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If you want to go quickly, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together. ~ African proverb



Four billion people in the world earn $1,500 a year on average while around 100 million people earn more than $20,000 a year. It is generally accepted that the gap between rich and poor has widened, as has the range and intensity of the problems and challenges experienced by poor people globally. Africa is the only region of the world where poverty has increased in the past 25 years. Half of the continent’s population of more than a billion people live on less than $1.25 per day. All but six of the 38 countries recognized by the IMF as ‘heavily indebted poor countries’ (i.e. countries that are unable to manage their debt burden) are in Africa. Besides widespread problems caused by war, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the declining value of trade in non-mineral primary products, anti-corruption group Transparency International estimates the cost of corruption in Africa at $148bn annually, more than a quarter of the continent's entire GDP. It is obvious that the continent is unable to provide all the resources it needs to turn the tide of poverty.

Until quite recently, the world held to the conventional wisdom that the State was the primary provider of resources to solve society’s problems. For decades, although something of a poisoned chalice given the indebtedness and corruption that ensued, billions of dollars were loaned to African governments for development. The rationale was that the State in these economies provided the bulk of social services, was often the biggest employer, and had the capacity to undertake large, transformative capital projects. It didn’t work. The poor got poorer. Increasingly towards the end of the 20th century, as people in rich countries realized the extent of the need, massive amounts of charitable aid flowed to the continent via donor agencies, churches, governments, philanthropic organizations and individuals. Aid helped, but the poor got poorer.

The last thirty years saw the global economy open up, and the world experienced huge changes in the political landscape, technology and climate. Dormant giants, the so-called BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) began to take their place among the world’s fastest growing economies. In Africa, the number of poor doubled. On all indices, Sub-Saharan Africa is now the poorest region in the world has the poorest infrastructure, the worst education and the lowest life expectancy. To stem this tide of poverty, let alone turning it, will not only require massive inflows of resources and money. It will require a sea-change in thinking about how best to source and deploy these resources.

 Often, along with the aid, models of implementation, monitoring and evaluation and even staff were exported to Africa. There were few attempts to source indigenous solutions, to grow local philanthropy or to recognize it where it existed. Consequently, in order to secure grants, beneficiary organizations have had to adopt foreign ways of thinking about giving, foreign strategies of implementation and foreign ways of measuring success. Ironically, it seems the aid sector mirrors the economic inequity of the world.

But appearances are deceptive. There is growing evidence even at an individual level, that ordinary Africans, regardless of class, are pre-disposed to charitable giving (indeed studies have shown that the poor give a disproportionately high percentage of their resources of time and money to other poor people). The 2010 Barclays Culture of Philanthropy report describes South Africans as the second most generous people in the world, after Americans. In a sample survey for the State of Giving project, a study of social giving in South Africa in 2003 by the Centre for Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, 54% of the respondents said they gave money to charitable causes and 45% said they also gave money directly to the poor. 17% had volunteered time in the month prior to the survey. Tellingly, 68% of the respondents gave ‘feelings of human solidarity’ as their reason for the charitable act. There is no doubt that communities and individuals in countries poorer than South Africa are no less charitable.

Furthermore, African philanthropy, philanthropy of Africa, has always existed. It exists in language in the concept of ubuntu –“a person is a person because he/she is connected to other people”. “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu” as they say in Zulu (is a word describing an understanding of collective self-reliance).  This Ubuntu It exists in the myriad indigenous systems of community support including religious giving, caring for other individuals, mutual aid, savings clubs, stokvels, co-operatives, burial societies, voluntarism, individual giving, etc. It also exists in the corporate social investment programmes of black-owned businesses and the family foundations of super-rich industrialist like Tokyo Sexwale, Cyril Ramaphosa and Patrice Motsepe (South Africa), Mo Ibrahim (Sudan & UK), Strive Masiyiwa (Zimbabwe), whose Capernaum Trust support 28 000 orphans, and Nigerians Aliko Dangote and Theophilus Danjuma to name a few. Patrice Motsepe, estimated by Forbes to be worth $2.6 5billion,joined Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge and announced in January 2013 that he would be giving half the income generated by his families assets to charitable causes.

African Philanthropy also exists in the millions of dollars remitted to families and villages from Western and Asian economies by African expatriates (the value is now understood to exceed all foreign direct investment in Africa). It also exists in the new collective formations that are being grown to advocate for an indigenous approach to philanthropy, such as the African Grantmakers’ Network (AGN), African Women’s Development Fund (all Africa), Akiba Uhaki Foundation (East Africa), Foundation for Civil Society (Tanzania), Kenya Community Development Foundation, Southern Africa Trust (South Africa), TrustAfrica (Senegal), Urgent Action Fund – Africa (Kenya) and Synergos to name a few.

What is missing however, is the more structured forms of Youth or ‘Next Generation philanthropy’. Given the youth bulge on the African continent, there exists an opportunity to engage the next generation on peer-peer giving and innovative philanthropy that seeks to make Africa more self-sustainable over the next 50 years. This has been successfully done in other continents e.g. in North America, where in the USA there is a prevalent type of youth philanthropy called  ‘youth grant making’ wheregroupsof youth pool resources together and make (usually very small) grants to needy organizations and communities. There are more than 250 of them in the USA. The latest trend has been for many of these to band together to better coordinate their efforts and to improve their ability to advocate for their causes. NEXUS AFRICA seeks to inspire similar youth philanthropy on the African continent and inspire other ordinary citizens to give more and engage in more formal philanthropy to develop the African continent. A Nexus Africa endowment fund will be set up to manage funding and distribute to worthy causes in Africa.
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