On African Philanthropy

Not so long ago, a friend and I were talking and the topic of African philanthropy comes up. She argued that Africans, Cameroonians in particular, don’t give like Westerners do. For one, you don’t see them supporting each other causes from donating to funds for a cancer patient they know or even buying tickets to a fellow an aspiring artist’s show.

This is not the first time I have heard this argument and I confess I have agreed at times. I have agreed in arguments on how African parents raise us to calculate input and output in a very funny way. For instance I have seen parents refuse to contribute towards a nephew or niece in need only to remove lavish amounts at weddings.  Some won’t help their relatives to achieve their dreams calling them flimsy but somehow find the eventual funeral a good sturdy place to invest large sums of money.

I am not implying that weddings or funerals don’t deserve proper celebration, not at all. But I have caught a trend of African philanthropy needing to be seen before done. You know, the way fundraising in church raises more when they usher the giver to the front then follow him with a slice of the fundraising cake after he’s dropped his envelope into the basket? Perhaps most cultures give with ulterior motive. Americans have been accused of giving for the reduction of their taxes. Our philanthropy generally needs reason.

But of recent I do not agree with the stance that Africans do not give as much as the West does. We give a lot more. To make a comparison we must look at the context. The westerner making a donation to a charity has taken care of their nuclear family. They know their two or three kids will get jobs while in high-school, they are sure of their retirement pensions. They trust their insurance company, more importantly they trust the organization they are giving the money to will actually do something of value. Most African’s are not in a similar situation. There is no nuclear family, you are responsible to your mother’s second cousin as well as your own, and the funeral of a clan member in the village requires your input as well as that of a colleague in the office. We are not sure of our kids finding jobs even after university, in fact there are probably some unemployed graduates amongst our dependents at the moment. We are neither sure of our pensions nor the plethora of NGO’s with young nor old “hungry” coordinators. We don’t have the luxury of trust when everyone is hustling for themselves. You see comparing the western and African philanthropist is akin to the biblical tale of the Widows’ Mite

 

Still, the widow gave. We cannot continue comparing ourselves to the west then criticizing the ways they give to us. I think most Africans and Cameroonians particularly are fed up with the image of being beggars depending on foreign help. Our relatives, African citizens in the Diaspora remit more money – some $52 billion each year – than all other donors combined. Yet that is within family, within closed circles that we limit ourselves to for certain things. Yet as easily as we form njangi groups, as easily as we boast of giving our tithes to the church and joining other groups that some siphon money in lavish events, couldn’t we cut a percentage regularly for work in our communities?  To give to those who are not related to us and will in no way pay it back but forward? Find a problem you are passionate about, and think of a way to address it. As to the issue of trusting those you contribute to, I’m sure if you if you have the will, you will find a way to assure that what you’re giving gets to the needy and not the greedy.

As a Better Breed, for a better tomorrow, we need to take control of who gives us what, we need to feed ourselves, help our own. If each of us gave a percentage back to our community (wisely) the way some Christians give tithe regularly, we would solve our problems eventually, one community at a time. That is not to say, there will be no poor amongst us. The poor are everywhere even in the countries giving us aid, but there should be no wide gap if we all did a bit more to lift those on the floor up.

Members of Better Breed recently decided to change the organizations path. Rather than an NGO we registered as a common initiative group (CIG). We concluded we are simply a group aspiring to advocate for and contribute particularly towards youth development in our various communities whether in cash or kind. Join the Better Breed movement do what you can, where you can, with what you have.

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