This paper sheds light on the changing landscape of philanthropy and development in Africa. By exploring different types of philanthropic foundations and their support networks, we encourage foundations and civil society practitioners alike 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 in the sense of focusing on material needs and technological solutions to social problems rather than addressing structural impediments to development. This critique is equally levelled at NGOs, often with good reason.
However, while there is a vast literature which examines NGO activity in Africa from every angle, the empirical evidence base on philanthropic foundations is much weaker. We believe that foundations and civil society organisations 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.