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Concepts and Framework for Teaching, Research and Outreach of African Philanthropy

by Alan Fowler

Apr 30, 2016

A paper with concise texts and extensive footnotes is not amenable to an integrating condensation or précis as an Executive Summary. Therefore, to assist readers with little time, this page offers a synopsis of key areas of substance and their sectional location allowing more directed access for those with specific interests.

The pages which follow establish the scholarly foundation of new academic chair with practical intentions that a business school is meant to provide. The Chair is devoted to a topic – African Philanthropy, not philanthropy in Africa - which is seriously under-researched, poorly or prejudicially understood as 'traditional' and anti-modern as well as developmentally under-appreciated. These conditions are overlain with external vocabularies and meanings which are not adequately emanating from the continent's history and lived experience of deeply rooted pro-social behaviour of giving or 'gifting'. Hence, missing in today's discourse is a deep understanding of African Philanthropy in its own right with what it can tell us about better ways to tackle the continents many problems by building on its inherent potentials. Establishing such an 'operational' narrative is one purpose of the joint initiative between the Wits Business School and the Southern Africa trust; a story which must have relevance and traction in the lives of Africa's people.

A theoretical framework in section two introduces a complexity view of social, cultural economic, political, linguistic and other processes leading to a contemporary African landscape where gifting is expressed through three institutionalised gifting practices: endogenous, exogenous and blended. An ontological approach explains this long pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial trajectory, concentrating on a period starting around the beginning of this millennium. Readers most interested in this era could start looking at Section five. When doing so, please note that section three draws attention in to the power of words. To be ontologically coherent, new narratives often require suitable nomenclatures, in this case a choice of 'gifting' rather than 'giving' or of 'philanthropy' – understood as a practice within gifting - which is a poorly translatable term and concept in an African languages and moral philosophy of ubuntu. From a communications point of view, the choice for a distinctive terminology will continually call for justification and explanation until recognition of its narrative value for comprehending Africa's story in its own right.

Since the start of the millennium, practices of gifting by and on the continent are undergoing rapid changes inviting excitement at their innovation and concern about their effects in, for example, areas of public policy, rights, universal access to public services and democratic governance. Discussing these and similar issues can be found in section six which is followed by a detailed review of local resource mobilization from private sources for public benefit derived from within the continent and its Diaspora. Across the three institutional types, uncertain but indicative estimates of their monetary value are in the order of US$ 55 – 85 billion per annum. Including the non-monetary and non-material value of gifting could take this (much) higher. Counting foreign aid, both official and private, would add the monetary by almost the same amount again.1 A planned concentration on local resource mobilisation in African gifting will contribute to reducing dependency on an aid system not known for its reliability.

The concluding section seven switches focus to various issues of embedding the Chair of African philanthropy at the Wits Business School. Many ideas and content are inspired by participants at a pan- African inaugural seminar held in March 2016. This event has helped to create a 10 year profile and value preposition for the Chair at WBS in terms, for example, of the latter's Vision 2022, with guiding principles of excellence, a research-intensive agenda, a deeper business reading of African countries, transformation and more. With a tentative implementation schedule, these and other contributions must translate into a viable business model, a task which lies ahead.




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