The opening plenary session set a challenging tone for the Second Biennial African Grantmakers Network Assembly, held 29 October to 2 November in Johannesburg, South Africa. An innovation in the opening session was a ‘Why Have You Come’ aspect where members of the 400-organization strong crowd were asked to give their spontaneous reasons for attending the conference.
Among responses were:
- To learn, gain local knowledge and hear examples of giving around Africa.
- How will the conversation be different?
- To bring Egypt back to Africa!
- To participate in an honest conversation between leaders and constituencies we claim to represent.
- We want to have the conversation translated into meaning – new conversation about all of us not only poor – woman for example, still among very vulnerable in many African societies.
Madame Graca Machel made a brief stopover during the opening session and, as is her wont, provided a number of challenges for conference participants to consider:
- There is a need for us to redefine grantmaking in Africa in a more humble and inclusive manner.
- Money is not the most important aspect of African grantmaking – we have to develop a particular type of sharing as African philanthropists. The work is about building of synergies and then a little bit of money. If we value only money we will come up against the problem of sustainability.
- We need to write our own story – document our work so that we can see how bad/good we are.
- The key challenge in African philanthropy at the moment is that most financial resources are not coming from African sources. We are dependent on those outside of Africa to feed our own capacity to do grantmaking – this is not going to be sustainable.
- We have to figure out how to get money from African institutions and individuals so that we can take pride that we are doing something truly African – otherwise we will continue to be very far away from being ourselves. There is a Mozambican proverb: Your neighbour’s granary will never feed your stomach.
- It is not easy to get money from African hands – that is our challenge. And while we are at it can we please find another, more African term than ‘grantmaking’!
- We need to devise a way of convincing our governments that if what we are doing things is helping to address important issues, why shouldn’t our governments help to fund this work.
- What is the Post 2015 agenda? What can we put into that? Africa needs a Pillar on peace and security.
- MDGs are a ‘list’ – we need a coherent African agenda. For example, more than 40% of our children are stunted because they do not have sufficient food. Let’s move away from these silo ‘focus areas’ and see how we can complement one another.
In conclusion Madame Machel commented that she is ‘very proud’ that over 400 organizations are attending this conference.
Colleen du Toit is CEO of CAF Southern Africa.Colleen can be followed on twitter
@ColleenAnne2. Updates from the conference can be followed at hashtags #agn and #africangrantmakers.
Attendees at the African Grantmakers Network Assembly are eligible for discounted subscriptions to Alliance magazine – further information can be found on the discount form.