Last Christmas, Daud K hosted an assortment of international guests at an exotic holiday resort in the Comoros Island. He flew his business associates from Kenya, Ghana, the United Arab Emirates, United States, France, Brazil and Ireland to his week-long exclusive wedding shindig. Daud hit the big league with sagacious property deals that brought investors from the Middle East clamoring to get their money into his hands so as to gain access to a piece of the highly lucrative estate developments he put together in the business capital of his native West African Country. Daud represents a new crop of high net worth individuals who are emerging from this continent’s recently celebrated ‘Last Frontier’ status, at a time when the West is battling through recession.
Africa’s label as the ‘Last Frontier’ is an acknowledgement of the new opportunities offered within this great continent. For decades, Africa had been a byword for poverty, debt and disease. It once appeared that nothing but bad news would ever emanate from the Motherland. In 2006, almost half of Africa’s population was younger than 16 years making Sub-Saharan Africa the youngest region in the world, an enviable market situation under normal circumstances. More than two centuries after the Slave Trade was abolished and slave ships stopped carting away Africa’s labor force in chains, smaller boats continue to sail to the West carrying some of Africa’s strongest, brightest and best across oceans on torturous voyages. Between Christmas and the end of January, scores of Daud’s childhood friends handed over their hard earned savings from many years of scrimping and scrapping to traffickers, gambling their lives for a passage on that same torturous journey to Europe. Why? Simply because Africa’s gleaming potential remains largely obscure to a majority of its people who are excluded from the formal labor market and from basic amenities such as education, water, health services, access to credit and viable economic opportunities. The burden of everyday life in many African cities reads like a medieval tale with inadequate housing, epileptic power supply, erratic telecommunications and horrendous sanitation challenges. Many young Africans would rather take their chances with the traffickers and the risk of drowning in unmarked, watery graves than remain hopelessly locked out of their potential to be active members of the world’s most innovative generation.
Yet, there is a new Africa that is silently emerging in which consistent growth in African economies is producing higher numbers of high net-worth individuals. Set against the backdrop of shrinking overseas domestic assistance due to pressure in troubled western economies, Africa is pushing forward by mobilizing its own resources. For the first time in the history of global health, Africa’s domestic resources have started to exceed foreign development inflows in health, proving that the dwindling flow of assistance might actually be the magic bullet that Africa had been awaiting to finally launch it out of its aid-dependent era. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that since 2001, 27 African countries have shown marked increase in the proportion of total government expenditures allocated to health. Rwanda and South Africa have achieved the 15% target allocation of government expenditure to health and as at 2011, domestic investment in HIV, tuberculosis and malaria had reached approximately double the value of foreign inflows. By the end of that financial year, a number of countries were already spending up to an average of 20 times more than they received in assistance. Throughout the continent, the public is also responding to domestic funding opportunities provided by innovative platforms such as the I WILL GIVE (IWG) initiative that is working to bridge the gap in development funding.
In contrast to Daud’s affluent international jet setting lifestyle, his hometown back in Africa is just a forty minute drive from the location of the posh residences he puts up for lease. The poor neighborhood is a place where young people can only dream of the life he now lives. In a few days, Daud will get a phone call to tell him that his neighbor’s wife has died from preventable pregnancy related complications, leaving her twenty-nine year old husband with three young children. Within that same time frame, dozens of red carpet Hollywood style parties will be held ‘across the river’ from the shanty where Daud was raised and where scores of youngsters like him remain caught in a vicious, vice gripping cycle of poverty. Instead of splashing their wealth around with conspicuous lifestyles while millions go to bed hungry at night, Africa’s growing crop of high net worth individuals now have IWG as an option of how they choose to spend their wealth, giving something back to society.
This year Daud is rallying his business community to start a ‘Giving’ fund, through which his privileged friends will donate at least ten percent of their party budgets so that the IWG platform can channel those funds into pro-poor projects that will benefit selected beneficiary communities. Instead of throwing lavish club private parties and Christmas staff parties on yachts, corporate organizations have the option of converting their celebration funds or pre-allocate up to 40% of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) budget to the IWG platform.
A re-awakening is returning to Africa, along with a sense of pride and the audacity to believe that a 'regular Jeta' in Africa could become a philanthropist who seizes the opportunity thrust upon him by fate to take Africa’s destiny in hand. Only Africans can heave Africa out of poverty and if every party-throwing African would choose like Daud, to rise to the occasion and in the years to come, commit to funding the IWG platform, real social change can begin as deserving community projects receive much-needed income to fund them from local sources. Funding community projects with locally generated resources comes with a bonus: a built-in monitoring impetus because stakeholders are interested in seeing the outcomes and are therefore more pro-actively involved in ensuring accountability. Contrast that with the apathy that tends to accompany government funding, the free-for-all scramble associated with donor funding and a new picture will begin to emerge: a picture of real, sustainable, community level change.
If every person who can afford an extra meal a day makes a contribution to support a community project, the combination of trickling neo-philanthropist shillings, cedis, naira and cefas along with high net worth ‘Giving’ funds and CSR budgets will ensure that orphanages get electricity and clean bed sheets, communities have pipe-borne water and Daud’s neighbor will welcome his wife and baby back home from the maternity clinic to a family celebration, however modest it might be in comparison to Daud’s otherworldly destination wedding. Platforms like I WILL GIVE are placing the power to transform Africa within our reach!
Last Updated on Friday, 15 April 2016 18:59
Written by Oluwafunmilola Babalola