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Among the many forces2 which contributed to the political liberalization of African nations, civil society formations played a pivotal role in dismantling authoritarian one-party rule and opening public space for wider political participation.3 However, democratic gains achieved during the 1990s have slowly begun to erode as conflict has resurfaced across the continent and many hybrid4 democratic regimes have adopted repressive tactics to maintain political power. The increasing regulation of the civil society sector indicates a return to autocratic practices and a backlash against democratization. Yet, despite this trend several countries have also adopted enabling frameworks for civil society, recognizing the contribution of this sector to national development. The existence of these simultaneous trends invites a re-examination of the current state of African civil society and its relationship to democratic consolidation.
Africa is struggling to come to grips with the concept of power-sharing. Along with the return of militry intervention and the abuse of religion, power-sharing arrangements seem to be growing in popularity.
When the trumpeter blew his horn on Saturday afternoon welcoming President Barack Obana to Ghana, he responded rhytmically by saying: "I like this." He went on to sing his own governance melody very well.
In almost all African countries, political liberation was supported extensively by people’s movements, faith‐based formations and various constellations of civil society. There was a close link between civil society and political society. From North to South, West to East, civil societies—organized and informal—played critical roles in the dismantling of colonialism, apartheid and other forms of domination. This was not only true of Africa—it was also true of other parts of the world. In Eastern and Central Europe, civil society played a major role in the fall of communist states and the subsequent wave of democratization that followed.
Reflecting on African philanthropy as a homogeneous topic is like trying to climb more than one mountain at the same time. Impossible. First, the formal philanthropy sector in Africa, though relatively small, is pretty diverse. It's a landscape of private, corporate and family foundations, public trusts, corporate social investment units, community foundations and intermediary agencies.
In January 2009, when my colleague Kumi Naidoo went on a 21-day hunger strike in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe, who were starving because of the whims of their political leadership, I wanted to lend my support. As the head of a foundation that focuses internationally on human rights and peace and security, I arranged for a small grant to the coalition organizing these efforts, but I wanted to do more. This led to hosting the visit of Nomboniso Gasa to the US, as Briggs Bomba describes in his article. As he goes on to remark, it stimulated both of us to begin thinking about the relative lack of donor interest in civil society in Zimbabwe.
Following a decade of economic collapse and political stalemate, the formation of the unity government in Zimbabwe in February 2009 offered an opportunity to rebuild a civil society sector decimated by years of political and economic crises and to set the country on the path to a successful democratic transformation. Time was crucial in seizing the opportunity. A collaborative effort seemed to offer the best framework for a timely response, especially for funders new to Zimbabwe – hence the decision to create the Zimbabwe Alliance.
TrustAfrica, a young foundation with an ambitious agenda, has embraced social media to forge links and foster dialogue across the continent and among the Diaspora. Along the way it has learned a bit about what these tools can and cannot achieve, but some answers are still proving elusive.
The overriding ice that tugged at me as I read these illuminating articles and interviews is that efforts by donors to improve democracy and strengthen civil society are the litmus
In spite of over a half century of interventions and waves of “reforms,” higher education in Africa today consists of institutions, systems, and practices that lack distinct values and goals, or a mission and vision connecting them to the major challenges of their local and global contexts. What is needed in African higher education is true transformation, which will involve practical and epistemological ruptures with previous ways of doing things and a reconstruction of structures, relations, cultures, and institutions. Of particular importance are initiatives that will ensure gender equity, changes in the organization and process of knowledge production, and a reenvisioning of universities’ funding sources and mechanisms.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy. Giving gifts, grants and good works.
This article attempts to answer three related questions. The first is whether new African philanthropic foundations such as TrustAfrica and the AfricanWomen’s Development Fund (AWDF) have the clout needed to raisemoney fromthe North and use it on their own terms to set their own development agenda. Put differently, can these institutions engage on equal terms with their northern partners? The second relates to dependency, which has characterized relations between the non-profit sector and its donors, particularly fromthe North.
One of the plenary sessions at the forthcoming Council on Foundations Philanthropy Summit will focus on the big issues facing the future of philanthropy, with delegates voting to select their own ‘hot’ topics. Alliance asked a group of young philanthropic sector leaders fromdifferent parts of the world to cast their votes in advance and outline the key issues for philanthropy in their country or region. It also asked them for their views on partnership and leadership – two of the Summit’s main themes. Finally, it asked them whether problems of the magnitude of poverty and climate change are just too big for philanthropy to tackle.
TrustAfrica, a new foundation promising African solutions to African problems, is getting ready for launch. It has recently developed a bilingual website, begun recruiting staff, and leased o÷ce space for its headquarters in Dakar, Senegal. An o÷cial launch on 6 June will be followed by workshops on sustainable peace and religious pluralism this autumn.
Pourquoi des gens font-ils des dons? Je pense que deux conditions essentielles incitent à la philanthropie: un souci moral d’aider et l’opportunité de créer une différence. La première de ces deux conditions a toujours existé en Afrique. Ses cultures et ses sociétés ont des traditions exaltantes de partage et de solidarité. Dans les familles, les communautés, les groupes ethniques, ce sont ces «traditions de partage» qui souvent soutiennent l’esprit collectif et la survie. Cet esprit a été renforcé par les migrations, forcées et volontaires, lors des 40 années troubles des indépendances de l’Afrique qui n’ont cessé de prouver que «l’autre» est réellement «l’un d’entre nous.»
Why do people give to others? I believe there are two primary conditions that impel philanthropy: a moral concern to help and the opportunity to make a difference. The first of these has always been present in Africa. Its cultures and societies have inspiring traditions of sharing and solidarity. Within families, communities, ethnic groups and countries, it is these ‘sharing traditions’ that often sustain the collective spirit and survival. This spirit has been strengthened and extended by the migrations, forced and voluntary, of Africa’s last 40 years of turbulent independence, which have shown repeatedly that the ‘other’ is really ‘one of us’.
Pour les participants à la récente réunion de l’Initiative Spéciale sur l’Afrique de la Fondation Ford, le thème de la « Citoyenneté et de l’Identité » s’est révélé passionnant de manière, parfois, imprévisible. La plupart des intervenants sont arrivés avec l’intention d’avoir des échanges sur les problèmes pratiques rencontrés par les Africains qui souhaitent affirmer les identités qu’ils se sont choisis et leurs droits de citoyens.
For participants at the recent meeting of the Ford Foundation’s Special Initiative on Africa, the topic of ‘Citizenship and Identity’ turned out to be challenging in unforeseen ways. Most people arrived with the intention of having a discussion about the practical problems Africans face in asserting their chosen identities and citizen’s rights.
A standard but cruel joke in Africa is that for every African civil war there are a hundred peace negotiations. In Somalia, Sudan, Liberia, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, for example, peace negotiations have typically been as protracted and serial as the civil wars.