Remembering the 2022 African Philanthropy Forum Conference: ‘African Philanthropists Closing the Gender Gap’


Ifeoma I. Idigbe


A gender gap should not exist. How can we close it and how long will it take? The African Philanthropy Forum (APF) Conference in Kigali, Rwanda with the theme African Philanthropists Closing the Gender Gap was a clarion call to action.

A manifesto is a declaration of what we seek to achieve and can achieve, if we set our minds and hearts to it. So here is a manifesto for change in the gender narrative, for gender parity and equity, for closing the gender gap.

We can change anything!
Our minds make what they will of circumstances
Our relationships, constantly changing rhythms
Social constructs, man-made roles and rules, order our lives
We get it wrong, striving to get it right! 

We can change everything!
Let each, male and female, labour as one
Life, a shared cause.
Let old mindsets holding sway give way
Roles defined by need
By circumstance
Not by gender.
A shared world
Change, the only certainty.

This poem epitomises what the Conference stood for – championing the changes necessary to close the gender gap, particularly in Africa. Yes, there were more women than men in attendance, something that needs to be addressed because the entrenched patriarchal culture in Africa militates strongly against gender parity and equity. Biases must be overcome or at least managed using appropriate interventions – legislation, policies, regulations, with consequences for non-compliance.

The conversations at the Conference were not new in their emphasis on the imperative of change … mindset change, attitude change, behavioural change. The fundamental difference was in the atmosphere at the Conference … convivial and cooperative, a meeting of soul friends, family, with a common purpose. My overriding feeling was of a common bond and a desire to accelerate change, but also concern about how to push the agenda. The three thought provoking visions for gender parity and female inclusiveness presented by three female youths was evocative of a brighter future and was emotional for many at the Conference – they brought tears to my eyes. Our children were envisioning a future we can only glimpse.

The theme of the APF Conference reflected an important shift in focus from a reliance on foreign aid to the importance of Africans championing philanthropic interventions in Africa, and forcing more focused giving to accelerate and multiply the outcomes of African philanthropy, by Africans, for Africans. The Conference brought home the enormity of the task before us and the need for concerted, collaborative efforts to achieve this goal. We know the what and the why, we need to find the best way to ensure the how. Appropriately, the African Gender initiative was launched this year at the Conference Dinner … a bold new step towards African philanthropic independence.

The 2022 APF Conference is over. We choose to ignore the disheartening predictions about how long it will take to close the gender gap and instead as the Johnnie Walker whisky mantra advises, we will ‘Keep walking’. One day, sooner than people think, we will reach our destination!

Ifeoma I. Idigbe, Founder & Executive Vice Chairman, boys to MEN Foundation 

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