19 June 2019

Africa: The Century of the African Philanthropists Is Here, but Wise Choices Must Be Made

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analysis

African philanthropists have the capital, influence, local knowledge and moral authority to address pressing challenges that face the continent, but we need to rethink the relationship between government, the private sector, and philanthropy.

Philanthropy is a product of a successful business in the private sector. It is inspired by a desire to give back to society, and for the very wealthy the remit is almost global. In this form it is more deliberate, often goes beyond the scale of kin and the local community, and seeks to make an impact that is visible and measurable. This requires structure, and philanthropy at this scale is organised through foundations. This distinguishes philanthropy from charity both in scale and in the targeted recipients.

Governments need to work collaboratively with philanthropists, civil society and the private sector in innovative ways to make more impact on the continent. Colonial capitalism made newly-independent African governments ambivalent about capitalism and meant there was no capitalist middle class in Black Africa. There was more interest in wealth redistribution than wealth creation. The high net worth individuals in Africa who have been profiled in Forbes emerged mostly over the last two decades. That their rise coincided with the era...

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