The State and Nature of Philanthropy in East Africa

Studied patterns, nature, trends issues of philanthropy in EA . Noted philanthropy in Family/Individual, Faith-based giving,Community & Corporate philanthropy

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This study sought to establish the patterns, nature, trends and issues of philanthropy in East Africa. It specifically set out to document the practice of philanthropy in four domains namely: Family/Individual philanthropy, Faith-based giving, Community philanthropy and Corporate philanthropy. To capture these dynamics, the study adopted a predominantly qualitative approach in which research instruments with open-ended questions were administered to community members, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, entertainers, athletes, religious leaders and political leaders in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. In total, 140 in-depth interviews were conducted.

The findings show that in communities (whether fishing, agricultural or pastoralist), giving is a way of life. Those interviewed defined “community giving” variously including “coming together to empower and help each other”,“support the less fortunate” and “contribute to community projects”. Those who merit assistance range from the ‘poor’, ‘the poorest’, the disabled, the elderly, and widows to orphans.

The most typical material philanthropic activities include merry-go-rounds, lending money to friends and neighbours, helping the sick to clear medical bills, taking care of orphans, provision of food during shortages and assisting in education. Non-material activities identified were visiting the sick, counsel-ling, condoling with the bereaved and attending funerals. Organised groups, whose membership ranged from 12 to 200, spent between USD 35 and 280per month/group on philanthropy. Asked what motivates them to give, they talked of religious teachings, reciprocity and the desire to see change in the community.

While giving had positive impacts such as strengthening bonds, ‘women’s emancipation’ and empowering others, it had the negative effects of creating dependency and encouraging idleness. Community giving was said to be negatively affected by poverty, harsh economic times (e.g. when fish stocks dwindle or during drought), lack of transparency and appreciation among beneficiaries. None of the community members interviewed was aware of any legal provision regulating community giving.

With regard to corporate giving, 38 corporate managers across Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were interviewed. Out of a total of 38 firms that gave inter-views, 17 (44.8%) were large sized companies while the rest 21 (55.2%) were small and medium enterprises (SMEs). While the majority of corporate organizations (42%) channelled their giving through Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) departments, others had unstructured/haphazard giving (26.3%) and a few (5.2%) had autonomous foundations. A sizeable number of firms (23.6%)declined to indicate the mechanism used. Beneficiaries of corporate giving ranged from orphanages, victims of natural disasters, talented students with-out school fees, street children to community based organizations (CBOs).While the majority (63%) gave directly to those in need of help, the rest (37%)used intermediaries (e.g. charitable organizations).

In Family Philanthropy, a total of 16 people with foundations were interviewed.Although it was relatively easy to identify such people in Kenya (7; 43.8%)and Uganda (6; 37.5%), it was apparently difficult in Tanzania where only 3 (18.8%) were interviewed. The imbalance notwithstanding, when asked what motivated them to start foundations, the philanthropists talked about the orphan phenomenon, children living with HIV, the need to empower poor communities, value for education, the need to promote talent, ‘coming from a pastoralist community’ (and therefore understanding what being needy means), social injustice and to improve sports. Sources of funding are mainly personal/family resources, local and foreign donations and international foundations (e.g. Ford Foundation). Family foundation budgets ranged fromUSD 10,000 to 3,000,000 per year. All had plans to raise more funds for operations. Some of the challenges they face include identifying ‘genuine’ beneficiaries, the needy being ‘too many’, being seen as having ‘inexhaustible funds’, tax policies, limited resources and difficulties partnering with others.

Faith based giving purposively targeted Christian, Islam and Hindu establishments. A total of 23 religious organizations were covered. All were involved in charity work. Findings show that religious organizations in East Africa participate in giving by running schools, health clinics/hospitals and children homes, provision of relief services during emergencies and having radio stations (to evangelise and provide information). As to what motivates them to give, they cited Allah’s teachings, ‘command from God’, Biblical teachings,‘story of a good Samaritan’, having a bigger responsibility beyond preaching, as part of evangelism and religious teaching of love. The majority (82.6%)said that their followers were free to give either through the denomination they are affiliated to or directly to the needy. Unfortunately, 43.4% of the religious organizations covered in the study did not have a foundation or a department charged with the responsibility of giving. Philanthropic activities in these organizations therefore are unstructured, unsystematic and largely uncoordinated.

On the basis of the findings, it is recommended that inter alia, communities need to be sensitised on how to organise themselves to access other forms of giving (particularly corporate philanthropy), relatively wealthy individuals should be encouraged and legally facilitated to establish foundations, the middle income earners should be given recognition as givers and faith based giving needs to be more streamlined and the faithful encouraged to monitor financial dealings of the clergy. Finally, corporate philanthropy needs to be structured (legally) to unlock its enormous potential. Generally, there is need of better synchronisation and networking among the various forms of giving.

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