African philanthropy

In Philanthrocapitalism we wanted to highlight that the current boom in philanthropy is not just an American phenomenon, even if the most prominent philanthrocapitalists are people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.  The new wave of giving is reaching Asia and Latin America, the Former Soviet Union, Britain and, even, Europe.

A recent article by Bhekinkosi Moyo, first published in Alliance Magazine and republished in the Mail and Guardian is a helpful discussion of the challenges and opportunities facing a new generation of African foundations.  Bhekinkosi talks, of course, about the Mandela Foundation but doesn’t go into much detail about other African donors.

In the book, we highlight the story of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation.  Established by a Sudanese mobile phone tycoon (Mo set up Celtel, one of the leaders in bringing mobile telephony to Africa, which has enjoyed rapid growth and so done an enormous amount of good), the Foundation runs an annual prize for African leadership, rewarding a retired head of state or head of government who has done most for his or her people.  The purpose of the prize is not just to subsidise the retirement of good leaders but to challenge the stereotype that all African governments are corrupt and to create a debate about good government within Africa.  Mo is always keen to emphasise that the panel that awards the prize is predominantly African, not outsiders sitting in judgement.

The Mo Ibrahim Prize is an excellent case study of philanthrocapitalism: going after a big issue like good governance, taking a big risk (who knows whether this will work?), doing something that governments or multilateral agencies cannot do, and using business expertise (it was business that taught Mo the importance of good governance).

By the way, the first prize went to Joaquim Chissano, the former president of Mozambique in October 2007.  We look forward to another announcement soon.