Creating a Legacy of African Agency
Ten years ago on the 6th of June 2006 we opened our doors for business in Dakar to serve the continent of Africa. With a decade of work behind us, we identified this moment as the time to listen and learn, to take stock and to chart our course into the future. It is clear that TrustAfrica has become an integral part of the global community and a key partner to civil society in communities across the continent. We will continue in this role. Our intent is to ensure that all citizens, especially those who are marginalised, play an active role in governance in the pursuit of economic, political and social justice.
We believe we can maximise the political and economic gains of the past decade in a way that
ensures that all Africans benefit. We will continue our work in African philanthropy, in recognition
of the vital need to resource the work of social change. We will look for opportunities to reconnect with our cultural, social and linguistic foundations in Africa by tapping into the diversity of our cultural heritage, indigenous systems and social institutions. We will continue to focus on government effectiveness and on creating stronger public institutions that address macroeconomic instability by creating more inclusive democracies with improved prospects for women and youth. While our intentions are ambitious, our partners are many, which will hopefully make the load lighter towards achieving our vision.
I look forward to your continued support in this exciting next phase of TrustAfrica as we continue to strive to create a legacy of African agency.
Our Journey Thus Far
On the 6th of June in 2006 TrustAfrica officially began operations as an independent foundation in Dakar, Senegal. We at TrustAfrica remember the process to setting priorities for our work. In particular, the series of initial Special Initiative for Africa convenings that explored issues of peace and conflict, regional integration and citizenship and identity. These convenings brought together African activists scholars, business leaders, public officials and other partners to help shape what eventually evolved into TrustAfrica’s program of work, focused mainly on three issues: governance; equitable development and African philanthropy. The 2006 official launch of TrustAfrica was a culmination of processes that went as far back as 1999 within Ford Foundation. At a time when Africa was characterised by both uncertainty and hope. At one level poverty, disease and conflict seemed to define images of the continent and, life expectancy was far lower than any other developing region of the world due primarily to the impact of HIV/AIDS. Today, life expectancy on the continent has increased and her image is more positive, despite persistent development challenges.
Over the past decade, TrustAfrica’s Governance work has focused on strengthening democracy, justice and public accountability. This work is anchored in a strong belief that for Africa to be stable and prosperous, citizens must have a voice and actively participate in processes that shape the continent. Our work has included promoting democratic elections, strengthening constitutionalism and the rule of law, upholding basic human rights and fighting against the culture of impunity. Our efforts have strengthened civil society advocacy for improved governance, accountability, and contributed to ensure that victims and survivors are at the centre of international criminal justice processes.
TrustAfrica was established on the big idea that the most enduring solutions to Africa’s challenges will come from initiatives led by Africans themselves and informed by an objective appreciation of the continent’s social, economic and political context. In proclaiming this perspective, TrustAfrica sought to re-affirm confidence in the agency of Africans in seeking solutions to the continent’s challenges and indeed, propose an alternative approach to externally led models that did not place Africans at the centre. Fittingly, a commitment to “African agency” and “African initiatives” became TrustAfrica’s mantra from the very beginning.
Our work in equitable development has promoted economic and social policies that lead to more inclusive and equitable economic growth. We have championed pro-poor development strategies including strengthening small and medium sized enterprises, commitment to Africa’s agenda for agricultural transformation - CAADP and enhanced small holder agriculture with a particular focus on women farmers. We have supported initiatives to promote transparency, accountability and equity in natural resource governance, culminating in the adoption of the Africa Mining Vision which provides
a blue print for improved governance of Africa’s mineral resources. TrustAfrica’s work in this area has extended to promoting domestic resource mobilization through fair taxation and curbing illicit financial flows. We have also worked to mobilize African leaders around an agenda to transform the higher education sector, as well as promote early learning innovations. While our work in African Philanthropy has strengthened and broadened knowledge and understanding of the context, narratives, practice, and potential of African philanthropy to advance social justice in Africa. TrustAfrica recognised from the onset the need to cultivate and mobilise domestic resources and progressively reduce dependency on external donors by advancing the agenda of “locally grown solutions”. In this regard, TrustAfrica has had a major focus on building knowledge and understanding of African philanthropy and how the practices and traditions of philanthropy in African societies can be nurtured and harnessed at a strategic level to innovatively resource contemporary development. Equally, TrustAfrica sought to model a truly African institution by insisting on an “African led and African based” organization that would harness progressive African values and advance an African agenda. We particularly recognised that social solidarity was the defining tenet of African Philanthropy and sought to make this core to our approach in shaping philanthropy and development on the continent. In essence, TrustAfrica aspired to become both an expression and a catalyst of African agency. TrustAfrica played an instrumental role in the founding of the African Philanthropy Network, which provides as crucial platform to nurture and document African philanthropy.
As we mark TrustAfrica’s 10th anniversary we are also unveiling the organization’s new Strategy for the period 2016 – 2020. We continue to envision an Africa where all members of society are safe, free and prosperous. Our mission remains anchored in strengthening African agency. Our goal under the new strategy is to enhance the contribution of civil society towards strengthening political economic and social justice in Africa. A lot has changed in terms of the African political, economic and social context over the past 10 years. In particular, the continent has made great progress in resolving violent conflicts with peace now established in most of the countries that were in the middle of civil war a decade ago. However, the relapse into armed conflict for countries like Burundi, Central Africa Republic and the recent civil war in South Sudan point to continuing fragility and the need to invest more efforts in building enduring peace. Terrorism and violent extremism has also emerged as a major challenge especially for countries like Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, and Libya. Despite the serious contestations, great progress has been made in placing international criminal justice at the centre of continental political conversations and African civil society is more sophisticated and better capacitated to be agents for change compared to 10 years ago. While tremendous progress has been made in reversing the scourge of HIV/AIDS across the continent, the devastation from the recent Ebola epidemic exposed the weakness of health systems and the continent’s poor capacity to respond to such health emergencies.
We at TrustAfrica believe that there is much work to be done in this, the second decade of our journey of which this conference is a first step. It is only fitting then that we mark this 10th Anniversary milestone with a conference attended by African activists’, scholars, business leaders, public officials and other partners to re-engage as we did at the initial gathering in 2006. By looking back and looking ahead we hope to better deliver African philanthropy for political, economic and social justice in the 21st century.
Championing African Philanthropy inThe Next Decade
Africa is a contradiction in that on one end it is the richest continent and on the other also the poorest. The continent has seen a growth in the number of individuals with an annual income of exceeding US$150,000 a year or investible assets of more than US$500,000.00. There are approximately 130 000 millionaires spread across the continent and more foundations have been established during this period than at any other moment in the history of Africa. For some, who believe that the 21st century is Africa’s century, this has created renewed optimism – further reinforcing the Africa Rising narrative. On the other end of the spectrum however, poverty and under development remain very real issues for the continent. And while in the past Africa received significant amounts of support through philanthropy, for both liberation and post- colonial development, the challenge for Philanthropy today is to make itself relevant to Africa’s development needs. A 2014 report by UBS and TrustAfrica established that Africa’s high net worth individuals, were making significant philanthropy investments in health, education, entrepreneurial development and infrastructure improvements. But given the decreasing levels of philanthropy dollars and increasing number of institutions dependent on philanthropic support, there is need to refine and improve the targeting of philanthropic support. Philanthropy needs to draw from its indigenous knowledge systems and social institutions to maximise the gains achieved in both political and economic performance across the continent in the past decade. TrustAfrica will remain vigilant supporting the fields growth through knowledge production and influencing practices. We will continue to help strengthen philanthropic institutions, pilot innovations for giving and encourage philanthropy to take on issues of governance, democracy and contribute to creating equity within societies.