The Giving Pledge in Africa

Written on January 31, 2013 – 8:14 am | by Jasmine Sweatman

Many professionals working in the area of philanthropy are familiar with the “Giving Pledge” started by the efforts of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet who act as philanthropic ambassadors encouraging the very wealth to donate a significant portion of their wealth for charitable causes.  The Giving Pledge program now has a champion in the African philanthropic sector through the recently reported donation by Patrice Motsepe, a self-made South African billionaire (See the article,  “Mining tycoon becomes first African billionaire to pledge half his wealth to charity”, as published in the Globe and Mail, January 30, 2013).

The objective of the Giving Pledge is to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit half of their wealth to philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice.  Since the program began in 2010, approximately 100 individuals and families have made donations under the banner of the Giving Pledge and there is a push to take this initiative on a global level.  This is leadership and corporate giving at its highest level!  Notwithstanding the large sums of money being donated through this charitable program, we should not lose sight of the efforts of ordinary people who give back to their communities through volunteering, sharing what they have no matter the amount and simply looking out for one another.

In the case of Mr. Motsepe, his philanthropic motivations began when he was a little boy observing his mother giving food to those less fortunate in his community from the small grocery store that his family operated.  This is charity in action—not based on wealth but based on a desire to meet the needs of one’s community.

As the Globe and Mail article explains, Mr. Motsepe is not the first African billionaire philanthropist.  However, Forbes magazine reported that there are very few high ultra net worth individuals who give significant donations of more than $1 million in Africa.  Could Mr. Motsepe’s donation be indications of a new trend in philanthropy in Africa and a model for nations and regions that are usually the focus of many charitable dollars from the international community?  As more and more individuals in the developing nations and regions of the world begin to experience the fruits of development and their countries begin to experience economic growth, there may indeed be a shift in the flow of charitable dollars from external to internal sources.  However, the needs in Africa are great and it will take more than a handful of billionaire philanthropists to cause a significant change in the current charitable programs established and funded in large part by the international community.

Lesson Learned: Charitable giving in all forms, in all amounts, and by all people—this is the objective of philanthropy.  The Giving Pledge is just one example of philanthropy in action but as it becomes more international in its reach, so too does its impact.

Until next time,

Jasmine Sweatman / Sophia Dunkley

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