and application in our society? The fight for democracy soldiers on, albeit not in the form of arms and raging wars – the journey continues to decolonise education systems and ways of thinking that have been the norm for centuries, before the first settlers found their feet on African soil. Undoubtedly, strides have been made through regulation and policies to decolonise inherited structures in law and education.

Today, many African economies are plagued by budgetary deficits and inefficient allocation of public resources that have left substantial gaps in addressing the general population’s needs, and in many circumstances resulting in severe poverty. Actors in the non-profit philanthropic ecosystem in Africa have found themselves playing an integral role in complementing governments in the provision of healthcare, education, and many other basic needs in society. But how has the philanthropic system in Africa evolved and more importantly, what gains have been leveraged to strive to decolonise the education system and provide African giving information and studies by Africans, for Africans?

The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has provided a wake-up call to philanthropic, state and corporate players alike. Its spiralling effects have permeated every aspect of life worldwide and the result has been an unimaginable threat to many ecosystems, including the philanthropic and civil society landscape. Special attention and focus on the works of philanthropic actors in Africa is gaining popularity as it is deemed to hold the potential to bring a voice to marginalised African communities, democratise philanthropy and bring transformation to development aid. Africa is moving away from aid reliance to homegrown solutions to tackle unemployment, poverty and ill health. Philanthropic actors on the continent have been catalysts to engage in collective action to solve African challenges by orchestrating participation and inclusivity of community members – something which state players and international aid strive to achieve.

Equally (and on a positive note), the pandemic also saw the dawn of new terrain in African education. For the first time on the continent, Africans could now study advanced and practical application of African philanthropy and social investment right here on the continent. Where studies of this nature were previously confined to the Western world, Africans can now enjoy critical assessment and education of core philanthropy themes ranging from leadership and strategy to public policy, advocacy and fundraising. This comes at advanced stages of democracy, yet it is never too late to define curriculum and intentionally include African examples and analysis at the core, as the various African Philanthropy courses do. This can be celebrated as gains in our education system, as for the first time courses have been given African names such as “Dhahabu” and “Almasi” which would serve as a beacon of hope and progress for the founding fathers of the African Union and Africa in general, that have lacked exposure and learning of their ways of giving and reciprocity on the continent.

Covid working environments also meant transformation in the delivery format of learning materials. The African philanthropy courses are now available online, thereby allowing one to enrol and complete their qualification online. The African philanthropy courses have already been enjoyed by non-profit associations on the continent such as AROCSA (Association for Research on Civil Society in Africa), Southern Africa Trust and GIZ (Deutsche gesellschaft fur International Zusammenarbeit). The consensus from alumni is that the richness and relevance of the content is humbling as the courses encourage introspection and enable participants to comprehend how African philanthropy manifests itself throughout the continent.

A quick glance at the AROCSA fellows visit to Johannesburg below shows the depth of value and the seeds planted by offering such material on African soil:

It is opined therefore to state that, although the African philanthropy education agenda is still in its infancy stage, there are praiseworthy milestones and a call to action for any African interested in African content. Now more than ever, there are academic offerings available that move away from the colonial formats of education. The emphasis on African ways and literature serve well to promote the agenda of homegrown, Pan African solutions to African challenges. The opportunities are endless and perhaps one needs to glance into this terrain and take a leap of faith. The possibilities of African philanthropy education venture into various industries which in that sense is revolutionary. Education has always been about studying one particular subject and mastering that whereas here, that one subject is applicable in public health, education, social justice and many more. If the shoe fits – it must be worn. Only time will tell if Africans have been able to seize this opportunity and own African philanthropy in all its essence.

Link to the short courses on offer:

Dr Keratiloe Mogotsi, Program Director African Philanthropy Executive Education at the Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment.

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