Africa Grantmakers Blog

promoting increased & more effective funding in Africa

Archive for the ‘Philanthropy in Africa’ Category

African Philanthropy -AGN Meets in South Africa

The African Grantmakers Network is holding its second conference in Johannesburg.  It is exciting to see such a mix of philanthropy organizations gathererd in one place.  The fact that national and international networks are present denies the question that there is no philanthropy sector in Africa.

The conference is being streamed live, so check it out.  www.africangrantmakers.org

India and Africa

These two article regarding India’s engagement with Africa caught my eye.  As we live in a more global world and the diaspora community expands, will more engagement by India into Africa mean more engagement of Indian philanthropy?

India targets $ 40 bn trade with West Africa by 2015
Economic Times -
ACCRA (GHANA): India looks to double the trade with West African nations to $ 40 billion by 2015, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma said today. Sharma, who is leading a 200-member Ficci delegation here for ‘India Show’, said the West African …

The race to build in Africa
Business Standard ‎
Indian aid to Africa is mostly focused on capacity building and knowledge sharing. Total aid to Africa during 2011-2012 was Rs 150 crore ($27.5 million), quite a contrast to just Rs 10 crore in 1997-98. Trade between India and Africa has increased from …

reality radio and development

As part of celebrating its 100 year anniversary, the Rockefeller Foundation has announced the winners of its 2012 Innovation Challenge.  The ideas range from encouraging and supporting youth involvement in agriculture, to more efficient use of water, to access to data to help improve services in poor communities.

As part of the reality show format that appears to appeal to everyone, one of the winners, Mobido Coulibaly from Mali will create “FarmQuest,” a reality radio show where young people compete over a year to create the best new farm out of a small plot of land.

I must admit that I am a big radio listener and it is always playing in the background in my office.  I wouldn’t mind following that reality radio show myself!

For more information about the range of ideas that the Rockefeller Foundation has supported, check out the Centennial website.  Interesting reading.

africapitalism as philanthropy

The push to do good and do well by investing to address social problems in contrast to giving is not new. There appears to be a global push to bury the debate that a more business like approach to solving social problems is more effective.  I still have my reservations about all of this this.  But a recent article by Steven Barboza on thisdaylive.com explains Why African philanthropists seek “Africapitalism.”

The article highlights Tony Elumelu, founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation which is an “African based and African funded” foundation based in Nigeria that invests in small and medium sized enterprises through the partnership with Heirs Holdings, an African investment company headed by Elumelu.  The line up of people associated with the foundation include Professor Michael E.Porter of the Harvard Business School who is listed as the “founding patron” and Dr. Wiebe Boer, the CEO who was formerly Associate Director of the Rockefeller Foundation,

Elumelu has coined the term”africapitalism” and you can sign up for the Africapitalist Newsletter to learn more about this approach.  Check it out.

Philanthropy in Africa

While in Nairobi attending the meeting of the African Grantmakers Network, I was asked to share my thoughts about the meeting and developments in philanthropy.  Check it out.

link to Conversations on Philanthropy

African Grantmakers Organize

Last month I travelled to Kenya and South Africa in time to enjoy the blooming of the jacaranda trees.  While it is not native to either country they are a favorite part of my visit to Nairobi and Cape Town. These are such beautiful trees and I always dream of seeing them flanking my driveway!  But, I doubt if I would have any luck at all.

But the reason for my trip was not to gaze at the jacaranda trees but to attend two meetings of African grantmakers.  The African Grantmakers Network (AGN) held its “!st Pan African Assembly” in Nairobi and in Cape Town the South African grantmakers came together to explore common issues including the idea of creating their own network.  The common theme at both meetings was how grantmakers can make a difference with their support — which is also the reason why American funders came together to form the Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group (AGAG) a decade ago.

Listening to the discussions at both meetings I am reminded that creating a space where people come together around common interests is always more challenging than it appears.  What AGAG has learned from our experience is that it is a process and not a product.  The interaction and exchange that makes a learning community so exciting is both enriched and challenged by the diversity of the group.

I am sure we will be hearing more about both of these initiatives being spearheaded by a group of dynamic leaders in African philanthropy.

Why support local organizations?

I was recently asked my views on why it is important for grantmakers to fund organizations in Africa directly. My first response is that the question of why it is important is more often linked to what the foundation values and if gaining knowledge is a part of the “cost of doing business equation.” While it can be a desire for a foundation but other legal issues present problems to doing it easily, I do think it is important.

I think it is important for several reasons. The rationale for funding is to help address social problems through supporting the work of organizations actively involved in that area. Funders don’t DO the work– they support the work of others. The impact of that support goes beyond the support of a specific organization to do a specific project. Partnering with local organizations in a way that seeks to strengthen the field and values the overall strength of the organization beyond a specific project. It is an investment in the possibility of systematic change. This is taking a “big picture” long-term approach.

A stronger civil society sector also means a stronger sector to engage in both public and private sector partnerships that could mean more leverage of resources, a wider and more active base to engage with government for policy change, and collateral benefits such as employment.

One of the myths in working in countries with weak infrastructures is that they are cheaper. Often this is quite the contrary. Foundations working in several international regions often cite that costs associated with supporting project in African countries can be higher than in countries in Latin America or Asia. The intermediary organizations working in these countries know this and justify their overhead or indirect costs based on this. So for some funders, funding directly can be seen as more costly, not only because of weak infrastructure but the cost of supporting a local presence.

While cost is one consideration, knowledge is another commodity that can be gained through direct engagement with local organizations. While it might be easier and somewhat cheaper (although this is questionable) to work through intermediary organizations to implement projects in African countries, what the intermediary gains and the foundations do not, is knowledge– about the sector, country and most importantly, being a good and effective partner. With all the emphasis on knowledge in the field of philanthropy this is an important commodity. What do you think?

We are repeatedly reminded that we live in a global village. But what does that really mean?

Recently, I participated in a discussion with colleagues who are working to bring attention to the upcoming United States Social Forum in Detroit, MI that will be followed by the World Social forum in Dakar, Senegal. They were talking about an initiative coined “D2D — Detroit to Dakar”. As part of a broader coalition of organizations and individuals, they described the process they are stewarding to highlight the issues relevant to both communities. The discussion connected all kinds of “dots” including those between the common social justice issues facing both communities, the connection between the Diaspora communities and the connections between the work of social justice activists globally.

One the key points of the discussion was how important it is for funders to understand how forums such as the one in Detroit and Dakar contribute to building a strong civil society. Although the issues are global, this particular discussion focused on Africa. Marcia Thomas, Executive Director of USA for Africa commented on why it was important to make sure African voices are part of the Detroit discussions. (USA – United Support of Artists_ for Africa is celebrating its 25th anniversary and makes grants from funds generated from sales from the historic recording of “We Are the World” released in 1985.)

Philanthropy by definition, is a powerful and important force in supporting work to elevate the quality of life on the planet which includes connecting the dots to make our social fabric that much stronger.

If you would like to hear the full discussion with my colleagues on what Africa funders should now about the D2D Detroit to Dakar World Social Forum, click here to listen.

What are your thoughts?

Coordinating Philanthropy

Among the new initiatives discussed at the Annual AGAG Retreat last month, was the Philanthropy Secretariat established by the Government of Liberia. It is an attempt to harmonize national priorities and international aid. It is also a very useful tool for funders interested in finding out what and where others are supporting including local and national organizations working in various parts of the country. I don’t think there is a similar tool established by other countries in Africa. This might be something for the OAU to consider promoting.

The Secretariat is a joint project by the Government and a group of philanthropic partners and represents a new model. Given the “boutique approach” often used by private funders including individuals, it is promising to see a tool that can help promote a greater alignment between a country’s poverty reduction strategy and funding.

Like all new initiatives, when the organic process with which it had evolved was described, it was met with both enthusiasm and cynicism. There was also an uncomfortableness with the notion of government involvement in directing funding and the fear of corruption. But it was a healthy discussion that raised a lot of questions it is too soon to answer. Post conflict countries such as Liberia and Democratic Republic of Congo are usually too risky for private funders unless they are working in conjunction with public donors or are individuals supporting small projects with trusted and known partners.

It will be interesting to follow how this initiative unfolds. I talked recently with two funders who were part of a recent delegation that traveled to Liberia to learn more and visit projects. They both voiced their relief in the logistically and informational support the Philanthropy Secretariat provided, especially given the infrastructure challenges. While Liberia has come a long way since the civil war ended, there is much to rebuid.

Nonetheless, I am hopeful for many reasons, the least of them Liberia’s break from the mold in electing the first female head of State, President Sirleaf. All things start with an idea, that like a seed, can grow and flourish with cultivation. Like the 2008 film, Pray the Devll Back to Hell, that shows how a small idea can grow and make a change.

I am reminded of a familiar phrase voiced in discussions about the need for more coordination in international development aid — “the only thing worst than donor coordination is donor coordination.” Maybe in this instance, carefully stewarded, it can be a really good thing.

What do you think?

In these times of tight resources, the question of what is working is an important one. So is how to measure it. Evaluation is big business. I am often reminded of a colleague who asked at a meeting about evaluation if we value what we measure or measure what we value? Good food for thought.

While big issues such as poverty and injustice loom as large systemic challenges, change is most dramatic when we see how it affects individuals. The Gates Foundation is a familiar name and its mega-grants often dwarf the resources of other foundations. In keeping its manner of doing things in a big way, the Foundation recently launched the Living Proof Project. It is a multi-year campaign designed to show how U.S.-supported initiatives to fight malaria, AIDS, and other diseases are saving and improving the lives of millions of people in developing countries. The web site tag line is “U. S. investments in global health are working.”

Check the videos, infographics and photo gallery and the reports of evidence of success. In addition to the website it has launched a television ad. Check it out. Maybe this will start a trend of foundations doing ads to show their impact. What do you think? Comments are welcome.