Release Date: 05 July, 2018

Bhekinkosi Moyo: Champion of Philanthropy in Africa

Champion of Philanthropy in Africa

Dr Bhekinkosi Moyo has been appointed as an Adjunct Professor at Wits Business School, tasked with establishing a Centre that will focus on African philanthropy and social investment. Moyo will be building on the work of Professor Alan Fowler in setting up the Chair in African Philanthropy.

“In Africa, it is uniquely befitting that philanthropy be studied alongside social investment,” says Moyo. “The private sector is a key player as an engine for economic growth and as is normally the case, philanthropy gets its financial muscle from this sector. It will be the role of the Centre to influence how this money is ploughed back to communities.”

Moyo has dedicated most of his career to researching civil society and philanthropy in Africa. Lessons learnt from teaching and football coaching in Zimbabwe led him to dream of doing more, not only for his community but for his country and continent.  Naturally drawn to community development, Moyo moved to Johannesburg to further his studies at Wits in 2000.  His doctoral studies in 2001 proved the turning point.

“The philosophy of service not only to the community, but to humanity at large, has always resonated with me,” says Moyo. “I was fascinated by African-based community structures and the indigenous practice of giving:  of mobilising resources and giving back to the community. My time at Wits opened my world and put me in touch with key thought leaders in this field.”

Moyo researched the role of philanthropic foundations in supporting civil society in Southern Africa for his PhD, which he obtained from Wits University in 2005. Through his studies, he met Fowler and learnt about his work on international development through organisations such as the International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR).  Fowler, a renowned ‘pracademic’, is an honorary professor at WBS and emeritus professor at the International Institute of development Studies, Erasmus University, The Netherlands. 

On the back of his PhD research, Moyo was awarded a fellowship by the Mott Foundation to study philanthropy and civil society at the City University of New York.  He realised that the study of philanthropy was at an advanced stage in other parts of the world, but Africa lagged far behind. 

“When I got an opportunity to study philanthropy, I realised that this is a field that has not been studied or researched anywhere in Africa.  There are over 300 programmes around the world that teach or research Philanthropy.  The irony is that philanthropy is practiced in the most natural way every day on our continent, in various forms, and has for hundreds of years.  It has just never been documented.”

Moyo is a prolific author, researcher and thought leader on African democracy, governance and civil society.  Before joining WBS, he was CEO of the Southern Africa Trust, and prior to that spent seven years with TrustAfrica as Director of Programmes, contributing significantly to the body of knowledge on African philanthropy and public policy. 

While excited about his new role at WBS, Moyo sees it as coming “full circle”.  A Chair in African Philanthropy, which he articulated in a strategy document for TrustAfrica back in 2007, is the next logical step in formalising the study of philanthropy in Africa.

 “My vision for the Centre is that it will be the ‘go-to’ hub of knowledge generation in African philanthropy. It will be a centre dedicated to interpreting the philanthropic and donor landscape in Africa, as well as a teaching platform and, importantly, a repository of recorded knowledge. Further, the Centre will explore the role played by small, medium and large enterprises in communities where they are located,and beyond,” he says.

“In Africa there are many, many people with a wealth of experience in philanthropy, but the knowledge is in their heads. One of the primary focuses of the Centre will be to encourage those practitioners to share their knowledge and experience in all aspects of philanthropy, including setting up foundations, fund raising and grant making. 

“It will be the first institution on the continent that will bring both business and public policy makers together to identify solutions to challenges affecting the continent while putting the citizens at the heart of the conversation.  In this way, Centre will be where academia meets practice.”

There are many different definitions of, and dimensions to, philanthropy and what it means in other parts of the world.  In the context of Africa, philanthropy must be seen to support ethical transformation, says Moyo.

“It is important to see philanthropy as a paradigm that is supported by the concepts of accountability, reciprocity, solidarity and trust.  Using this paradigm, and realising that as humans our lives are entwined, we can develop an ethical society.”

It is envisioned that the Centre will host a number of other initiatives, including a Master of Management in African Philanthropy, executive courses, PhD seminars and lecture series.

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