Jessica Ayana Davis is a 2016 ABF Fellow placed with Orbit Chemicals. Below is her take on the recent Africa Philanthropy Forum Breakfast held in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Leading African philanthropists gathered at the Nairobi Serena Hotel on Tuesday, July 19th for a breakfast meeting hosted by the Africa Philanthropy Forum (APF) and the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Group. This private setting enabled Kenya's philanthropy community to learn from one another’s work as well as share strategies for achieving broad based prosperity and inclusive development in Kenya. 

Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli (APF Director) and Rachel Gathoni Muiruri, (KCB Foundation Manager) opened the event discussing the importance of a structured, shared value approach to philanthropy utilizing African money to address African challenges. 

The keynote speaker, Dr. Manu Chandaria (Chandaria Foundation, Chairman) highlighted that philanthropy is simply about extending yourself and your hand to others with a sense of concern and compassion. In sharing the story of founding the Chandaria Foundation, Dr. Chandaria emphasized that one does not have to be wealthy but merely needs the vision and foresight to give. Dr. Chandaria had the idea to create a foundation in 1948, when he returned to Kenya after his studies in the United States. He shared with attendees how his idea was scoffed at–“We are not Rockefellers,” he was told. For Dr. Chandaria, the goal of philanthropy is more than just money -- it is inner happiness.

 

Philanthropy is quintessentially African; in Kenya, the spirit of harambee is ever-present in families, communities, and faith-based groups in which individuals take care of each other. According to Mwihaki Kimura Muraguri (The Rockefeller Foundation, Sr. Associate Director), Kenyans already have a custom of giving in their own way and many individuals shy away from accepting accolades for their philanthropy. However, Mwihaki emphasized that "if you can't count it then we can't celebrate it," acknowledging the importance of measurement to help facilitate continuous improvements that can scale the impact of philanthropy.

Philanthropists in the audience strongly echoed Mwihaki's sentiments that the DNA of philanthropy is an innate piece of the fabric of Kenyan identity which needs to be captured, recognized, and celebrated. Accordingly, the business of philanthropy must beg the question, "Why are we the answer to this specific problem?" when evaluating comparative advantage and strategically prioritizing philanthropic engagement (i.e., not utilizing the 'spray and pray' approach). Speaking of the business of philanthropy, Catherine Kola (KCB, Foundation Chairperson) shared that 1% of annual profits from KCB are dedicated to corporate social responsibility initiatives focused on enterprise development, education, environment, health, and humanitarian aid. For example, KCB has partnering with the Kenyan government to help pastoralists and farmers to trade in livestock.

In closing, Jane Mwangi (KCB, Foundation Director) implored the attendees to "move matters from discussion to action."  Philanthropy in Africa can be leveraged to incubate action for transformative change. For those interested in the action of making an impact through philanthropy, APF is developing an open-sourced toolkit on how to give.

For additional information about the African Philanthropy Forum, visit www.philanthropyforum.org. To learn more about the APF Annual Conference "Taking Big Bets and Bold Steps" in Morocco on October 17th-18th 2016, click here.

Jessica Ayana Davis is strategy and operations consultant focusing on capacity building, partnership management, and strategic transformation in the social, private, and public sectors. Jessica earned a Master of Philosophy in Justice and Transformation from the University of Cape Town, a Master in Public Policy from American University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Davidson College. She can be reached at Jessica.ayana.davisATgmail.com.

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