WHY PHILANTHROPISTS NEED TO CONTINUE TO INVEST IN AND ALONGSIDE AFRICAN ORGANIZATIONS AND LEADERS
In the process of drawing parallels between current Africa-focused philanthropy and the colonial era, author Paul Theroux’s recent article, “Africa’s Aid Mess,” ignores much of the success of high-potential organizations and initiatives driven by Africans and philanthropists in Africa and across the globe. Theroux paints a depressing picture of Africa as “poorer, sicker, less educated, and more badly governed” than when he taught in Malawi (then a British “protectorate”) 50 years ago. In contrast to this negative image of a homogenously downtrodden continent, our experience is that Africa is on an upward trajectory of economic development, growth, opportunity, dynamism, and change. A diverse spectrum of mostly African entrepreneurs, philanthropists, artists, students, leaders, civil servants, doctors, nurses, and teachers are building its success. Instead of philanthropists shying away from investing in Africa, we encourage them to invest in these changemakers and the initiatives they are leading.
While Africa still needs philanthropy—just like other continents—it is also a place that can provide successful returns on philanthropic investments. Despite Theroux’s testimony otherwise, successful investment in African agendas and partnerships with African leaders (in both the public and private sectors) have made much of Africa richer, healthier, better educated, and better governed than it has been in the past.
A Case Study in Ethiopia
Ahead of schedule and against the odds, Ethiopia achieved its Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG4): It reduced