Thursday, 12 April 2012

Where art thou oh African Philanthropist?

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35 NIV)

Last Night as I skimmed through the OECD Credit Reporting System (CRS), I noticed that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation actually features on the dataset as a key donor reporting well over $2.9 billion worth of foreign aid to developing nations and $0.75 billion worth of commitments to Sub-Sahara Africa between 2009 and 2010. Well it is common knowledge that private entities and foundations financed by the world’s rich and renowned philanthropists today contribute a significant proportion of development assistance channelled to countries commonly referred to in aid parlance as the Highly Indebted Poor Countries. The list doesn’t end with the Gates foundation, a lot more other generous rich men and women have extended their generosity and committed significant proportions of their wealth to supporting organizations and initiatives that work to reduce human suffering, restore human dignity, alleviate and mitigate the effects of poverty.

But that’s not the reason I woke up early this morning to do this post: certainly not. I came across this list of the richest men and women of the African continent published by the Forbes magazine and I was honestly flabbergasted! Men, don’t we have rich people down here! I mean men and women who have earned their wealth out of legitimate mercantile ventures (I elect to down play the plethora of others, probably way richer than the ones on Forbes, whose wealth is of dubious cradles). I mean the likes of Aliko Dangote ($11.2 billion), Nigeria; Mohamed Al Amoudi ($12.5 billion), Ethiopia/Saudi; Mike Adenuga ($4.3 billion), Nigeria; Nassef and Naquib Sawiri (over $8.2 billion), Egypt; Patrice Motsepe ($2.7 billion), South Africa Miloud Chaabi ($2.9 billion), Morocco and so on. These guys are billionaires in their own right, making it in this continent of perceived squalor, ineptitude and misery.

The question that lurked in my mind as I read through this list was why Africa’s richest have failed the philanthropy test? Why haven’t these honourable men of the African soil found it prudent and befitting to share a small steady proportion of this share of the African cake with the desperate folks engulfed in poverty and deprivation in Sub Sahara? How comes other men and women elsewhere have felt the pinch, the pain and suffering of fellow Africans a lot more than we do us African Moguls, billionaires? How comes it doesn’t disturb you honourable vanguards of my decent that people miles away from the villages of Pampaida, N/Nigera; Malehice, Mozambique; Marsabit, Kenya; Mai Chaka, Ethiopia; Candele, Angola, come all the way to feed our starving folks, treat our sickling children, clothe our women and shelter our families. How shameful?

Do a small quick math – take Aliko Dangote for example, ranked 76th richest being on earth, with an empire worth over $11 billion USD in 2011. This is four times the total GDP of the republic of Burundi, 30% that of Kenya, twice Nigeria’s 2011 federal budget and 55 times Nigeria’s health sector budget in the same year. Dangote’s pre-tax turnover in 2010 was well over $100 million dollars: just slightly about 8% of this profit margin is equivalent to the $0.8 billion required for the Nigeria Federal government to beat the target of committing at least 15% of total government revenue for health sector spending set in Abuja by Africa heads of states in 2000. Likewise Mohamed Al Amoudi is ranked 63rd wealthiest man (also richest black man). His business empire worth $12.5 billion in 2011 was 15% total GDP of the five East African countries and equivalent to South Sudan’s average GDP between 2008 and 2010.  
I am by no means claiming even vaguely that there haven’t been philanthropic gestures from noble individuals around Africa; NO. In fact there have been anecdotes of evidence showing significant contributions (albeit irregular, unpredictable and devoid of focus) to health, education and cultural sectors, most visibly sport. Dangote through the Dangote Foundation has reportedly supported education and health service delivery systems and provided humanitarian assistance to victims of natural disasters and post-election and religious crises in Nigeria, Al Amoudi likewise has supported breast cancer research and HIV/AIDS interventions, notably the International Conference on AIDS and STIs (ICASA). However, I am posing these questions because I thought well to do Africans could logically identify a lot more with the poverty in Africa than anyone else; and I thought as well that they could be a lot more challenged and incentivised to give than those from other continents. I believe what is forthcoming from Africa’s tycoons is far too little considering the proportion of Africa’s resources that sustains their wealth. And whenever they give, that which is forthcoming has invariably been unpredictable, not properly organised and never harmonised with state structures and systems that factor in aid in country resource baskets and expenditures.  

Free market privileges notwithstanding, I think it has reached the point where the same manner of activism and a commensurate measure of pressure that has been put on rich countries and capitalists to support poverty and developmental initiatives needs to assume the direction of Africa’s home grown tycoons. Their wealth reflects continued consumption of significant chunks of Africa’s resources and they must thus do the honourable thing ... start GIVING: giving a little more, transparently and regularly. Motsepe’s mines are obviously depleting a considerable amount of South Africa’s mineral deposits; Dangote’s cement empire is definitely exhausting West Africa’s rich limestone fields, Al Amoudi’s oil ventures sure have their share of destruction on Africa’s environment and natural resources, Adenuga’s telecom business has so far cashed in on West Africa’s purchasing population and Uhuru Kenyatta is of course holding on to humongous tracks of land that multitudes of Kenyans could do with.  If anything, isn’t that what legacy is all about, playing a part in making the world a better place for all of us.  

The big names in global philanthropy, the likes of J.D Rockefeller Jnr, Bill Gates, George Soros and other consistent foundations that continue to deliver funding for development projects in Africa like the Levi Strauss, Hewllet, Ford foundations have well structured and organized modalities for delivering portions of their wealth as development assistance. This is well aligned with state structures and could be streamlined to compliment and supplement government budgets and developmental objectives. That is obviously lacking in Africa; the few who have attempted to institutionalise their giving are unpredictable, irregular and lack the transparency that is requisite for aid effectiveness. Most of the resource flows from Africa’s moguls have been expended in financing sport and culture related ventures and pursuing political expediency.  Al Amoudi for example has handsomely sponsored the Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations (CECAFA), Dangote hugely funding former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo’s political campaigns as well as incumbent Goodluck Jonathan who even awarded him one of Nigeria’s highest ranks of nobility; Mike Adenuga’s Glocom has equally funded music competitions across West Africa.  Otherwise, a lot of news about these billionaires is normally about their luxurious indulgences that ridicule the continent. The $45 million bombardier XRS private jet that Dangote got himself on his 53rd birthday in 2011 for example was equivalent to 80% of all aid disbursements for education sector spending in South Sudan in the same year.

My message to the Forbes 10 African Billionaires to watch - messrs:  Manu Chandaria (Kenya), Phuthuma Nhleko (South Africa), Naushad Merali (Kenya), Tokyo Sexwale (South Africa), Harold Pupkewitz (Namibia), Said Salim Bakhresa (Tanzania), Gilbert Chagoury (Nigeria), Antonio Oladeinde Fernandez (Nigeria), Kase Lawal (Nigeria) and Isabel Dos Santos (Angola) - when your pockets eventually cross the billionaire mark, remember that as much as the liberal market economy today rewards and privileges hard working individuals with huge perks (in the form of profits and comfort) ... it doesn’t preclude and relieve the rest of us African folk from our share of the continents wealth. Find it within you as a matter of obligation and morality to share the spoil. And while you are at it, care to be more predictable and transparent. Foreign philanthropy has succeed somewhat and so must African philanthropy.



  1. Exploitation, plunder and underhand activities played some role in the rise of these African 'billionaire empires' ..its time they started giving back..@Okwaroh how i wish they read this brilliant piece and act on the call.

  2. I agree 101% with your observations. Africa is full of rich successful men, philanthropy shouldn't be limited to billionaires, we must have a few hundred multi millionaires in this continent! Focus in their philanthropy in key sectors like agriculture, health and education will go a long way in alleviating poverty in Africa. Long may Africa and Africans live and prosper, all of us.

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  4. @Dalle, I know at least one of them will get wind of this; we must keep making this noise until we see action. @Kenei, I agree with you, the basket must include all the other millionaires - this isn't too much to ask for (in fact you should see how some of them ascended to millionnairedom - from very humble beginnings). The RANTS must continue, this is our continent, Ours for the fixing

  5. Interesting thoughts...
    Maybe they know the African governments better than Western philanthropist, so they deliberately don't give to states as it might just land in some minister's pocket instead of in the state budget?

  6. @Mareike, true African governments provide their share of disincentives to prospective philanthropists. However, my argument is that they must start giving a lot more and consistently (this must not be through mainstream state structures - but aligned to state expenditure priorities). the failures of government cannot be an excuse!

  7. Brilliant! You have such a great idea and I am quite certain this marks be the beginning of development of a policy write up on the same.
    We have come so far in Africa.But I beg to alight from your bus whose destiny is towards philanthropy hill- a very beautiful place often with hidden and untrustworthy social and political agendas.Some of these wel known foundations e.g. the Rockefeller Foundation,Carnegie, Bill and Melinda Gates and the likes usually have hidden influencing agenda.Though owned by the moguls, they undeniably serve the American foreign policy.We all know the underlying problem with the U.S is that ideology drives almost everything! even to the point of life threatening humanitarian crises. Such U.S foundations have led in philanthropy and shown the way to the world like the way we now associate Rockefeller with the cure for Malaria but I believe we need an alternative channel for the African moguls social responsibility to their mother continent.
    Foundations often work with governments and civil society-and the NGO's!.We do not need more NGO's in Africa. We are in a global village where markets matter.What the African millionaires need are advisers, think-tanks on Development like you and others who will help them see the benefit of not just 'giving' for the sake, but developing enterprise solutions to Africa's poverty.I mean creation of a global market for our tangible and intangible and hugely untapped potential of our people. These rich millionaires investment in affordable health care, sanitation and education for the lowest person in the African society without underlying forced ideological agendas on the people will go a long way in transforming our continent. Notwithstanding the need for regional blockades of development in Africa being removed to facilitate trade within the region.

  8. first,allow me to commend you on the observations made. great fascinating facts. You hit the nail on the head .These are the VERY ideas and quite practical concepts we need as Africa to develop.

  9. I will go with 'anonymous april 15 2012' lets face it Africa needs more and more rich men and just a wee bit of philanthripy. Whereas we might allude to the fact that Bill Gates through his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation makes handsome donations to the African causes, does he really give back to the African continent and its people. Lets do a little fact checker.

    #1 Africa provides a very small percentage of Microsoft's global profits. #2 Microsoft is primary a Softwares business so no African Earth or African Village could, nor a single stone turned in the creation of a single Microsoft product.

    Question? Does Microsoft or Bill Gates owe Africa, a dime or a thing?
    In humble opinion he does not his is just a generous man constantly chooses to identify with causes that are further apart from his world like heaven and earth.

    The fact of the matter is that men and women in Africa's rich list have created empires in murky and feeble micro-economic and political environments.

    What we need in Africa is not philanthropy but rather and evening out of the economic opportunities to all. The rule and equity of law is much more paramount than a few billionaires sharing some paltry fortunes with the poor.

    Lets face Africa's men in the rich list create Value; Merali creates value in the Manfucturing busines, he turns raw materials (non of which could have been useful to the Africa people) into things like Iron sheets, he employees a sizable number of employees, he contributes massively to the tax pool, Wale Adenoga creates value in the telecommunications business, he Glo provides competition to foreign telecommunication companies in Africa.

    Lets no chide our big men for giving more. Lets chide ourselves for allowing our governments to continually enfeeble our capacities. Let us pinch ourselves for not being vigilant enough, for allowing corruption to incapacitate the ease of dong business in Africa.
    And that my dear friends is how we shall escape the cycle of poverty.