Are Africa’s wealthiest doing enough to help the continent?
Africa’s richest give an estimated Us$7bn every year to charity, says a 2014 report by the African Grantmakers Network; but the figures also hint that giving is unbalanced among those who can afford to make a difference.
The philanthropy sector in Africa is still at an early stage in its evolution. However, there are notable exceptions. One of the strongest collaborations for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Africa is the Dangote Foundation in Nigeria. It is one of the few involved in structured philanthropy, and Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s and Bill Gates’ views are aligned on a number of issues. Dangote has worked very closely with us in ensuring that polio is eradicated from Nigeria and if this remarkable progress is sustained Nigeria will be on its way to being declared polio-free. It is a significant milestone in our efforts to eradicate the disease [worldwide], and the Dangote Foundation has played an intrinsic role in this. Our relationship has also extended to strengthening routine immunisation in states where childhood immunisation coverage is very low. More recently, we have been exploring ways to deal with malnutrition in northern Nigeria. The [Gates] Foundation wants to broaden its partnerships in Africa and that includes working with more African-based foundations through whom we can unlock domestic resources to help lift more people out of poverty.
It is good news that people in this continent are establishing businesses, launching technologies, and running multinational corporations. But Africa’s wealthiest are not doing enough. The global inequality crisis has taken root in Africa, as it has done across the world. The World Bank recently found that the 10 richest Africans own the same as the poorest half of the continent – that’s over half a billion people. The ‘Africa Rising’ narrative begs the question: Rising for who? Wealth creators in Africa must work with governments to build economies that provide decent jobs for young people. Job creation will be the challenge as we see increasing foreign investment into African economies and manage wealth coming from natural resources. But they must also reward hard work with decent pay. In South Africa, a platinum miner would need to work for 93 years just to earn the average CEO’S annual bonus. The wealthy must also take responsibility for investing in fair and cohesive societies. Too often their access to global markets and financial systems is used to avoid paying a fair share of tax. And finally we need to break the corrosive circular relationship between wealth and power that undermines our politics. It is wrong that in Africa so many leaders use their government positions to amass great personal wealth, and in turn that the wealthy have such undue influence on governments across the continent.
Africa team director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Executive director, Oxfam International