Just over month ago, the Wits Business School announced collaboration with the Southern Africa Trust to establish a first for the continent– an academic Chair in African Philanthropy.
With many years of embedding ahead, in March an inaugural seminar grounded the Chair in Philanthropy with a pan-African focus and mandate. This event showed that knowledge about the pluralism of ‘gifting’ on the continent is very uneven with biases towards vertical practices. There was also uncertainty about if and how businesses operating on the continent appreciate the value of African philanthropy. This situation calls for prioritizing academic effort of practical relevance. One priority is to instigate research which evens up the knowledge landscape from Cape to Cairo, so to speak. Another is to selectively introduce African philanthropy into the Wits Business School teaching curricula and Executive Education initiatives, enhancing the continent’s human capacity in this development field. Early effort will also be given to communications, propagating an African philanthropy narrative into international discourse. Finally, the business model for the Chair needs to be pinned down and a full time professor appointed.
This initiative cannot stand on its own as an academic ‘ivory tower’. Its success will depend on creative engagement building a continental infrastructure of those dedicated to ensuring that African philanthropy with a business perspective does in part in ensuring development is fair and just. Anyone wishing to stay in touch with progress and possible collaboration, please simply send an email to email@example.com
Dr. Alan Fowler is Visiting Professor Chair in African Philanthropy at the University of Witswatersrand.