Recap: “The Landscape of Large-Scale Giving By African Philanthropists."

Bridgespan released a report on African philanthropy. Here’s what you should know.

The number of wealthy Africans is on the rise--individuals with a net worth of $1 million rose from 164,000 in 2013 to 177,000 in 2018. By 2023, that number is expected to rise to over 200,000.

The Gist. Large scale philanthropic giving is gaining more recognition in African communities. The limited research and data available fails to demonstrate just how generous high-net-worth Africans are and the scope of their giving. Charitable giving (of $1 million or more) often has the following characteristics:

  • It is local, with a focus on a donor’s home country

  • Money is given to public sector institutions or through personal foundations, not NGOs

  • Causes support basic needs, including education and health

Quick Facts. The research examined 63 gifts made between 2010 and 2019 of at least $1 million and totaling over $1 billion. Of the total number of gifts, 81% were restricted to a donor’s home country, an indication that African philanthropists feel more comfortable supporting causes in their own communities. Only 9% of gifts went to local NGOs, grant-making organizations, or academic institutions, compared to 70% of giving by non-Africans. In interviews, donors cited a dearth of locally-run organizations operating at a Pan-African scale and a lack of trust in organizations to effectively use the funding.

The number of wealthy Africans is on the rise: individuals with a net worth of $1 million rose from 164,000 in 2013 to 177,000 in 2018. By 2023, that number is expected to rise to over 200,000.

Why This Matters. Charitable giving is a way of life in African communities and yet, it has been unrecognized due to its informal nature. The authors of this report acknowledge their research on large gifts is limited to publicly available information and informal, anonymous, or private gifts are not included. The lack of philanthropic infrastructure and data contributes to a limited understanding of Africans’ generosity and the scale and impact of those gifts.

However, the study does provide some new insights into the trends among Africa’s most affluent people which adds depth to the African narrative by demonstrating what we have all known anecdotally, that Africans are givers.

What This Means For Black Giving. The evidence is mounting that philanthropic giving is prevalent in African communities and across income levels. Wealthy Africans in particular are using their wealth for good. Unlike old models that leveraged community associations as vehicles to disseminate resources to those in need, this generation of high-net-worth Africans are relying on more formal, structured, and sophisticated channels to disburse and track their giving and its impact.

It should come as no surprise that many of these millionaires (and quite a few of them are self-made) want to support organizations and causes that use their money as wisely and effectively as they earned it. Their reluctance to support local or international NGOs, for a host of personal, structural, and political reasons, presents an opportunity for practitioners, fundraisers, and philanthropists to re-evaluate existing funding and reporting models to reflect the motivations and priorities of current and future generations of high-net worth Africans. New systems should ensure greater integrity, transparency, and accountability by tracking outputs as well as outcomes. With a stronger infrastructure for accountability and data collection, NGOs and other local organizations can better attract and establish stronger ties to Africa's most affluent individuals and their foundations.

You can catch the recording of the live webinar with authors as they shared the findings of their work. Read the full report here.