Message from Director of Secretariat
July 31, 2023

This year’s version of the annual African Philanthropy Conference takes place in Senegal under the timely theme of ‘Philanthropy at an Inflection Point’. This is apt given the challenges facing the world in general and those confronting philanthropy in particular. The annual African Philanthropy Conference is a platform and an opportunity for the sector to take stock, reflect and devise solutions to global and local problems. It is a gathering that seeks to work collectively, collaboratively and effectively in channelling resources adequately and efficiently to vexing societal and developmental challenges. 

Since 2019, the Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment has managed to hold this prestigious event in collaboration with leading African institutions that include African Philanthropy Forum, Africa Philanthropy Network, East Africa Philanthropy Network, Harvard Centre for African Studies, Higher-Life Foundation, Southern Africa Trust and TrustAfrica. This year is the first time that the event is hosted by another partner outside South Africa. We are very excited about this collaborative spirit and the opportunity to rotate the event, with discussions among our partners in different locations. This allows us to ground our discussions and solutions on real life existential realities.

As we gather in Senegal, we have to respond to the several questions that require answers for Senegalese citizens and West African residents. Senegal has been witnessing political upheavals over the past months. What role should philanthropy play in facilitating an amicable resolution of the political question of leadership and governance? More importantly, political questions arise at times due to challenges of economic development and the overall high levels of inequality and poverty that characterise most African countries. Likewise, political challenges contribute immensely to economic stagnation and associated problems. For this reason, the previous versions of the Conference have addressed several dimensions of the role that African philanthropy ought to play in the development of the continent. 

The first conference hosted in 2019 set the agenda and got the sector to appreciate the philanthropic landscape in Africa, understand its role and called for a coordinated approach. It is important to mention that the first Conference was held at a time when no one expected that in less than a year later, the world would be plunged into a global crisis. Nevertheless, the seed had been planted and even though in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were unable to hold the Conference, we came back strong in 2021 and hosted a major event online that focused on the response of philanthropy to the pandemic. It was impressive to see the number of responses and initiatives that different types of philanthropy had designed in response to the pandemic. It is safe to say philanthropy rose to the occasion and kept societies together while governments and the private sector pushed on with mechanisms to find lasting solutions to the problem. The Conference benefited also from the participation of the African Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. The then Head of the Africa CDC gave a keynote address at the height of COVID-19 that highlighted the plight of Africans in comparison to those in the Global North, especially when it came to accessing vaccines. In addition, the several collaborations between the CDC and philanthropic organisations were highlighted. Sadly, at the time it appeared that very few local philanthropies collaborated with the Africa CDC. However, a lot was happening at community and country levels. 

The 2021 Conference began addressing the question of systems change in philanthropy. This became the theme for the 2022 Conference that took place in Johannesburg. The world changed drastically in 2020 due to COVID-19 but these changes were already underway even before the pandemic. Issues such as climate change, high levels of inequality, and environmental justice among others were already indicating the need for the system to change. It is no doubt therefore that in the last few years there has been so much dedicated discussion on systems change broadly but also in philanthropy. Yet as we meet in 2023 in Saly, philanthropy seems to be at an inflection point. What is next for African Philanthropy today? What role should it play? What are the key nodal points and levers to pull to effectively respond to this conundrum? The five days will tackle this question. We will start with an academic and research-intensive event that will lay the foundation for the practitioners to reflect on daily experiences, practices, policies and encounters with people in philanthropy. The academic event will be the second since the introduction of the Conference. 

CAPSI is very excited that jointly with our partners, we once again presented the Academic Conference and Annual Philanthropy Conference to the world, with the hope of building bridges across regions, geographies, sectors, practices and people.

On behalf of the Conference partners, I want to thank everyone who has worked behind the scenes and directly with the planning committee to make this a reality. I want to thank the participants for once again attending this annual event. It means you find some value in it, and we would love to collaborate with you in the next version of the Conference that will take place in 2024. There are several groups that helped curate sessions this year, to you I say thank you. My hope is that we can have more sessions curated by different groups next year.

Equally important is our desire to celebrate luminaries and legendary figures in African philanthropy. I want to thank the Independent Awards Committee that was established this year to manage the Lifetime Achievement Award, for accepting to manage this process on behalf of the Conference partners. The Committee has its own guidelines and has its chairperson who will steer this work for the next versions of the conference. Let us celebrate those among us who have made transformative contributions to the field. I invite you to send us your nomination for consideration for the next year’s Award.

Bhekinkosi Moyo

Director, Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment