/ 15 February 2019

Africa needs to realise its philanthropic potential

It has been more than three years since the United Nations general assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
It has been more than three years since the United Nations general assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Mike Segar/Reuters)


It has been more than three years since the United Nations general assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the money required to meet the agenda’s key targets remains elusive. In fact, less than half of the $6-trillion in annual financing needed has been pledged.

Although the dearth of global funding could be viewed as a tragedy, it represents a tremendous opportunity. Foreign aid has long supported Africa. But Africans are increasingly able to invest in their own solutions.

By 2025, African household and business spending could hit $5.6-trillion and Deloitte estimates that, by 2030, half a billion Africans will have disposable income. If every African with the means contributed a dollar a month for a year to pool resources, the benefits would be profound. But before that, the immediate goal must be to create networks and strategies to maximise the benefits of African giving.

The first step is to build philanthropic infrastructure — the technological, legal, tax and accountability systems needed to ensure that donations are secure. Although digital financial services have already made fundraising easier, the scale of online giving in Africa remains small.

For example, Africa’s largest online fundraising platform, M-Changa, launched in 2012, has collected money from more than 340 000 donors for some 29 000 projects. China’s Tencent charity platform, by comparison, solicited 28-million donations in just three days last year.

Moreover, Africa’s civil society organisations (CSOs) must become more adept at persuading potential African donors that they are worthy aid recipients. According to EPIC-Africa, a Dakar-based nonprofit that tracks CSOs’ effectiveness, there is little credible data on the number of such African organisations, what they do and how they effect change.

If African philanthropy is to serve as an effective catalyst for human progress, greater civil society organisation transparency will be needed.

Aware of these shortcomings, EPIC-Africa has formed a partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation to create the African CSO Excellence Awards, a programme designed to recognise organisational capacity.

One of the best ways to shift Africans’ focus from poverty reduction to wealth creation is by supporting small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) — including female-run farms. That way, when governments build systems that connect intra-African trade to global value chains, well-resourced SMEs can manoeuvre to take advantage. And when SMEs succeed, jobs are created, helping more people to find the means for upward mobility.

By strategically pooling their financial resources, Africans, and the diaspora, could end poverty, eradicate diseases, improve healthcare systems and educate the continent’s children. All of this would help Africa to realise its economic potential.

Since 2015, Africa’s household spending growth has averaged 3.5% and, by the end of 2019, consumer demand is forecast to add as much as $1.1-trillion to Africa’s gross domestic product. What is needed now are adequate tools to channel Africans’ new philanthropic capacity.

Africans do not need to wait for the world to come to the rescue. After decades of dependence on foreign funding, it is time that wealth — and not poverty — dictates how Africa develops. — © Project Syndicate

Carl Manlan, a 2016 New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute, is chief operating officer at the Ecobank Foundation