Last week I had the pleasure of attending the African Grantmakers Network (AGN) Assembly in Johannesburg – a biennial gathering of philanthropists from across the African continent, plus a slew of international partners. The 3-day gathering featured luminaries in social change movements and African philanthropy, including Jay Naidoo and Dr. Mampela Ramphele of South Africa, Mrs. Graca Machel, and Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former President of Mozambique and inaugural laureate of the Mo Ibrahim Prize.
Rather than recount the numerous enlightening remarks I heard during the Assembly, I’ll share with you two of my key takeaways:
1. Although the AGN as a formal body is only 3 years old, the concept of philanthropy is not new in Africa. African communities have been engaged in philanthropy for centuries through activities such as waqf, burial societies, extended family support, and offerings to religious institutions. The challenge, however, is that these activities are typically not recorded or quantified; therefore it has been challenging to measure the full magnitude of giving in Africa.
2. A highlight of the AGN Assembly was the Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards where 10 individuals were recognized for effecting change in their communities. I was astounded and inspired by these individuals because most are not incredibly wealthy like Bill Gates or Aliko Dangote. Rather they used the limited resources they had to change the lives of thousands of people. I was particularly inspired by the youngest award recipient, Jordan van der Walt, a 12 year old student at the prestigious St. John’s in Johannesburg. Jordan was recognized for his “Just one Bag” campaign, which has fed over one million hungry school children. His story (in the video below) reminds me of the African proverb: “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.” In the spirit of philanthropy, enjoy!