The word philanthropy tends to evoke thoughts of the mega rich giving to the desperately poor, and more often a tale of resource flows from the global north to those unfortunate poor needy folks in the global south.
Welcome to 2016. The story done changed.
Earlier this week at the African Philanthropy Forum individuals and institutions from around the continent gathered once again to debate, discourse and delve into the idea of philanthropy in Africa, but it wasn't the meeting you may think. At this meeting was Seapei Mafoyane of Shanduka Black Umbreallas, an entrepreneurshipincubator from South Africa that in less than a decade has kickstarted more than a billion rand worth of revenue by growing small businesses. Made in South Africa.
There was the Tatende Mapigoti of the Higherlife foundation of Zimbabwe, originally a beneficiary of a Higherlife scholarship that enabled him to complete high school, today he’s part of their digital marketing team, showing the transformative power of investing in individuals. He is one of thirty thousand (yes, you read right THOUSAND) students who have been supported by Higherlife in its less than ten year history. Made in Zimbabwe.
There was Tendai Murisa of Trust Africa who encouraged and invited more African philanthropists to become change makers at multiple levels, not only using the legacy of their wealth to foster change, but the power of their names to change our political and economic systems as well. He reminded us that it's time for change, and as his organization’s name suggests time to Trust Africa. Made in Senegal.
There was Sandra Mbanefo Obiago of SMO Contemporary Art who reminded those gathered of the need for us to encourage and envelope our artists who are at the forefront of fostering divergent and important views of culture, identity, social spacesand new frontiers in the evolution of the African narrative. Madein Nigeria.
There was Mhammed Abbad Andaloussi a seventy year plus Moroccan banker, recipient of several global awards who refocused his life into a youth investor by taking the model of Junior Achievement getting corporates to invest in and diffuse it across his country,showing more than 76,000 young Moroccans what it means to step into their own future and in his words – let's be crazy enough to believe that our ideas as Africans, can actually change Africa. Made in Morocco.
There was Almaz Negash, an Eritrean from Silicon Valley, mobilizing fellow “far–aways” into the Africa Diaspora Network, a body that advocates for Africa abroad, and energizes Africans to be proactive citizens of this continent, wherever they may be.. That African diaspora that remits more hard currencyeach year to the continent than what comes in as development dollars. Made in the Diaspora.
And yes, there was the international foundations and givers as well, partners of goodwill all seeking to support the direction this continent is undoubtedly on, towards higher, towards better.
But the fire was in the story of the African change makers, the African high net worth individuals who are investing at homeand wanting to learn how to give for higher social impact, , the African social innovators and African venture philanthropists using visionary capital that enables them to design, develop and practice new ideas, homegrown ideas, contextually relevant and Afro-centered ideas that have a better chance of success than anything imported, just because they built from a different perspective.
It was retelling of a story, and it was heady.
We’re hard at work across this continent, investing in our future, investing in ourselves, using the principles of giving. That giving which is so innate in every African culture we don't even recognize it as philanthropy, but just as that thing we do – usaidizi, ubuntu, harambee, susu. It's such a part of our DNA as Africans, that we forget to count it, and in so doing, lose the power of the story of how philanthropy made in Africa, is actually the heart of who we are.
Watch this space – we’re flying, and the wings are our own.