Ten years ago on the 6th of June 2006 we opened our doors for business in Dakar to serve the continent of Africa. It is important to note that TrustAfrica was conceived, in a series of groundbreaking meetings from 2002 to 2005 that brought together hundreds of dynamic individuals and organizations that promote democracy, human rights, peace and security, and sustainable development. These processes entailed the incubation of what was then the Special Initiative for Africa (SIA) at Ford Foundation until it was officially weaned off as an autonomous foundation operating out of Dakar.
From inception we were very clear about our mission; to strengthen civil society in order to achieve the twin goals of democracy and development. We coined this as addressing some of the continent’s most pressing challenges. Ours was also an attempt to promote initiatives led by Africans, informed by an objective appreciation of the continent’s social, economic and political context. We hoped that our work would contribute towards re-affirming confidence in the agency of Africans in seeking solutions to the continent’s most endemic problems. We placed our bet on civil society in its broader manifestation, and saw it as a space where deficits in our democracies and development could be addressed. In this introductory article to the #TA10 blog series, I will focus on some of our initial thinking and also what became of those early initiatives. There are five areas that have been particularly exciting for us as an organisation; achieving the mission of enhancing citizen based agency for democracy and development, ensuring that we are credible landscape interpreters, understanding our partners (civil society), the supply-chain (philanthropy) and also reflecting more on how we have worked and what we could have done differently. We were very clear from the beginning that there was no silver bullet to resolving Africa’s intractable challenges. Instead, we would need to invest in catalytic initiatives that have a ripple effect whose impact will be felt well beyond our initial efforts. In this post, I will discuss in more detail how we set out to be a part of the ecosystem working towards Africa’s transformation.