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Influence of Cultures on African Philanthropy

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Philanthropy is not new in Africa but there is not nearly enough record and systematic documentation of individual or institutional philanthropy within the African context to show for it. There are examples (Rosemary & Mutunkei , 2016) and numerous accounts of Africans coming together either to give individually or collectively to support development and projects in their communities and sometimes beyond.

Rosemary Mutunkei, asserts that philanthropy is deep-rooted in the Kenyan culture and expressed in the “spirit of harambee” in which customarily, communities come together to contribute to develop local projects and if and where necessary celebrate. In Southern Africa the “ubuntu” concept is a family value that encourages giving back to society, which means “I am because you are: my success is intricately linked to yours.” Thus, the African version of philanthropy is not only about the rich providing large sums of money for the poor, but the community supporting each other through cooperative giving.

Philanthropy, defined loosely as the love for humankind is a tool to improve the wellbeing of humans. It is also a means through which solutions to societal problems identified are resolved. There are growing efforts across the continent to broaden the meaning of the term philanthropy, as the current usage is perceived as foreign or a form of handout from Europe.

The various forms of what formal philanthropy would include regular donations to non-profit organisations and institutionalised giving through Trusts and Foundations, while informal philanthropy would be individual financial support to the extended family; giving cash directly to poor individuals: giving through religious structures and community initiatives like savings club. It is argued that overlooking these forms of localised giving and social capital creation serve to privilege the more widely recognised formal philanthropies, while relegating certain communities as recipients of “help” rather than active agents of development.

There is a lot to show in the literature for describing, “Philanthropic behavior” in Africa but there is very little discussion on the spirit and practice of philanthropy in Africa. Specifically, philanthropy as a deeply rooted cultural phenomenon that happens within and across social classes. This can partly be attributed to the lack of suitable systems to promote, monitor and document philanthropic activities in the continent and among Black populations in general. This also makes it difficult to build on such existing community and cultural structures of philanthropy.

The purpose of this study is to contribute to the knowledge and understanding of African philanthropy as practiced by Africans on the continent by comparing philanthropic behaviors, and patterns of different nationalities, cultures and households. The key guiding question will be: what is the practice and motivation for philanthropic giving in Africa by locals and how can this knowledge and practice be used to develop and promote local philanthropy.

African philanthropy must be defined and supported in a manner that is both culturally accepted and sustainable, and not necessarily looked at under the lens of European examples. The impression that philanthropic giving is done only by the very rich and high worth individuals to less resourced communities or individuals has to change.

Other forms of local philanthropic giving needs appreciation, recognition and promotion on the continent. The study will collect data on from national and private sources of charitable from credited and recognized institutions like the statistical services as well through surveys, qualitative interviews and focus groups. Analysis of the data using will be done to estimate the probability of individual and group giving and donations to charities.

What is PhilanthropyInherent in the definition of philanthropy, is the individual or groups desire to promote the wellbeing of the less privileged and to address issues of poverty, suffering and sometimes inequality in society.( Catherine Zimmer ). Erroneously, philanthropy is often associated with the rich in our societies, ignoring and excluding the various generous acts of individuals who give in small but significant ways to help others.

Support provided to the nuclear family is not philanthropy as this is a primary responsibility, nor is it the exchange of goods and services for economic reasons. An act is considered philanthropic when the giving is toward people outside the nuclear family and without any apparent expectation of economic return. (Bradford Smith et all)

Three main approaches to philanthropy evident in mainstream literature. Thereare Charity Philanthropy, Science Philanthropy and Venture or Entrepreneurial Philanthropy. (Anheier, Helmut K. & Leat, Diana – 2013) Charity or service approach to philanthropy originates from religion or moral practice and includes donations to congregations, the governing bodies of faith communities, and media ministries.

In this, an individual considers it an obligation for religious purposes to donate to the church or religious affiliation or to the less privileged. Substantial amounts of time is also devoted to a cause that the individual perceives as enhancing the life of others or the community they belong to. Charitable philanthropy although very similar is not to be confused with “Charity” which refers to the help given directly to someone to solve a current and immediate need and does not necessarily have to be financial. In Charity philanthropy, the aim is to improve the long-term situation of others through charitable giving or financial donation (Dietlin, 2010).

Science Philanthropy, makes available funding towards scientific researches that plays an important role in the promotion, progress and advancing common good.[endnoteRef:8] It focuses on addressing the causes and not just the symptoms of, social problems. In this, wealthy and powerful individuals and families allocate large sums of money to fund promising new ideas or researches that could quickly move a field of study such as science, mathematics or psychology ahead. Science philanthropy plays a key role in promoting scientific and social progress and advancing the common good of humanity

Venture or entrepreneurial philanthropy is considered as an investment tool and a viable method to create social wealth i.e bringing an entrepreneurial approach to philanthropy. It involves finding new and better ways for mobilizing and deploying resources to make the world a better place. It is not just about the support one gives to a charity working on a social issue, but one that requires finding new and better ways for mobilizing and deploying resources.

African Philanthropy African philanthropy has been described as the effort undertaken by Africans to support Africans on the continent, be it materially, financially or developmentally.(McBride Nkhalamba)

It is also described as “surrendering oneself to the service of humanity…” (Moyo and Ramsamy, 2014). African communities working together to support each other become resilient and are able to overcome the challenges associated with their own environmental development. It is further claimed that in the typical African setting one’s neighbour cannot go “without” when others are in the position to offer any form of help.

Communal giving and sharing for communal gain is at the heart of African philanthropy. Jacob Mati [footnoteRef:2]in his review on “Philanthropy in Contemporary Africa” The culture of giving in Africa has many complexities the form of practice and motivation. Within the sphere of practice is identified the formal, informal or a hybrid. Modes of operation.

The formal act of philanthropy refers to r strategic giving by individuals or institutions to enhance their operations and. Formal or Institutionalized form of philanthropy comes through establishments and philanthropic foundations that create long-term opportunities for sustainable giving. Philanthropic initiatives are designed to carefully fit and integrate with an organizations overall mission, goals, and values. They are intended to benefit both the company and society by enhancing the individual’s well-being and create a sense of solidarity with those in need. This form of philanthropic giving is a foreign phenomenon especially in sub Saharan Africa.

There is a way in which the continued reliance on monies from “abroad” has consistently weakened the continents’ ability to set their own priorities and policies for development. There is also the lack of clear understanding of the concept within Africa as there is a distinction between African philanthropy and philanthropy practiced in other parts of the world. In Africa, community and social values shape philanthropy and neither tied to times of boom or prosperity nor is it supported by formal foundations, but by individuals, groups and communities.

The culture of giving, especially to those in need in the traditional African community is however, an old and very common practice. People everywhere in Africa have developed their own informal mechanisms to support and help each other either through personal or pooled resources (Copeland-Carson 2005).

It is common practice in many communities to find friends and family come together to contribute and give either in any way possible to support each other. This distinct feature of community-based philanthropy of social giving in Africa should begin to form the framework that defines African philanthropy. Such a definition takes into consideration the many and varied ways people give to others throughout the African society.

It also allows the recognition of charitable activities of Africans within and outside of their communities and one that does not suggest that philanthropism is the domain of only foundations and rich philanthropists. When one expands the concept to include giving money, goods, and time, Africans will emerge as having a strong, substantial philanthropic tradition.

A fundamental question in philanthropic research is “what motivates individuals to give money, time and other resources to others?” While it is generally accepted that people feel good when they can help others, there are philanthropic acts that have different motives that goes beyond the “feel-good” factor.

The motivation is embedded in mutuality, solidarity and the inherent human philosophies and sometimes on the individual’s circumstances, Most philanthropists are however motivated by the need to “make a difference”, “give back”, and “contribute to society. The following reflections on philanthropic motivations is based on a survey research amongst high and ultra-high net worth individuals conducted by:

Awareness of the Unavoidable Need For Giving

  • The importance of the status associated with being philanthropic and/or having one’s own Foundation
  • The self-actualisation factor of feeling “good inside”
  • Responding to a significant life event that sparks interest in a particular cause
  • The desire to maintain explicit family values
  • The search for a greater purpose in life (related to life stage)

A Religious Motivation

The desire to contribute to creating a stable society24. Research problem There is much written in the literature about the philanthropic work of Non-Governmental and Civil Society Organisations in Africa, but the same cannot be said of private and individual donors desire to improve the life of citizens and who give to support the work of these organisations. Available studies look at philanthropy as an important contributor to sustainable development and as a means of achieving economic emancipation.

Especially in Africa and not necessarily related to traditional African giving and its relevance to the African. Is philanthropy cultural within the African context and how does family values influence or motivate one’s philanthropic behavior?· How can existing philanthropic practice and behavior be nurtured in and passed on from generation to generation?· How can new knowledge of African philanthropic practice and behavior enhance the way of life in African communities.

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