Why foundations in Africa need to work together
(Being remarks on the meeting of African foundations: virtual session organized by the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation on Monday, April 11, 2022.)
Thank you very much for this kind invitation and I wish to pay special tribute to the (Chief) Obafemi Awolowo Foundation for undertaking this long overdue task. [Initiative] to summon us all. I would also like to join my fellow commentators in congratulating the Foundation on reaching the milestone of 30 years. Even those of us who live far at the southern tip of our continent are inspired by the life lessons given to us by Chief Awolowo, as an example of courage, dedication, drive and self-reliance. In our view, these are the foundations on which we can build a better Africa.
I must, at the outset, declare that I know the Awolowo Foundation in that our patron, President Thabo Mbeki, is the proud recipient of the prestigious Awolowo Leadership Award, and that our Foundation has benefited from the generosity of the two generals [TY] Dajumba Foundation and Tony Elumelu Foundation. It is indeed a privilege to be among these Foundations of these exceptional Africans and I hope that this will not be the last meeting among us.
Unlike our Western and Asian counterparts, Foundations in Africa and the developing world cannot help but play a practical role in overcoming the scourges of conflict, poverty, burden of disease, underdevelopment and the continued marginalization of women, among others, if not directly by themselves. shine a spotlight on these challenges and burn them into the consciousness of those who wield political and economic power in our respective countries. The African Foundation, like others in the developing world, must respond to the following points in particular:
- the crisis of lack of intellectual leadership on our continent. The continent yearns for a new breed of change makers, who inherently understand the problems facing our continent and are ready to craft solutions, while creating new knowledge. To this end, the TM Foundation and UNISA have established the Thabo Mbeki African School for Public and International Affairs (the TM School) which the foundations present here today can use as a common platform to respond to this crisis of lack of enlightened leadership.
- the current crisis of poor governance in our continent requires sober, patriotic and third-party voices, which are not interested in challenging public power, but seek to train, guide and cajole the current and future leaders of our continent to be agents of positive change for Africa’s Development. The mobilizing power and political “neutrality” of the Foundations must be used for this purpose. Foundations should be able to take inspiration from the painstaking work of the African Union and turn it into concrete programs.
- neither the public nor the private sector are capable of economically absorbing the millions of young Africans and transforming them from a swelling youth ready to defend the neo-Arab springs into a divided youth, through programs of entrepreneurship, new skills, harnessing Africa’s vast resources and ultimately form the third layer of socio-economic drivers that will be a catalyst for Africa’s development. We must all rally behind the Tony Elumelu Foundation to scale its entrepreneurship agenda to have the impact needed in Africa.
- the largely stagnant and sometimes declining level of education necessitates the interventions of our Foundations, especially in the age of advanced technology. The ability of the Foundation to harness financial resources and expertise should be used to help young Africans to leapfrog other nations, especially on new technologies and related advancements, while integrating them into principles and values important, such as self-reliance and nation-building.
- our countries are afflicted with a huge disease burden and many of our governments are unable to cope, and urgent intervention is needed from time to time, the foundations in this space can play a vital role in the health of our nations, no only in the fight against diseases, but through advocacy and the development of health infrastructures.
- there is a dearth of philanthropy on our continent, the tendency is to use it simply as a matter of business promotion and charity. The problems of illiteracy, poverty and underdevelopment on our continent are not matters of charity, but of justice. The philanthropic foundations among us must lead the way in changing this narrative so that African foundations are less dependent on foreign donors who may seek to influence our thinking and reshape our agenda.
Therefore, as Foundations, we are able to provide:
- a safe space to address issues of good governance and political influence,
- a non-threatening entity to foster social progress and revive economic growth,
- a necessary catalyst to challenge sterile thinking about politics, economics and social progress.
In the final analysis, for Foundations in Africa to have the desired impact and impact, they:
- need to dialogue with each other to collectively address the challenges facing our Continent,
- help build people-to-people relationships on our continent, especially where Nigeria and South African foundations can be at the forefront in this regard,
- use their collective and individual strengths to design and advocate programs to meet the development needs of our respective countries, and
- to support and complement each other in our respectful efforts drawing inspiration from Ms. Mbeki’s initiative on African Women in Dialogue, which examines the common challenges facing women in our continent and seeks a common agenda and a common commitment to meet these challenges.
What remains a challenge for all of us is to find ways to address sustainability challenges, assess impact and understand our reach of influence.
In the end, our problem is that we have adopted a position where we no longer recognize each other, we meet less and less, we talk less to each other, by dint of not meeting, talking to each other and act together, our problems multiply and ours remains a dark continent.
As a collective, we have the strength to complement each other, intersect our work, and collaborate in diverse efforts to ensure greater impact.
For us, the work to meet, talk and act starts now.
Thank you so much.
Boqwana is CEO of the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.