A number of studies have pointed out different philanthropic styles of African giving as compared to the West. A recent Mail & Guardian article by Samantha Spooner summarised some of these unique, and little understood trends in African philanthropy.
While high-net-worth individuals making large donations tend to make the headlines, it is a relatively new phenomena in African giving which has traditionally been more community-focused.
Many African communities have a deeply rooted and age-old culture of gifting which is seen as common practice amongst all socio-economic groups. Kenya, for example, sits at 11th place on the world’s 20 most generous nations according to the Charities Aid Foundation report. There are five African countries listed in the top 10 countries for "helping out a stranger".
Community-focused giving is well documented in anthropology journals and other academic circles. However, its relationship, if any, to western-style philanthropic giving is less well understood.
What is known is that as Africa continues to show greater economic growth and development, there has also been a rapid increase in gifting on a larger, more formal scale.
It’s interesting to note that both approaches share a reluctance to see their money cross borders, even in a pan-African context.
Africa’s high-net-worth individuals give approximately $7 billion every year - mostly in response to local needs. Many of these high-net-worth individuals are also more likely to create foundations for philanthropic efforts “at home”.
The cited reasons for Africans' reluctance to give internationally, even to other African nations, is a lack of familiarity with the organisations handling the projects and a fear of corruption within local institutions involved. After watching billions in taxes and foreign aid flow through their own countries for so many years with so little effect, Africans are even less inclined to trust that their charitable gift will find its target once it crosses borders.
Spooner believes that this may change as technology and easing international regulations make pan-African fundraising simpler. Companies like MTN and Airtel are making mobile money donations easier, and corporate partnerships are forming to help that money move more easily across borders.
Understanding these trends in ways that can better inform local philanthropic efforts will be the work of the newly-minted Academic Chair in African Philanthropy at Wits University, an effort of the Wits Business School and the Southern Africa Trust. It’s a pioneering move to the study of gifting in Africa.
Dr Bhekinkosi Moyo, Executive Director of the Trust, says the effort aims to “acquire knowledge, develop models and tools appropriate to Africans’ realities, and to explore opportunities for strengthening the role and impact of the variety of formal and non-formal giving mechanisms – and in doing so, help to build a stronger, more independent civil society and amplify and strengthen local voices, local agency and local power in the design of social, economic and political agendas.”
_____Samantha Spooner, “Africa and the art of giving: a fresh breed is doing an old thing in new inspiring ways.” Mail & Guardian. 3 April 2016.
_____Wits Business School. "Collaboration a first for the African continent." 10 March 2016.