Redefining Philanthropy on the African Continent

African philanthropy funding development
Thursday, 28 April, 2016 - 10:53

The Southern Africa Trust partners with Wits Business School to establish a Chair in African Philanthropy

We caught up with the executive manager and head of the Policy & Programme Unit at the Southern Africa Trust (the Trust), McBride Nkhalamba, to talk about this latest development and find out what this project is about and how the trust will be getting involved.

Q.  Can you tell a bit about the idea of African Philanthropy?

A. Our interest in this philanthropy is in specific relation to development financing - finding and developing alternative sources of development financing.

From studying global patterns it is found that there has been an increase in remittance and investment coming from the diaspora into the African continent, classified as nothing more than simple remittances.

What is also apparent is that within the continent itself, African people have given either collectively or as individuals (not exactly in huge amounts, but significant amounts) to the social development of their communities and sometimes even countries.

It is also critical to look at African Philanthropy as any effort that is undertaken by African citizens to support materially, financially or in time, the development of their own communities and countries. That is the paradigm that we are working with when we speak of African Philanthropy.

Q. Why did you to partner with Wits Business School (WBS) on this initiative?

A. The establishment of the Chair in African Philanthropy was necessitated by the need to generate knowledge - scientific knowledge - needed to define and/or create the paradigm of African Philanthropy. More importantly ensuring that we as Africans own that knowledge and make it an important part of our thinking around development on the continent.

The importance of this partnership and specifically our interest in this space, is on expanding the understanding of and creating opportunities for diversifying development financing. We as the Trust strive to migrate from, the traditional understanding of philanthropy (money or material support from outside Africa often from high net worth individuals onto the continent) branded as philanthropy support for development, to a more dynamic and inclusive understanding of philanthropy in the context of Africa.

To do that you have to have an established function, an intelligent nerve centre, within a credible institution, in this case we chose Wits University to establish the chair.
Q. Is there a particular significance to the chair being established at this particular point in time, given our current political and socio-economic environment?

A. Well, there have been a number of trends one can look at, such as the increase in the willingness of Africans that live outside of Africa (diaspora philanthropy) to give back to the continent for development (social; economic) including investment. This can be attributed to many factors such as the change in political and economic environments that allow for more engagement in this regard.

What we’ve also seen are formations within a region, in relation to other regions traditionally referred to as the South to South. BRICS for example established their own block that is related to their own thinking about looking inward at themselves for development financing.

The BRICS bank as an example is looking at resources from within the Southern region, in our case South Africa as a member of BRICS, which is also contributing to the thinking around the acting on the opportunities we have within.

This dialogue regarding the many resources available on the continent that we could exploit for our own development is not new. But this time around the fact is that these dynamics are underlined by ‘actions’. It is these actions that have brought momentum and driven this renewed interest.

Q. How does the culture of giving in African communities fit into this paradigm?

A. Firstly, we need to agree and then also highlight that the key foundational aspect of any society or community - not just African society - is collective responsibility and collective liability, which calls for the use of collective resources.

The difference is that in societies such as Europe as example where the state as we know it was established as early as 1648, giving was actually managed through the administration of tax to the state. The taxes were then redirected and redistributed for the greater public good of the public at large. As Africa did not have this model of the state in the 1600s, (referred to as the Westphalia state) giving was traditionally done on an individual to individual, family to family, extended family and the community or community to community giving basis.

But the idea is the same. In order for one to claim that they have a society, there must be sharing, and sharing means giving from one to another. Whether it’s from a more endowed individual or entity in society to another, or from a like-endowed or differently endowed individual – society is fundamentally underlined by giving from one to another.

Philanthropy has thus always been with us as Africans, which is why we need to redefine it for ourselves on the African continent.  To move it away from the notion that it is the giving undertaken by high net worth individuals to less resourced communities or individuals from outside the continent.
Q. Given that the Philanthropic Chair is fairly new are there any objectives that you have in place in regards to your partnership with Wits Business School on this concept?

A. The primary objective is to see an increase in our knowledge of African Philanthropy, specifically focussing on the quality of said knowledge. It’s also important for us to establish the chair as an authority on how philanthropy is defined by us and what it represents to us, knowledge that is derived from and suited to the realities in our context.

The second objective has to do with employing the knowledge accrued to influence legislation and policy, as a way of creating a much more enabling environment for African Philanthropy. So the objective is to ensure that there is: appropriate legislation to support people who want to give; appropriate policies in place to support people who want to give and more importantly to create conditions that maximise the social and economic returns for people who are willing to give.
Again we must realise that a considerable amount of development financing can come from African Philanthropy if we have the necessary legislation and policy framework in place.

Q. From the perspective of the Trust how does seating African Philanthropic Chair at WBS further the objectives of the Trust as part of your 2016 - 2021 strategy?

A. The partnership with WBS is a strategic and productive one and it has different parts to it. Firstly we have a funding partnership, meaning that we combine our individual capabilities to mobilise resources for the Chair in African Philanthropy. The Trust brings in foundations with resources while WBS brings in fee generated resources from its programmes for instance.

WBS also provides the organisational and institutional capability needed to operationalise the Chair. They also bring in the academic expertise required to generate the quality of knowledge that we need.

The Trust also brings into this partnership a very critical dimension of the value chain, which is the transmission of that knowledge onto legislation and policy. Wits University does not have the sort of network or leverage that the Trust has in that regard.

Once this knowledge is generated the Southern Africa Trust provides the avenue to translate and transmit this knowledge onto the legislative and policy framework within the region.  It’s a very functional relationship. The Trust essentially brings in other critical actors who need to appreciate the significance of African Philanthropy to the development agenda in the region.

The Trust loops in international cooperating partners; development partners and development agencies as well as civil society and private sector membership organisations.

These linkages are also needed to start generating an understanding among not just the international business community, but the local business community as well, about what African Philanthropy is for obvious reasons. Ultimately, this a very productive partnership.
Q. Is the Trust going to assist with the development of systems and tools to assist with documenting and translating this research?

A. Yes, we as the Trust have a dedicated function to create and translate knowledge into user friendly content for different policy communities, in an effort to ensure that those communities are actually using that knowledge. We have a variety of knowledge types which we will be generating.

A quick example in regards to African Philanthropy is that we have supported and participated in studies that were looking at the legislative environment for African Philanthropy across the continent. We have also participated and supported studies that look at philanthropic freedom. There’s even an index that has been created by the Hudson Institute and we’ve participated in that as well.  We have also supported studies that look at Philanthropy and its relationship with resource governance.

All these activities are aimed at creating an understanding on how public institutions and public policy actors, can begin to rethink the way they regulate various sectors in order to promote African philanthropy.

So in essence what we expect is that there will be policy instruments developed to facilitate the development of African Philanthropy at a national level. In parallel, at national level, once this is established we expect that various organisations that work at community level, will be able to propagate this notion of African Philanthropy as explained.

The Trust works with civil society formations whose membership is at national level and cascades down to local communities. Various tools including traditional development and social mobilisation approaches will be used to accomplish this goal. So if you like we have both the hard and soft infrastructure to ensure that we advance African Philanthropy.

Q. Will you be making the concept of African Philanthropy part of your business culture? Is it critical to integrate this concept into your organisation?

Yes, it is already part of our business culture. But we have limitations in terms of what we can and can’t do from a national legislative point of view. We also have to consider our contractual obligations with those who support us financially. They have their own principles and requirements for us to be able to access their support.
But to a reasonable extent as an organisation, focusing on ensuring that our own staff have a clear understanding of what African Philanthropy is very important.

Q. Why do you think it’s so important for Africa to have high quality documented archived information for us by us as Africans where African Philanthropy is concerned?

A. This may be a contested statement but my understanding is that there is no civilisation without record and there’s no practical replicable progress without record.
Records allow us to understand and analyse phenomenon better. Records allow us to transmit that understanding for posterity as well as improvement. Records allow us to create ownership of the ideas and know-how by those who actually need to advance that knowledge or agenda.

Q. Is there any initiative or programme that’s coming up in the near future that people should look out for as part of the chair in African Philanthropy?

A. There’s a whole road map and agenda that is currently being implemented. Some of the key highlights though include the creation of the African Philanthropy Network whose chair is Dr Bhekinkosi Moyo, our own Executive Director. He is a world renowned scholar of philanthropy who has delivered on the subject in various forums including UN General Assembly Special Sessions on the SDGs.

We do have some highlights in terms of events but there are also some very profound processes underway to establish the chair which are not only confined to Africa because we have an African Philanthropy agenda that extends to the global community of philanthropy.

About McBride Nkhalamba
McBride Nkhalamba, Head of Programmes, Southern Africa Trust, Midrand, South Africa. McBride has 20 years of development management and public policy experience in executive leadership and specialist capacity. He is currently Head of Programmes at the Southern Africa Trust and has previously worked with organisations such as ActionAid International, the European Union, and the Atlantic Council. He has lectured in public policy and administration, MPA programme (University of Bolton, UK) at the Malawi Institute of Management where he was also responsible for strategy and business development.
McBride has an applied understanding of established practices in public governance and multilateral diplomacy with specific focus on regional integration and the state in the global economy. He holds a BSc in Demography and Psychology UNIMA (Malawi), an MA in International Relations and a Master of Public Administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University (USA). A Fulbright Scholar McBride is currently a Doctoral Candidate (Public Governance) with the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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