Key Lessons From The 2017 African Philanthropy Forum Conference


The African Philanthropy Forum (APF) held its 2017 Annual Conference in Lagos, Nigeria, on 30th and 31st October, focusing on the theme: African Philanthropy in a Changing Global Context. APF is a pan-African membership organisation that aims to build a community of African philanthropists and social investors committed to fostering inclusive and sustainable development throughout the continent. At this year’s conference, over 100 participants actively engaged in the two-day event. Philanthropists and representatives from leading indigenous and global philanthropies including the Higherlife Foundation, TY Danjuma Foundation, African Women’s Development Fund, Oando Foundation, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation participated in panels and plenary sessions to frame a narrative around African giving.  Here are five key lessons from the conference.

Philanthropy Is Not Charity 

During her opening speech, the Chairman of the African Philanthropy Forum and Co-Founder of Higherlife Foundation, Tsitsi Masiyiwa, emphasized the key difference between charity and philanthropy. According to Masiyiwa, charity is typically a quick fix for a social problem, while philanthropy takes on a strategic and more long-term approach. She further noted that to be a philanthropist is a calling, because it involves investing not just your money, but also your time in order to provide the necessary structure for effective and strategic giving.

Collaboration Is Essential 

This was a widely addressed topic, with various speakers urging African philanthropists, governments and development agencies to collaborate with each other in order to achieve their goals. Working together across different sectors can help provide the scale required to solve some of the continent’s pressing challenges. George Kronnisayn Werner, the Liberian Minister of Education, specifically emphasized the importance of partnerships between philanthropic organisations and government. He noted philanthropy’s role in catalysing change in Liberia and how the Liberian government has helped to create an enabling environment for the social sector.

Focus On Youth

Youth unemployment and migration is a challenge that faces a lot of African countries. Philanthropists can do more in addressing some of the underlying causes, such as access to education and job opportunities. Innocent Chukwuma, West African Representative of Ford Foundation, called for increased youth programming that is demand-driven and suitable for building skills relevant to the changing global economy and workforce. Ultimately, African countries need a targeted approach that solves the problems at their root causes.

Work With Grassroots Organisations

The need for nonprofits and philanthropists to involve grassroots organisations in their work was another key lesson. Local organisations are good collaborators as they can help to ensure that development programmes reach the intended beneficiaries. Also, since they are typically closer to target communities, they have a better understanding of the people and can help create the required awareness and advocacy to drive change.

Measure Your Impact 

The topic of monitoring and evaluation in philanthropy was discussed in one of the conference breakout sessions, focusing on how philanthropists measure the impact of their work. This is an area that many organisations struggle with and the difficulty lies in knowing what data to track and measure. The discussion, moderated by the Founder of Philanthropy Circuit, Katja Schiller Nwator, focused on how to get relevant qualitative and quantitative data about programmes and what type of tools needed to be applied in order for organisations to track progress and impact. 

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