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Afrilanthropy: why African philanthropy needs its own name

The widely held understanding of philanthropy in Africa recognizes and presupposes the flow of resources, effort and generosity largely in one direction: from outside of Africa into Africa. For centuries that notion has remained mostly unchanged. Africa has the reputation of being a foreign aid dependent continent, which is in reality far from the truth.

There is a growing body of evidence that Africa’s wealth is increasing and high net worth Africans are sprouting across the continent at a remarkable rate. The 2014 Africa Wealth Report indicates that the number of high-net-worth individuals in Africa grew by over 150% between 2000 and 2013, more than double the global rate. This has resulted in the emergence of foundations and charities set up by Africans like Aliko Dangote, Mo Ibrahim, Tony Elumelu, Folorunsho Alakija and Graça Machel to name a few. 

African philanthropy needs its own name. Here are some reasons why:

1. It is not a new concept: practices like Harambees, Tontines and Susu to mobilize funding within community support groups have existed across the continent for a long time.

2. It is growing fast. One need look at indicators such as the growth in remittances returned to the continent from Africans in the diaspora, which according to the World Bank exceeded Overseas Development Assistance by three to four times in 2013 alone.

3. It is difficult to capture.

4. It is different from the ‘mainstream’ as defined by the rest of the world. By virtue of our proximity to and familiarity with the challenges in Africa we inherently have a different and unique perspective on their origins and also on what the solutions should be.

Afrilanthropy’s motivations are internal and more personal: Western philanthropy has been about helping people ‘over there.’ Afrilanthropy is about helping people “right here.”

Read more: Afrilanthropy: Why African philanthropy needs its own name,  by Elizabeth Elango Bintliff.