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Briefing Paper 33: Beyond the apolitical: private foundations and transformative development in sub-Saharan Africa Image

Briefing Paper 33: Beyond the apolitical: private foundations and transformative development in sub-Saharan Africa

Philanthropists and philanthropic foundations are growing in importance in Africa, and are set to play an increasingly influential role within the development landscape. This raises questions for international NGOs and local CSOs about how they engage and work with philanthropic organisations, and vice versa. Are foundations viewed as a source of funding in an increasingly squeezed financial environment? Are they seen to challenge or threaten established ways of thinking about development? Or are they seen as activists for social change, as partners, collaborators and co-conspirators who have the same fundamental social development objectives?

This paper sheds light on the changing landscape of philanthropy and development in Africa, exploring different types of philanthropic foundations and their support networks to encourage foundations and civil society practitioners to think more deeply about who they work with and how. The paper particularly considers the approaches foundations take to supporting human wellbeing. Foundations are often critiqued for being somewhat 'apolitical' actors in development, focusing on material needs and technological solutions to social problems rather than addressing structural impediments to development. This critique is equally levelled at NGOs. Whilst there is a vast literature which examines NGO activity in Africa , the empirical evidence base on philanthropic foundations is much weaker.

Foundations and CSOs will increase their collaboration in the future. In order to do so well, they must understand each other, reflect on what they have in common and what they do not, and in particular get to grips with how they collectively contribute to the big picture of social, political and economic development. 

AuthorKristin Fedeler and Rachel Hayman
SeriesPolicy Briefing Papers
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  • Policy briefing paper

About the author

Kristin Fedeler carried out the research on this paper during a work-based placement with INTRAC as part of an MSc in African Studies programme at the University of Edinburgh.

Rachel Hayman is Head of Research at INTRAC.



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