Philanthropy and Civil society organisations in East Africa are concerned that their operating space in the region is increasingly under threat from political interference and internal management practices. Over 300 representatives of civil society organisations, Foundations and Trusts from across East Africa met in Arusha, Tanzania for the 6th East Africa Philanthropy Conference. The two-day conference which opened on Thursday at the Mt. Meru Hotel in Arusha sought to explore ways in which the organisations can operate in the midst of emerging global challenges.
This year's conference, themed Opportunities in Emerging Trends and Practices, focused on innovative concepts, policies and practices that are shaping selfless giving in the region. Participants included foundations and trust leaders, government representatives, philanthropy organizations, academia and support networks within East Africa and beyond.
Ruth Birungi, the chief executive officer of Independent Development Fund, an organization based in Uganda, said internal corruption is still a problem for some organizations in the region.“We need to create a culture of integrity in the society through public awareness, as a way of building transparency and accountability in the philanthropy work,” she said.Jacqueline Asiimwe, the chief executive officer of Civsource Africa, an advisory firm, noted that many organizations do not have the right legal framework to operate in the region. The other panelists, Lulu Ng’wanakilalala from Legal Services Foundation and Francis Uhadi from Foundation for Civil Society observed that the changing political climate in the region has often resulted in cuts on donor funding, which is impeding operations of philanthropic organisations. The organisations met at a time when governments in the region are tightening regulation and intensely screening operations of non-governmental organisations.
The conference proposed new ways through which philanthropic organisations can improve their legal operating environment and co-operate across the region to address mutual challenges. Slow global growth and a gradual decline in foreign funding to support philanthropy have created big challenges for both global and local programmes championed by philanthropists.