Photograph — APF

 “Most African leaders have shown great initiative in addressing the pandemic, and I hope this continues in the future and not something dictated just by the crisis.’’ – Dr Mo Ibrahim, Founder/Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation.

These words by Mo Ibrahim, Keynote Speaker at the 2020 African Philanthropy Forum (APF) Conference, reawakened hopes in us as Africans as we kicked off the event. Themed “Driving a Decade of Change,” the event held from October 28th – 30th covering pertinent issues in Africa. 

During the three days conference, over 50 industry experts, engaged with 285 attendees triggering insightful conversations and reviews on issues which include resetting Africa amid a pandemic, achieving food security and engaging Africa’s teeming youth population. These came through an inspiring Opening Conversation, 5 Plenaries, 6 Breakout Sessions and 3 Networking Sessions. According to Mosun Layode, Executive Director of APF, the Conference brought together philanthropists and stakeholders from the private, public and social sectors from across Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. 

The resilience that Africans have displayed in the face of economic downturns, devaluation and economic crises came through strongly as speakers discussed strategies for shaping the Africa we want. 

Tsitsi Masiyiwa, Board Chair, APF noted that “COVID-19 has ushered in a new normal – fundamentally transforming the way we live and compelling us to redefine our strategies and solutions to Africa’s most pressing issues. The scale and pace of change have inspired agility, collaboration, and innovation in responses to the pandemic. It is around these three areas that philanthropists, social investors, foundations and corporates must focus to drive forward discussions that affect transformational and sustainable change across the continent.”

A critical point of discussion was the role of the pandemic in exposing the fragile and weak systems in our society and exploring how philanthropists can help implement the solutions proffered by experts. “This is where the need to create a new framework for philanthropy comes into play, as well as the need to re-invest latent money,” noted Mavis Owusu-Gyamfi, Executive Vice President, ACET.

Collaboration in philanthropy was one of the recommendations at the conference. While operating individually, in silos, will only lead to short-term impact, collaboration drives long-term critical change. This means that there can be no drastic change if philanthropists continue to work independently without leveraging their strengths. 

Given the dire prediction that Africa might be able to feed only 25 percent of its population by 2025, the impact of climate change on achieving food security dominated the sessions and conversations on the second day of the Conference. ‘Debisi Araba, a leading voice in the field stated that “Climate change is an existential threat to mankind. It is not just about the direct shock of climate change, it is the long term stretch effect that threatens people and their livelihood.” Consequently, the sessions explored opportunities for driving food production and stability in Africa. For instance, it was discussed that a holistic approach to increasing food production must address the hurdles faced by smallholder farmers which include, low economies of scale, access to technology, infrastructure challenges, as well as access to capital. 

In exploring the possibilities of Agriculture in the region, it was noted that the importance of agriculture goes beyond food production. According to Kola Masha, CEO of Babban Gona, ‘’When we think about the role of agriculture, it should not only focus on achieving food security but also gaining economic advantages.’’ Agriculture does not only meet the food and foreign earning demands of Africa but also its employment needs. Therefore, to accelerate change in Africa, it is imperative to address youth unemployment, a persistent challenge that many countries grapple. 

On the last day of the conference, speakers challenged philanthropists to engage young people on the essence of entrepreneurship early on in their life’s journey and create opportunities with philanthropic capital that help drive transformation. The importance of creating a philanthropic environment that encourages collaboration, not a competitive one, was also stressed by CD Glin, President / CEO, US African Development Foundation. 

In closing, the final plenary saw leaders in media engage in an exhilarating and insightful conversation on defining the African narrative and the need for Africans to fund the promotion of African stories told by Africans. The speakers discussed the relationship between curiosity and funding, noting that the more we seek out African stories and narratives being shared across Africa, the higher the likelihood of attracting local capital. Commenting Moky Makura, Executive Director, Africa No Filter said that “we cannot change the news but as Africans, we need to figure out how to sift in feature stories that show that Africa is more than bad elections and famine. We have to be in the right places.”

The APF Conference was a transformational three-day event that provoked attendees to move from actively consuming information to collaborative action that will drive systemic change in Africa and move us closer to an inclusive society where no one is left behind. The African Philanthropy Forum is a vibrant community of partners who through their strategic giving, investments and influence, foster shared prosperity on the African continent. Click here for more information on the power of collective giving in the time of crisis.

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