The year 2020 was record-breaking for African philanthropy.
As COVID-19 swept across the globe, African billionaires and ultra-high net-worth individuals donated hundreds of millions of dollars to the fight against the pandemic.
From Algeria to Nigeria to Zimbabwe, Africa’s richest people stood up to join this fight by making unprecedented donations. Some of the better-known acts of philanthropy include: Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris and his family donated $6 million; In Nigeria, Africa’s wealthiest man Aliko Dangote donated NGN 2 billion (approximately $5 million at the time); His fellow Nigerian billionaires Mike Adenuga and Femi Otedola donated N1 billion ($2.5 million) each; In Tanzania, Rostam Aziz – one of the country’s richest men – donated $430,000 in equipment and supplies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in public places; and, Kenyan steel tycoon Narendra Raval donated $1 million.
But it was the South Africans who stole the show. Four South African billionaires – Johann Rupert, Nicky Oppenheimer, Mary Oppenheimer-Slack and Patrice Motsepe – each donated R1 billion (about $57 million at the time) to fight the spread of the virus in South Africa and to support businesses and individuals whose livelihood was affected. These gifts, along with several others, were among the largest charitable donations made by African billionaires over the past decade.
Billionaires.Africa tallied the biggest reported charitable gifts and pledges made by African billionaires between 2011 and 2021 to come up with a list of the 10 largest.
Note: These are the individuals who made the largest lump-sum donations in the past decade — not necessarily the ones who donated the most throughout the year.
1. In February 2019, Zimbabwe’s richest man Strive Masiyiwa and his wife Tsitsi pledged $100 million to establish the Masiyiwa Rural Challenge fund. Over a period of five years, the $100 million will be disbursed as loans to young Zimbabwean rural entrepreneurs and rural-focused ventures through Steward Bank, a Zimbabwean-based commercial bank that is controlled by the Masiyiwa family. The minimum loan will be $1,000, while the maximum will be $10,000. The loans will require no collateral and the maximum interest rate will be five percent. Repayments will be channelled into a revolving fund to absorb as many rural entrepreneurs as possible.
2. In August 2017, South African billionaire Jannie Mouton, the founder of PSG Group, donated $82 million worth of PSG Group shares to his personal charity, the Jannie Mouton Foundation. The Jannie Mouton Foundation engages in developmental activities and funds non-profit organizations that facilitate positive social change through education, training and skills development.
3. In March 2020, South African billionaire Nicky Oppenheimer and his son, Jonathan, donated R1 billion ($57 million) through their Oppenheimer Generations Foundation to establish the South African Future Trust (SA Future Trust). The SA Future Trust supported small businesses throughout the COVID-19 crisis by providing direct financial support to businesses so that their employees could continue to receive an income through the lockdown period of 2020. As a going concern, the SA Future Trust will support initiatives with a focus on employment creation. SA Future Trust will cease operations once all funds are disbursed, and no later than Dec. 31, 2040.
4. In March 2020, South African billionaire Johann Rupert made a donation of R1 billion ($57 million) to a solidarity fund set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa to provide financial assistance and aid to small and medium enterprises and employees negatively affected by the pandemic.
5. Mary Oppenheimer, a sister to Nicky Oppenheimer, also donated R1 billion ($57 million) to the Solidarity Fund established by President Ramphosa to mitigate the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic on the country’s most vulnerable communities.
6. Patrice Motsepe donated R1 billion ($57 million) as well in March 2020 to help fight COVID-19. At the time, Motsepe said the money would be channelled through the government to improve access to water, health and educational facilities. In the medium term, the funds will be used to build additional classrooms, computer centres and laboratories in South Africa to reduce overcrowding in classrooms.
7. Douw Steyn, a South African real estate tycoon and owner of Saxon Hotel, pledged a donation of R320 million ($21.7 million) in April 2020 to assist coronavirus relief efforts in South Africa. The bulk of the money will be channelled toward supporting feeding schemes in low-income areas in the country.
8. In September 2019, Aliko Dangote donated $20 million to the Africa Center in New York. The Africa Center is a New York-based non-profit institution focused on challenging historical stereotypes around the African continent and a hub for creating an intersection of African policy, business and culture, and recreating narratives about Africa’s economic and cultural significance today and in the future.
9. In November 2019, Femi Otedola, one of Nigeria’s richest men, donated NGN5 billion (about $14 million at the time) to the Save the Children Fund through his daughter, DJ Cuppy’s Foundation, to support intervention programmes for destitute children in Nigeria’s northeastern region. Otedola is the owner and chairman of Geregu Power PLC, one of Nigeria’s largest utility companies.
10. In May 2021, Nigerian billionaire Abdul Samad Rabiu gave a N5-billion ($11.9 million) grant to support health and social development programs in Akwa Ibom State. Earlier, in April 2021, the Nigerian cement and sugar tycoon announced the launch of the Abdul Samad Rabiu Initiative, which will commit $100 million every year to initiatives in education, health and social development across Africa.