By Ogo Chukwudi
Reflecting on the 4th African Philanthropy Conference held recently in Dakar, the resonating theme, African philanthropy at an inflection point focusing on people, power, practice and policy, lingers prominently in my thoughts. This year’s conference felt markedly different, suggesting a palpable shift in the broader landscape of African Philanthropy.
For one, the Transformative Philanthropy session left an indelible mark on me. Rooted in the principles of co-creation, inclusivity, and accountability, it underscored the need for a transformative approach to African philanthropy. The speakers and panellists emphasised the importance of shifting power to the communities being served and the need to build long-term relationships with communities. Hakima Abbas of the Black Feminist Fund, for instance, reiterated the need for participatory approaches, empowering communities to lead their development and providing sustainable solutions. It is a poignant reminder that communities should be active participants and architects of their futures, not just beneficiaries.
The Community Philanthropy session was another highlight. The session delved into the intricacies of community-led initiatives, challenging the funding paradigms. Speakers reframed the narrative around communities, moving from a deficit view to one that recognises their inherent strengths. Rose Diop of Tostan International cited compelling examples of how Tostan’s programs have worked to empower women and girls through education and training. This has led to decreased child marriage and female genital mutilation. These stories underscore the potency of community-driven change and the need to trust and invest in local efforts. A central takeaway from the session was the importance of trust, dignity, and breaking the cycle of dependency. An African proverb shared in one of the discussions captured the sentiment aptly: “In the abundance of water, the fool is thirsty.” It was more than just a saying; it was a call to action for African nations to harness their abundant resources for meaningful change.
Progressing through the conference, the panel on Philanthropy and Systems Change provided keen insights into the mechanics of instigating system shifts. The “growing tree analogy” introduced during this session beautifully summarised the essence of systems change: It is not just about planting a seed but understanding the ecosystem in which it thrives. Emphasis was placed on fostering community-driven, technology-enhanced, and locally relevant solutions.
In the closing session, Coumba Toure, TrustAfrica’s Board Chair, brought the rich tapestry of African values to the fore. She spotlighted the inherent ‘Ubuntu’- the shared spirit of humanity and interconnectedness inherent in African societies. In today’s fragmented world, the message of Úbuntu’ stands as a beacon, urging us to recognize and uplift the “invincible giants” of our communities, the pivotal role of women and the girl child, and other marginalized groups in sculpting the future.
Key takeaways from the transformative conference include:
- A clarion call for a paradigm shift: It is time for funders to shift from top-down models and embrace more participatory and empowering approaches that value local knowledge and autonomy.
- The strength of synergy: To achieve meaningful impact, philanthropic actors must pool resources, share knowledge, and coordinate strategies to amplify philanthropic efforts.
- The need for long-term commitment: Lasting change demands sustained funding; this means providing unrestricted funding that allows communities to dictate the best use of these resources.
The 4th African Philanthropy Conference was not just an event but a watershed moment, signalling the need for philanthropy to evolve to meet Africa’s unique challenges. The conference underscored how philanthropy can be a catalyst for sustainable, equitable development.
As we reflect on these lessons and look ahead, one question remains: As the African Philanthropy landscape transforms, how will you contribute to its renaissance? The time for action is now – for uplifting communities across the African continent.