Reimagining Pan-African and feminist philanthropies: A vision for abundance


Alice D. Kanengoni


I was excited when the Urgent Action Fund and Trust Africa invited me to be part of a panel to anchor a conversation on this topic at a recent Indaba in Naivasha. My excitement was mainly due to the opportunity to contribute towards reframing and challenging dominant narratives that have for long left the world with the impression that it is not possible to find ‘Africa’ and ‘Abundance’ in the same sentence. Such narratives have largely shaped how the world has not only thought about but also practised institutionalised philanthropy: for instance, the dominant narratives around Africa’s limited capacities, Africa’s scarce wealth and resources, Africa’s poor relationships as well as the continent’s dearth in a knowledge economy. This obviously is not the reality, as our panel at the Indaba demonstrated.

It should not be difficult to reimagine and paint a vision of abundance in Pan-African and feminist philanthropies – as the panel argued. In my reflections, I posited that the continent has abundance in three key domains: the first being abundance in its people, their cultures and their histories. I highlighted in my reflections this abundance, and how a diversity of cultures and experiences has impacted a shared history of giving. The culture and philosophy of Ubuntu, and acknowledging our interdependence is a key ingredient that has shaped our philanthropies and ways of solidarity and supporting one another through life on the continent. The reality of a young population – with arguably the most mobilized and engaged youth globally, speaks of an abundance of possibility in new ways of thinking, new ways of doing, new ways of being in the world and new ways of giving and sharing. There are opportunities to challenge and reframe and demand new ways of speaking about and shaping philanthropies on the continent.

The diversity of African people’s experiences and its youthful population also points to the second domain of abundance: a spirit of radical hope, resourcefulness and creativity. This resourcefulness has seen Africa’s people through cycles of collective mobilizing and Pan-African solidarity in resisting colonial systems and also in creating collective giving and sharing models couched in community cooperatives and/or community foundations; community welfare forums among many other mobilisation and resourcefulness models to meet their needs and solve their own problems. This resourcefulness and creativity explain why communities on the continent have continued to thrive and ride the tides of the many human-created and natural disasters and crises in spite of inadequate response strategies from state and non-state actors. This, for me, spells a continent rich and abundant in ‘possibility’, hope and resourcefulness.

The third domain I highlighted is Africa’s abundance reflected in the wealth in its natural resources. The continent is quoted as being ‘extra-ordinarily biodiverse’[1]. Africa is a continent endowed with mineral wealth, forests, freshwater bodies among others that have formed the canvass for its cultures of giving. Imagine gold and think Ghana, South Africa, Mali; imagine diamonds and Angola, Botswana and many others come to mind; think forests and you think the Congo basin; imagine fisheries and you think Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria, and Mauritania.

Reimagining Pan-African and feminist philanthropies, therefore, demands an ‘inside-out’ model that recognizes, appreciates, and acknowledges the abundance that the continent already has, and how the global political and economic systems have systematically influenced the discourses and narratives about the continent and the patterns and stories of giving and receiving. This mindset – as well as heart-set – achieves work that is necessarily feminist. Confronting the power structures that have for long framed and sustained ‘outside in’ models of philanthropy and related narratives of a continent of scarcity and an Africa that needs help is core to this reimagining and envisioning process.

Alice D Kanengoni is the CEO of The Southern Africa Trust.

Tagged in: Re-Imagining Pan-African and Feminist Philanthropies


  1. ^ Cormier et al., 2018 and O’Connell et al., 2019, in ‘The Future of sub-Saharan Africa’s Biodiversity in the face of climate and societal change’, cited on Frontiers in Ecology and evolution

Comments (4)

Rose Mugabe

“In my reflections, I posited that the continent has abundance in three key domains: the first being abundance in its people, their cultures and their histories.” What a powerful reframing of our story, our truth and indeed our narrative. There is so much abundance in us as a people, a culture and our history. Great piece. Thank you for highlighting our abundance.

Sibulele Poswayo

What an amazing piece. I'm inspired by the second dimension that kooks the heart-set and not just the mind set. As an African Grassroots Feminist Leader I see so much Inequality within and amongst countries and almsost feel defeated. But if one looks deeper and introspects as a Feminist leader, one finds fault in how women leaders continue to fail the girl child. At what point will Women leaders innthe philanthropic space choose to support grassroots African Feminist agendas instead of the NGO? At what point shall women with resources active look for and embrace hidden capacities in grassroots women-led development. It's there in the unpaid care economy, it's there in the Frontline GBVF Victim Empowement Centers, those hidden capacities are the in indigenous feminist traditional healing practices, it is there in purely Feminist and purely African climate adaptation and mitigating strategies. Alice D. Kanengoni, thanks for this piece. As we deliberate in the UN LDC 5 I hope to share some of your radical thought processes.

Paul Crook

We all know Africa as a continent holds the resources driving so much of the World's economy. The issue remains around control of the resources and how geography set a basis exploited by those who have created (controlled) oligopolies to extract resources. This has been done, is being done, with wealth created remaining with very few. Gatekeepers - classic precariat approach reinforced as elites continue to move their lips but have not shifted systemically to address inequity. Geography, geopolitics, is immutable - but we can return to, reinforce, the equity that is apparent in many societies. Would this allow a change of frame in looking at sexual equality? Are issues rooted more in the human pattern where power begets power and we continue to witness elites manipulate technocrats? Will the digital economy allow a break from these old (colonially installed?) elites and technocracies? Or are we witnessing what is happening elsewhere with non-accountable corporates taking over and allowing philanthropy to disguise the systemic issues?

Edwell Maposa

It's a flip side of the coin that presents a very insightful substance clearly enough to direct the philanthropy narrative for Africa. Well done Alice.

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