American philanthropists who want to help Africa should work closely with a spate of new homegrown foundations that are emerging on the continent, said Akwasi Aidoo, executive director of TrustAfrica, during the Global Philanthropy Forum.
“There’s been phenomenal growth of African foundations,” he said. He pointed to the work of Theophilus Danjuma, a businessman and former defense minister of Nigeria, who is establishing a foundation with assets of “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
(Read The Chronicle’s article about the new foundations in Africa.)
Grant-making institutions are also being set up in South Africa, Ghana, and Tanzania, said the head of TrustAfrica, which is a foundation in Dakar, Senegal.
Partnerships between American and African donors are crucial to the long-term success of development and antipoverty work on the continent, he said.
“Africa has been literally — and I don’t mean this in a bad way — a playground for external donors and funders, each one coming in and doing their own thing. It doesn’t add up,” he said.
Too often, government aid agencies and foundations suffer from “project-itis.”
“It’s almost like a disease where the donors come in, they do a project for two or three years, with benchmarks and so on, and then move on” he said. “And not much is left behind in terms of the vehicles that are required to keep things going.”
He said the new foundations in Africa are trying to fix that problem by strengthening African charities, improving their management and leadership skills. He asked other grant makers to join them.
“My plea is that these are institutions you really need to figure out a way to partner with,” he said.
Mr. Aidoo also weighed in on the new book Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa, by Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian-born and Oxford-trained economist.
He said the book has generated an important debate about how foreign assistance can be effective, but its analysis that most aid is bad is flawed.
“Aid is talked about in a very limited sense and then condemned,” he said.
“Everybody should read it,” he said, “but I wouldn’t necessarily go out to buy it.”
(Read an opinion article in The Chronicle about the book.)