Q. How do you see “generation next” currently challenging conventional models of philanthropy to Africa?
This is a very resourceful generation! They are connected globally. They may be in Africa, but they’re global players. Quite a number of them are innovating inside and outside of the space of grantmaking where philanthropy has not been accessible. They have found other ways of raising resources, some from their own connections, but also by challenging the boundaries of the way we know philanthropy. Some of them have used business just as a for-profit but also to bring about social and environmental impact.
I think “generation next” continues to challenge us in terms of how we see ourselves as philanthropy actors. And at times we find ourselves actually having to follow after them and what they’re done. They are more trailblazers than anything!
But we also need to be working closely with them because some of the challenges and issues they are trying to tackle need a systemic response. You get pockets of best practice that need replication, understanding and talking about in a wider discussion rather than just leaving them as pockets of innovation.
Q: What are ways philanthropy might change to meet these needs?
You know philanthropy has always been about doing good to the next person and it has always worked under the assumption of helping vulnerable communities that cannot help themselves at certain times. But what we’ve found since the turn of the century is that philanthropy has begun to move towards working with the “well to do” and the middle class to enhance their capacities.
We’ve seen philanthropy moving to areas like impact investing and social entrepreneurship to create jobs. So given the needs and the weaknesses of business intervention in Africa, you begin to see the need for a more nuanced kind of philanthropy that goes outside of the boundaries, especially when it comes addressing real questions such as how to tackle youth unemployment and how do you address issues like income generation, and sustaining certain discussions that the youth need to have.
For years philanthropy has been stuck in a box whereby we don’t fund business and we don’t fund for-profit venture. But when our youth go to the bank they don’t get support. So we’ve seen some “out of the box” thinkers and practitioners who have come to support youth in business.
For many of us who operate in what you call “traditional philanthropists’ spheres” have begun to realize the need to not only follow but also to help young people by addressing system-wide constraints.
At TrustAfrica we’ve been working to identify barriers to business and what is inhibiting the mushrooming and the spread of businesses. I believe this kind of funding helps us to influence even how governments respond to some of the initiatives that the youths are doing. But it also helps the youth because we identify the issues around policy barriers, economic costs and the challenges around financial access and other issues. So by doing that we are enhancing what is already ongoing.
There is already a trail-blazing sort of initiative that is underground and related to micro-finance and impact investing but more broadly called social entrepreneurship. This is where you find the influence of “generation next” in the economic sphere. But politically it’s also a generation that challenges the norms. For many years, we’ve come to understand political work around political parties but these are young people who work outside of the parameters of political parties forcing change.
For example in Senegal we saw Y’en a Marre (“we are fed up”). You see the emergence of these groups that do not work within a certain hierarchy or political party rigidity but making demands and making challenges. But the only challenge about them is that after they’ve achieved it, they sort of dissipate. But the impact of their mobilization and the kind of work they do in the political sphere is very significant. It has opened up possibilities of what the youth can do.
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