Last week on Friday, we ( launched our 2023 signature initiative-AfricaGiving ( It has been a long and challenging but exciting journey to get here and there is still a long journey ahead. AfricaGiving is many things to different people, on the one hand, it is about our culture, and what defines us as a people. Bheki Moyo and Tade Aina in their seminal edited book summarised our existence elegantly as comprising of ‘giving to help and helping to give.’ We go a step further and suggest that giving is our essence-we give to live and live to give. Perhaps this is best encapsulated in the norms of Ubuntu- I am because you are. African Giving speaks of our interdependence on each other- perhaps affirming the English saying that no man/woman is an island. Our lives and our destinies are interconnected. We are known as a people of warmth, love, solidarity, and resilience. We have carried the world before, and we still do. For indeed there are many more resources that leave our shores than those that flow in. We have it in our stride to soldier with the little that we share amongst ourselves.

However, there is an unsettling in our bellies. A rumbling of sorts. That we are also good enough. We cannot live on the crumbs from the Master’s table. Since the turn of the century, we have seen a new and reinvigorated passion not only to change Africa but the world. We do not only export products we export culture, Afrobeats, Amapiano, but African storytelling in movies also made here in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Nollywood. Our sons and daughters are filling stadiums in far-off lands. We may just have arrived on the scene, but we are shaking the world. Our entrepreneurs are changing the African business landscape in profound ways. We now talk of a list of Africa’s own billionaires, from Patrice Motsepe, Strive Masiyiwa, Aliko Dangote and many others… We are building strong African brands. It is perhaps Africa’s time.

There are urgent challenges as well. The number of the poor is not slowing down. It is growing. Inequality - the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. Our success is not widely shared. There are more children living below the poverty datum line, our future- the youth- are dying trying to cross the treacherous seas to make a living in places where they remain unwanted. Nineteenth-century diseases like Cholera are making an unwelcome return to our cities. We risk leaving so many behind in the effort to increase Africa’s prominence on the global stage.

What are we to do? Could this be the time to complain about how our governments are failing us? Or how the international community has let us down? Have we not done enough complaining already? What if now is the moment for us to pull together in solidarity as a people? What if we seek to reconfigure the limitations of our civilisation by challenging received wisdom which has placed a premium on accumulation and very little on giving? What if we considered a new paradigm of shared responsibility- it is not up to the government alone, but it is our responsibility to create conditions of inclusive societies. Can we revisit that moment in history when success was not only about profit but included the extent to which we cared for each other? Is there a way of measuring success- beyond the usual net worth towards a more comprehensive understanding of what we do with our time, skills, and resources to help lift others out of poverty? A little kindness goes a long way. Over the years we have listened to titans in industry, politics, and other spheres of the economy and without fail they always refer to that moment when there was a helping hand at the beginning of their journey.

The world requires more kindness than before. Today we celebrate sprinklings of kindness. The few amongst us whom we celebrated through the awarding of the inaugural AfricaGiving awards have turned logic on its head when it comes to money. Instead of keeping it, they have been giving it away. They have not only given money, but they have also been in the trenches fighting and believing for a better world. We applaud their love for humanity. We are humbled by their energy and commitment to a better world.

Africa Giving is a restless and impatient movement for transformation. We seek to contribute towards a new way of thinking- we recognize that no one is coming to fund our development. We are responsible for our communities- where we came from, where we are and where we are going. AfricaGiving has made it easy for all of us. In the past, many would ask how they could support the different change makers spread across the continent? Many of you asked, ‘How do I trust that my funds will go to a genuine and capable organisation to address causes dear to me?’ We now have an answer. Over the course of 2023, we have sat down with close to one hundred organisations, carried out compliance tests, and challenged them to talk about their role in society and their impact. These brave organisations from all over the continent are listed on and are ready to receive your support. A little kindness goes a long way.

That is only the beginning. We are hoping to convince you dear reader to choose one organisation that you will partner with throughout 2024 with a gift as low as ZAR200/USD10 per month. You will be making a significant difference in helping sustain the activities of these organisations. Once you embark on the giving journey via AfricaGiving we can assure you of 100% transparency on the organisations you are supporting and regular reports on how your donations are making a difference.

The journey has just begun. 

From Ephemeral to Perennial Pools: Negotiating Shifts in African Philanthropy Practice


In a previous article[1], I used the analogy of ephemeral pools of water that develop during the rainy season to describe a particular characteristic of African philanthropy. In that analogy, I argued that African philanthropy usually tends to emerge as an ad-hoc response to a societal challenge be it a funeral, spread of a disease, drought, or a natural disaster like a flood. In this sense, one may not see offices or directions to an African philanthropy institution within a community. It emerges just like the actual ephemeral pools which appear during the rainy seasons and quickly disappears when the wet season is over. In many instances, it reacts to an event except maybe for some facets like the communal granary which anticipates that there may be food-insecure households within the community.

The fact that African philanthropy exists is perhaps no longer a contested subject. Scholars such as Bhekinkosi Moyo[2], Halima Mohammed[3], Tade Akin Aina[4], Jacob Mwati[5] and many others have demonstrated through case studies and explanations of culture that we are indeed a people with a concern for each other and give towards important causes. Reports published by Trust Africa (2013) and the most recent study by EPIC Africa have also demonstrated the same. Africans, regardless of their economic stations, are giving to various causes. There are various studies that have helped to put a dent on the stereotypes of Africa being a continent of beggars or beneficiaries of aid. Even seemingly unrelated studies on subjects such as Illicit Financial Flows have made it clear that Africa is a net creditor to the world.

What Do We Know About African Philanthropy?

The emerging body of knowledge on African philanthropy has served to challenge analogies of ‘entitlement to aid’ or ‘dependency syndrome’ that have been deployed to unfairly describe Africans. The central argument is that Africans have over the years shaped their own agency in response to the various crises that they have had to confront. These include but are not limited to mobilising resources to support their own liberation from colonial rule, community-led initiatives in response to devastating droughts, support during some of the major health crises- such as during the HIV/AIDS pandemic period and more recently in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are several African communities/villages that are yet to interact with external agents of development be it an NGO, a private foundation or at times even a government agency. How then have they been surviving? They have formed several defence mechanisms which include mutual giving associations, savings groups, labour pools etc. These have played a huge role in cohering a social order albeit without resolving underlying structural causes of philanthropy. It can also be equally argued that formalised philanthropy has not been effective in dealing with structural causes of poverty.

However, Africa, despite having its forms of philanthropy remains poor and a recipient of significant amounts of external support. It receives the largest share of Official Development Aid (ODA)[6] although it also has the largest outflows of resources through illicit financial flows[7]. How do we leverage on what exists to shift from ephemerality to perennial pools of philanthropy? The practice of Philanthropy in other regions entails the establishment of strategic reserves of funds known as endowments which ensure the perpetual existence of a foundation or a Trust. We treat these endowments and strategic reserves as constituting perennial pools. They allow for long-term strategic thinking. Some of these funds have been deployed to proactively respond to emerging challenges or even to support futuristic work which is highly necessary. In the African case, our community-led or even HNWI-driven initiatives no matter how brave, are not yet resilient and have not achieved long-term sustainability. The good news is we have a strong foundation to build upon and it has the following:

1. the existing evidence that Africans have a proclivity towards giving,

2. our cultures are mostly driven by values of Ubuntu (I am because you are)-

3. our existence is not individual but communal,

4. there is a growing number of what is now commonly referred to as Africa’s middle class with a disposable income and capacity to give.

5. what is now commonly referred to as crowdfunding has deep African roots. We have always gathered small amounts    from members within the community to accomplish great causes.

However, there is still a lot that is not yet in place. Lessons learnt from other regions where perennial pools of philanthropy exist have demonstrated the need for a conducive operating environment, aligning giving to an individual’s self-interest/benefit and a recognizable and well-governed non-profit/charity sector that can deploy received resources to achieve positive change. In our context, we face the following challenges:

   Policy Inconsistencies

Many governments and regional economic communities (RECS) are yet to embrace local giving as a pillar of development.  There are some countries that have put in place incentives at policy level to encourage giving but they are a minority. There is evidence to suggest that current policymaking thinking may produce policies that inhibit the growth of the sector (read our various state of philanthropy reports here - The new NGO laws being passed by many African governments will make it difficult for CSOs to attract funds from external sources.

  ~Increasing Dependency on External Support

Ironically the philanthropy sector in Africa is still dependent for most of its budget on support from Western support. The reliance on support from others is understandable. The continent has been a victim of looting and plunder of her own resources during and after the colonial period. The growth of the middle class is a very recent phenomenon. One of the most respected observers of philanthropy trends, Gerry Salole, explained this reliance through the analogy of a scaffold that is used to complete a building. External resources in this instance are an important scaffold to help the sector grow its own house (resources) which happens over time. As already mentioned, there is evidence of increased giving by locals towards non-family and non-religious causes.

  ~ Inadequate Connection between Givers and Civil Society Groups

Many organisations working in the civil society space have over the years been organized with the logic of securing funding from institutional funders. They have not adequately invested in telling their impact stories to a broader audience outside of those who fund them. They have not created an ecosystem for individual giving. On the other hand, would-be givers know very little about organisations working on various issues that they may have an interest in. In many instances, NGOs operating across the continent are seen as ‘islands of privilege’. However, increasingly several NGOs are facing funding challenges that threaten their existence. Some have managed to remake themselves, but they attract mostly project-based funding which does not support institutional stability and growth.

  ~ Limited use of technology in driving giving

As already stated, most NGOs have not yet adequately invested in fundraising from individuals. Existing technology-driven platforms to attract funding have not been widely used.

  ~ Limited collaboration among philanthropy actors 

Current collaboration (if not polite speak for competition) is mostly around hosting of dialogues, conferences, and research collaboration. African philanthropists rarely seek each to work on a big cause. However, the COVID-19 perhaps served as an important reminder about the value of working together. There is an African proverb which states; ‘if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far go together’. In its most authentic form African philanthropy is a culmination of peer-to-peer solidarity. We are yet to replicate this practice amongst organisations and in mobilizing resources for big causes. African philanthropy focused organisations need to come together in responses to the challenges of formalizing and growing perennial pools.

Promoting the Shift from Ephemerality

There is an urgent need for interventions in creating the shift from ephemerality towards perennial pools of philanthropy. The envisaged shift aligns with the calls for shifting the power in philanthropy. A demonstration of African unity and resolve by mobilizing her own resources to chart her own path is the missing part of the puzzle. Those who control purse strings define the path that Africans should take. There are several urgent measures that we need to take. As the saying goes it takes a village to raise a child. This child called African Philanthropy will not grow alone but will require an entire village to help it grow. We need the following:

  ~ Concerted Advocacy for Philanthropy Friendly Laws across Africa

Studies carried out by SIVIO Institute (, CAPSI and others have demonstrated a worrying trend- the penchant amongst governments to legislate against philanthropy instead of nurturing the sector. The African philanthropy sector is yet to adequately develop an advocacy-based response to these bad laws. In fact, the connection between policy and its role in growing philanthropy has rarely been made.

  ~ Messaging on the Importance and Vulnerability of the CSO Sector Across Africa

As earlier stated, the civic space is seen as a site of privilege in Africa where insiders earn in foreign currency and seem to have more stability than their counterparts in other sectors. The vulnerabilities within the civic space have not been widely shared. There is a limited connection/attribution between what civil society organisations do and the broader benefits that accrue from their work such as ensuring there is peace, reduction of incidence of gender-based violence, increased recognition of the rights of the girl child, improved rural livelihood, knowledge about rights etc. It takes budgets to fight for these good causes and yet many do not understand the challenges of fundraising.

  ~ Leveraging Technology to advance individual giving.

Evidence from elsewhere has demonstrated the importance of leveraging technology to enhance individual giving. There is a suite of technology-based platforms that are required to make this a reality. First, there is the need to communicate the importance of aligning giving to important causes. In this instance, it is vital to tap into social media on-built capabilities to spread the message around the need to give and to profile the good work of NGOs. Equally, financial technology (fintech) has spread across the continent, but it is yet to be adequately integrated into the philanthropy space.


[2] Philanthropy in Africa

[3] Reframing African Philanthropy

[4] Giving to Help, Helping to Give

[5] Philanthropy in contemporary Africa

[6] Where does aid go?

[7] New trends in illicit financial flows from Africa

Ephemeral Philanthropy – A Discussion Note

When it rains small pools of water are formed. These pools can last a day, a week, a month or a couple of months.  They are largely temporary or seasonal and are mostly referred to as ephemeral pools. Life in the form of plants, little creatures exist in these pools, some visible and some invisible. A number of studies have since been carried out to understand the different life forms that emerge which coexist on these pools. Similarly, when it rains (metaphorically) in communities- for instance when unexpected life events happen such as death, sudden weather-related disasters which include floods, cyclones, droughts, communities establish temporary mechanisms of responses. These have been mostly studied under the rubric of coping mechanisms or community solidarity. I am borrowing from various fields (especially those steeped in Biology)  in proposing that we consider these as ephemeral pools of philanthropy as the glue that keeps societies together. Communities and the authority structures they establish are by nature the obvious features, but the intricate relationships of solidarity/welfare can be hidden from the outsider as they are usually seasonal and are triggered by codes that are at times embedded either in tradition or cultural practices. These include for instance, the different forms of asset and labour pooling initiatives that emerge during the farming seasons and are non-existent during the dry seasons or community mechanisms of pooling together resources (food, transport and money) during a funeral. In the absence of a funeral you will never know of a community initiative called ‘Zibutheni’ (let’s gather) popular across most of the low income suburbs of Bulawayo.

Why does this matter? We have noticed similar patterns where solidarity congeals during life events and disruptions such as natural disasters, epidemics, and pandemics. Zimbabwe has in the past three years gone through a cholera epidemic, floods and displacement caused by cyclone Idai and like the rest of the world is also confronted with COVID-19. These have served to test not only state capacity but also the extent of solidarity within communities.  During the COVID-19 period for instance we noted a number of ad hoc citizens led initiatives focused on expanding access to health services and improving access to food for underprivileged sections of the community.

There is a real risk amongst those studying community philanthropy to conflate / confuse these forms of solidarity with community foundations[1]. In the process our methodologies of studying these have mostly focused on formal organisations, their internal processes and roles in communities. Is it possible that we have missed out on a large swathe of community based and led initiatives that are pooling together resources, yet have no office, no website or set of reports but are at the core of community survival. These relationships of solidarity are probably related to what Robert Putnam has called social capital[2].  Solidarity, where it occurs is characterized and influenced by bonds of trust, familiarity, mutuality and literally what many have referred to as Ubuntu (I am because you are). It also has undertones of coercion- once in a community one cannot opt out of providing support during a funeral or where there is need for a labour pool. These practices are eventually coded through cultural norms and traditions.

There are many in rural communities and even urban areas who have not directly engaged with what one can call mainstream philanthropy. The generosity of the rich. But these same households or individuals have at some point received support from family and friends. Indeed Moyo (2010) has explained philanthropy as part of a life cycle from birth to death where one is always either a beneficiary or source of support for others. In 2005, Maphosa and Fowler wrote about the “Poor Philanthropist” referring to acts of kindness/solidarity carried out by ordinary actions. That set of writings contributed to debunking myths about philanthropy being the domain of the rich.

Furthermore, there is reason to believe that with increased urbanization these norms of solidarity have been replicated within urban settings. COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to test this assertion. Whilst visible and at times hierarchical they operate more or less in the same ways as the ephemeral pools of philanthropy discussed above. Religion also plays a significant  role. Many of those who have engaged in adhoc giving or creation of ephemeral pools cite their Christian and Muslim backgrounds as reasons behind their involvement. Perhaps the most visible formations in the COVID-19 period are initiatives like Solidarity Trust Zimbabwe, IAM4Bulawayo Fighting COVID-19 ( and City of Progress Trust were established purely in response to the threat of Covid-19. These kinds of responses are ad hoc in nature. There is no clear-cut long term strategy of giving or existence beyond the lifespan of the disaster. Their intervention is crucial. They are in most instances the first responders in disaster. In the case of Zimbabwe they have played a significant role in mobilising financial and in-kind donations to help resuscitate a health delivery sector that was already under severe constraints prior to the outbreak of the pandemic. Furthermore similar ephemeral pools have emerged in response to livelihood challenges that have been worsened by COVID-19. The main actors behind the drive for collecting food and feeding the vulnerable are coincidental. The majority of them have no background in running feeding kitchens. They saw a need and decided to do something about it without having to write a strategy and no formal institution backing them but they just mobilised their own resources and reached out to others within and outside the community. For instance Caroline and Sandra of Epworth established their feeding kitchen after noticing that a number of very young children were literally scavenging for food at a dumpsite. What started as an initiative to feed around 250 children quickly grew to feed approximately 1,000 children and the elderly daily before the local authorities shut it down.

The donor community and local authorities have struggled to support these initiatives. The  response of donors has been to deploy the usual due diligence which normally leads to formalisation and long term thinking despite the immediate agenda that these entities respond to. When Solidarity Trust Zimbabwe (SOTZIM) approached donors it was asked to produce; (i)three-year strategy document, (ii) financial policy, (ii) procurement policy, (iii) a set of audited financial statements and (iv) and the organogram with a full set of job descriptions. In another instance, another donor requested for a secretariat to be established within SOTZIM despite the fact that this was not a part of the trust’s plans. These suggestions / requirements made by donors on how an ephemeral form of philanthropy has to organise / structure itself may contribute towards inadvertently creating an entity that the actors had no intention of doing so. On the other hand local authorities have insisted on certain conditions being met before the community kitchens/feeding schemes can operate. In Epworth the Local Board asked Caroline and Sandra, founders of Our Children Our Hope Foundation, to secure registration as a Private Voluntary Organisation (PVO) through the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. It can take up to 36 months for one to secure this form of registration. According to Mswelantho (2018), the registration of an organisation as a PVO, must receive approval from the Office of the President, can take over two years for approval and would require at least US$10,000 in the form of a non-refundable application fee. In the end Caroline and Sandra registered their initiative as a Trust, which was a quicker and less expensive process, it has also taken away the focus of the ladies involved in the initiative away from helping their community.  In addition, their registration as a Trust comes with it certain legal requirements that they must now ensure they meet.

Is there a way of creating alignment between due process and ensuring timeous response? To date the preoccupations of donors and authorities have been focused on institutionalisation and to a lesser extent sustainability. Both sites of power have been pre-occupied with questions of formalisation such as; has the entity registered with the relevant authorities (although they are fully aware of the attendant bottlenecks) and compliance with elaborate governance mechanisms. A question that looms large in desperate situations such as a pandemic is whether flexibility could be created to allow for these ephemeral pools to operate without having adequately fulfilled the local authorities’ and donors’ conditions. When it comes to sustainability- the main question raised is whether the initiative has an endowment or resources. Sustainability has been narrowly framed as consisting of securing financial resources. The discussions on sustainability of philanthropy within communities should probably focus more on social relations, the quality of informal and formal institutions in terms, the extent to which these are owned and driven by the communities. In many instances, communities have actually not been in contact with a philanthropy foundation from outside. Literature and debates in the sector need to explore further how philanthropy can ensure that it is not encumbered by bureaucratic fiat and is responsive to needs on the ground.

Of Exposed Pregnant Stomachs Images / Depictions of Philanthropy in 21st Century

One of the challenges that I have always faced in my close to 15 years working in the Philanthropy or Development space has been the use of images that appropriately capture the essence of our work be it in Agriculture, Reproductive Health or in softer issues such as governance reforms. I think Philanthropy has a bigger challenge- how do you capture giving- surely you just can’t take a photograph of dollars or euros, but you must tell the story of where the giving is going and inadvertently you end up having to use images of beneficiaries. Is there a way of doing this without provoking resentment on the part of the beneficiaries or other social observers?One of the most consistent complaints that have been raised against INGOs that raise money in the Global North for overseas development has been their depiction of starving/malnourished young children. To be fair we have made some progress on this- although the recent Ebola scourge sort of brought back the need for vivid imagery to make the case for resources. Given the urgency of the crisis very few complained.

I have just been to the European Foundation Council’s Annual General Assembly in Milan and there I saw a series of very beautifully captured and laid murals of pregnant women from Malawi exhibited as a story of giving into Africa. I suppose you are thinking of them dressed in those lovely brightly coloured ‘chitenje’ cloth – no their pregnant stomachs are exposed as part of a story on giving to counter HIV/AIDS. Honestly! Part of me is Malawian so I know how poverty is wreaking havoc on the social fabric but also how conservative their culture is. The women in these photographs could be my aunt or sister-in-law or just a friend and I sat thinking would she raise/lower her dress for me to see her pregnant stomach- absolutely no!  During Kamuzu Banda’s reign women were not allowed to wear even trousers! The situation has definitely changed since those dark days, but it remains a predominantly conservative but still very culturally vibrant society. You should see them celebrate with those lovely bright colours and a sense of being dignified even in poverty.  I am not sure if the women on those photographs were informed that their bodies will be part of a public display. Let’s assume that they did because I can’t imagine that somebody just came and asked them to stand in the semi-nude exposing their pregnant stomachs without asking them to sign something.

I think the murals tell a good story of how philanthropy is helping make a change in a donor dependent country like many of our African countries. However, I am not sure if those images could be displayed in Malawi publicly without causing offense. Ultimately one of Philanthropy’s challenge is always trying to help without negatively affecting the dignity and cultural norms of the beneficiaries. One of the easy refrains is that we are doing our best in an otherwise difficult situation- that is true but there should be some consideration on the values of the benefitting communities- otherwise we create hurt and pain. Concerns about dignity and culture are universal but their application has to be context specific. There is need amongst many of us to understand the landscape of values that define a group of people. In the same vein to ensure that our philanthropy does not do harm- this principle has mostly been used when condemning aid to undemocratic countries- but it also applies/speaks to questions of social contexts and how we interact with communities. Do we leave them feeling much better about themselves?

There is no doubt that this organization/initiative is doing a lot of good work in Malawi, but did they need the photographs of exposed pregnant stomachs to tell their HIV/AIDS? I am not sure. We are all sadly competing to come up with the most interesting sound bites and in the process such things do happen. I am sure there is another way of communicating. Sure, lets tell the story(ies) of our good work but remember context does matter. In this sense context entails a deep understanding of culture, values and norms. We should prioritize the dignity of those whom we support otherwise we alienate otherwise we find ourselves alienated despite our good philanthropy intentions.

Also Published by Alliance Magazine