African philanthropic institutions are demonstrating how donors can more effectively foster independent action and strengthen movements for change. This different approach may hold the key to durable developmenton the continent.
By Elizabeth Coleman and Halima Mahomed
Although many donors recognize that top-down approaches and solutions that are not rooted in context are less likely to succeed, few manage to include partners and beneficiaries in decision making in very meaningful ways. One of the exceptions is TrustAfrica, an independent foundation based in Africa and led by Africans. It was established in 2006 to practice a kind of philanthropy that not only benefits Africans but actively supports their agency.
It is also the subject of a new book, Claiming Agency: Reflecting on TrustAfrica’s First Decade. As the book’s editors, we sought to understand what this kind of African philanthropy looks like in practice and what difference it has made. In our analysis, five elements stand out:
TrustAfrica works to support civil society coalitions and networks to conduct advocacy around regional organizations such as the Pan-African Parliament and the African Court on Human and People's Rights, in an attempt to expand and secure basic freedoms in countries where democracy is under attack. In the past we have worked with regional organizations such as ECOWAS, SADC, IGAD, COMESA, ECCAS, EAC and AMU in an effort to improve the economic climate and ensure collective security. One outcome of this program is our ARO Wiki (click on News and Ideas below), an online database of more than 150 African Regional Organizations.