The Spirit of Ubuntu

A word very dear to African hearts and very close to the African mindset is ‘ubuntu’. Translated this means ‘I am because you are’. The focus of this way of thinking is ensuring that everybody in the area is okay, instead of the typical nuclear family setup where every family unit is an island.

ubunto symbol

Waves of change

At the third biennial assembly of the African Grantmakers Network Assembly, as much as 65% of the costs were covered by members for the very first time – until now the network has relied solely on external funding. What this means is that the philanthropy sector in Africa is maturing. With this development the group also changed its name to African Philanthropy Network (APN), making it clear that not only grant-making organisations are included. During the assembly it was also made obvious that there is a momentous shift in the African philanthropy sector.

Philanthropy as a way of life

Not just ubuntu is relevant in African philanthropy, there has been a growing trend making African philanthropy horizontal. The way in which it is currently developing leaves no space for power monopolies but rather embraces concepts like ‘harambee’, which means ‘pulling together’ and ‘ujamaa’, which signifies equality. At the assembly the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) was praised for its influence in overthrowing the Liberian dictator Charles Taylor – celebrating the start of a journey towards equality. The AWDF also simplified funding and is doing wonderful work to promote gender equality and social justice in other African countries. Another significant development that was discussed is that Africans are becoming more involved with global funding – an exceptional and surprising change in dynamics.

Africa is rising

By forging its own identity and claiming its space, the African philanthropy community is entering a very exciting period of time. Although the road ahead remains uncertain, one this has become obvious: Africans are not walking alone. The spirit of ubuntu has spread far and wide. Philanthropy towards Africa is not only coming from all corners of the world, it is also flowing from Africa across the globe.