The growth and development of Africa philanthropy support organizations and their contribution to the evolution of the field were the topics of discussion at the AGAG 2016 Retreat. Moderator Yvonne Moore guided the discussion with Evans Okinyi of the East Africa Association of Grantmakers (EAAG), Karen Sai of the Africa Philanthropy Network (APN) and Niamani Mutima of the Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group (AGAG).
In her opening remarks, Mutima gave a recap of the meeting held on Wednesday with twelve representatives from 11 philanthropy support organizations to explore their interest in collaborating. This meeting marked the launch of the Africa Philanthropy Support Organizations (APSO) Initiative as a follow-up to conversations held at the APN meeting in Tanzania in 2015. The APSO Initiative meeting also included representatives of other funder networks that do not focus exclusively on Africa but have members active in Africa such as the International Human Rights Funders Group (IHRFG) and Funders Concerned About AIDS (FCAA).
Panelists Karen Sia of the Africa Philanthropy Network (APN) and Evans Okinyi of the East Africa Association of Grantmakers (EAAG) joined AGAG’s Niamani Mutima in acquainting funders with the opportunities and potential impact of developing closer working relationships between their respective networks and members.They also shared the challenges of working to encourage collaboration among funders in a field where funder interests and priorities can change quickly.
Mutima described how AGAG emerged from the South Africa Grantmakers’ Affinity Group that was active in the 1990s. Established in 2000, AGAG has a Continent-wide focus for its three primary activities – convening and connecting funders and curating information.
Although the majority of its members are based in the U. S. AGAG is open to any funder worldwide with a formal mechanism for making grants and includes endowed foundations and grantmaking public charities. AGAG works to unpack the mythology surrounding Africa and to focus philanthropic interest not only on specific countries but also African regions. Mutima cited AGAG’s nimbleness, willingness to take risks, and publication of key reports as examples of its success over the years. She reminded the audience that even though the African orientation of AGAG members is an overarching commonality, members have different regional and topical interests. She noted that business models from the business sector continue to encroach on philanthropy, drawing funders into the world of metrics, data and impact studies, but that we can never forget that our core value is to focus on people.
Okinyi described how the East Africa Association of Grantmakers coalesced in 2001-2002 with representatives from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda coming together as a learning group. They formed a networking platform to share and learn from each other and were formalized in 2003 with support from the Ford Foundation. The five founding organizations have since grown to include 36 organizations and have expanded to include members in Rwanda. To further broaden its scope the group recently voted to change its name to the East Africa Philanthropy Network.
EAAG targets grantmakers, non-grantmakers, community funders and others that share a common goal of using philanthropy to support and sustain community needs in East Africa. EAAG’s four primary activities are: knowledge management; encouraging charitable giving; influencing; and building alliances. Decentralized, nationally-based philanthropy forums feed their work into EAAG.
Cultural norms and operating environments across its membership differ significantly and EAAG seeks ways to harmonize these environments and balance philanthropy across the region to encourage local giving. Okinyi said the future indeed looks very promising. Progressive individuals and organizations are being recognized with awards, annual conferences are being held, an increasing number of high-net-worth individuals are being introduced to philanthropic opportunities, and technology is being used to better mobilize resources. One key issue that has not yet been addressed adequately is succession planning to nurture the future leaders of African philanthropy, he said
Originally launched in 2009 as the African Grantmakers Network, the Africa Philanthropy Network (APN) is now registered as an autonomous organization in Ghana with a broadened mandate and enlarged constituency. Karen Sai told the audience that current membership includes 66 members across the Continent. APN and is actively recruiting individual, diaspora and corporate donors positioned to increase the impact of philanthropy on the Continent.
APN has a flexible structure to be more responsive to the needs and interests of its constituency. It is active across a broad spectrum of societal interests and focuses primarily in four areas: thought leadership and knowledge management, including the publication of several reports describing the landscape of philanthropy on the Continent; convening groups, including a biennial Assembly such as one slated for Nigeria in 2017; capacity-building of philanthropic organizations; and enabling an environment that better supports philanthropy on the Continent.
The sheer size and scope of the Continent – with 54 separate nations and widely variant regulatory environments create challenges in attempting to form any “Continental consensus.” But this diversity is also an opportunity to widen the reach of philanthropy and deepen its impact through building strong relationships between philanthropy support organizations focusing on Africa.