African Philanthropy: Advancing towards Social Justice

Traditional philanthropy characteristically distances itself from addressing structural limitations in inequality and poverty.  It is philanthropy shy about radically confronting existing structural inequalities but more inclined to charity and service provision. Echoes from the Second Biennial Assembly of the African Grantmakers Network held in Johannesburg from 29 October to 2 November 2012 revealed a growing trend – the dire need to address the root causes of Africa’s problems through social justice. The drums for philanthropy to enhance social change by creating platforms that support social, economic and political justice across the continent resounded dominantly in all the conference sessions. Philanthropy for social justice calls for strategies that facilitate social change through advocacy for the disenfranchised in the society. The assembly participants called on African Grantmakers to enhance equity within and without the continent by transforming both internal and external policy making processes to those that promote equity. Proposals included developing a shared vision for Africa’s economic and political agenda, transforming relationships between citizens and the state by enhancing citizen participation and public accountability and raising Africa’s voice in contributing to the development of the international agenda. Acknowledging the resource strain that comes with social justice philanthropy, emphases were laid on the need to encourage corporate, wealthy/high net worth individual to contribute to the grantmaking community. In her remarks Her Excellency Graça Michel challenged African Grantmakers to mobilize more resources from Africans and engage communities in identifying problems and generating solutions. Regional Grantmakers in the continent were called upon to dedicate funds to transformational change. Although there has been an increase in grantmaking for social justice at the global level, the growth of social justice philanthropy in East Africa has been relatively slow.  Even so, there have been discussions among local Grantmakers on the importance of funding programmes that address the root causes of social, economic and political problems in East Africa. A major development of such discussions was witnessed during the 3rd East Africa Grantmakers Conference held in Entebbe Uganda from 25th – 27th July 2012. Themed ‘’Philanthropy, Leadership and Governance in East Africa’’, participants engaged on various strategies to address governance shortfalls and contribute to equitable and sustainable development in the region. Deliberations from this conference laid emphasis on the importance of enhancing a bottom-up approach to development by promoting citizen participation and supporting institutional change that is responsive to the needs of the people. These developments indicate a growing trend in social justice philanthropy at both continental and regional levels. “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” Martin Luther King, Jr Catherine Mwendwa, EAAG References Aileen Shaw, 2002, Social Justice Philanthropy: an Overview, Newyork, Synergos institute, August 5th 2002 Annual East Africa Grantmakers Conference, http://www.eaag.org/index.php/events/grantmakers-conference/3rd-east-africa-grantmakers-conference More on African Grantmakers Network and Conference proceeding http://www.africangrantmakersnetwork.org/

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