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African philanthropy’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Although COVID-19 blind-sighted the world, the philanthropic response of African donors was nothing short of inspiring.



Tsitsi Mutendi.

The African Philanthropy Network says: “African philanthropy means resources- nature, human, financial, social, intellectual that can be tapped into addressing Africa’s challenges.” They further describe that African philanthropy is equated to citizen agency, which is the capacity of individuals to act independently and make their own choices. As we have seen on the ground, African philanthropy includes: foundations and funds; family and community based; individual giving; collective solidarity mechanisms – in cash, in-kind, or in time; and, social investments.

African philanthropy is generally characterised by all vertical and horizontal dimensions of giving of private resources for the common good, and it cannot be defined by a single culture or model of giving.

The past two years have been a difficult space for Africa. We saw the global pandemic cripple many countries globally and unending lockdowns becoming the order of the day. Unlike the Ebola threat that was curtailed, the novel coronavirus threatened the whole world and spread rapidly, mutating as it went. During this time, we saw a varied but critical global philanthropic response.

According to an article written for McKinsey: “The philanthropic response to the COVID-19 pandemic showcased the sector at its best. From the launch of community-based rapid-response funds to the development of diagnostics and vaccines, philanthropy showed up both to help flatten the curve in the short term and to address the inequities the crisis will exacerbate over the long term.” Meanwhile, the Milken Institute noted in its webinar titled, “Lessons Learned: Examining the Philanthropic Response to COVID-19,” that, according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, philanthropists worldwide responded to COVID at levels that were of a magnitude higher than any other humanitarian crisis. 

Historically, African donors have been known to rally and support relief situations. Research by The BridgeSpan Group explored a five-country sample of 63 gifts of +$1 million given by African philanthropic families and donors. Eighteen of these gifts (roughly 30 percent) were in response to natural disasters (floods, famine, fires, cyclones) and disease outbreaks (Ebola and cholera).

These gifts totalled $130 million, which is roughly 13 percent of the $1-billion total value of gifts in our sample. (The five countries in the selection were Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.) Additionally, donations to disaster relief reflected a critical exception to the prevalence of giving within the donor’s home country.

For example, in 2018, Strive and Tsitsi Masiyiwa, London-based Zimbabwean philanthropists, made an emergency donation of $10 million through their company, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe, at the onset of the cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe. The following year, they made a $60-million follow-up gift that went beyond emergency aid to support a multiyear effort to eliminate water-borne diseases in the country. In effect, a longer-term effort designed to bring a more lasting solution to the initial problem. 

Another example is the 2015 donation of $5 million from the Dangote Foundation in Nigeria to the African Union’s Ebola Fund, distributed across multiple West African countries fighting outbreaks of the disease. The Ebola outbreaks in West Africa drew significant donations from philanthropists across the continent.

Building off of this precedent of philanthropic leadership in the face of disaster relief, African donors from across the continent gave significant donations to address the COVID‐19 crisis. While not an exhaustive list, some of the notable gifts given by philanthropic families include:

  • In South Africa, billionaires Patrice Motsepe, Nicky Oppenheimer, Johann Rupert and Mary Oppenheimer each pledged $57 million to assist with the pandemic and its related challenges in South Africa;
  • Michiel le Roux, one of the founding directors of the hugely successful Capitec Bank, donated R100 million to fight the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on South Africa;
  • A further $9.7 million was committed through philanthropic entities linked to the late billionaire Allan Gray. 

The ELMA South Africa Foundation announced a gift of $13.3 million to the country’s Solidarity Fund. And many corporates have also made significant contributions in South Africa, including more than $84 million committed by Naspers to the fund.

In Nigeria, Tony Elumelu donated $14 million through United Bank for Africa to COVID‐19 response across 20 African countries, including $500,000 earmarked for research at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

Billionaire Aliko Dangote committed more than $5 million through a newly‐established coalition, CACOVID (Coalition Against COVID-19), which he leads. CACOVID mobilised $55.7 million in total donations from members, including Abdul Samad Rabiu (BUA Sugar), Jim Ovia (Zenith Bank), Oba Otudeko (First Bank of Nigeria), Herbert Wigwe (Access Bank), Femi Otedola (Amperion Power), Raj Gupta (African Steel Mills, Segun Agbaje (Guaranty Trust Bank), the Alakija family (Famfa Oil Limited), Deji Adeleke (Pacific Holdings), Rahul Savara (Wacot Rice), John Coumantatous (Flour Mills), MTN Nigeria and the Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC). 

Billionaire Mike Adenuga donated $3.9 million to the federal and state government, and Rabiu donated $2.6 million to COVID-19 relief, while also providing testing kits and medical supplies to nine states in Nigeria.

In Zimbabwe, Strive, and Tsitsi Masiyiwa donated 45 ventilators to address acute shortages in medical equipment, and Masiyiwa’s Econet Group provided additional support to healthcare workers (ranging from clothing, insurance, cash and transportation). Strive also took up the call and was appointed the AU special envoy on COVID-19 and head of the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. 

Congolese basketball player Bismack Biyombo donated 10,000 face masks and 780 protective hazmat suits to assist his native Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And, in Kenya, Equity Group Foundation committed more than $11 million to support relief efforts and frontline medical staff — with assistance from Equity Bank, Mastercard Foundation and the family of senior Kenyan banking executive Dr. James Mwangi.

This COVID-19 response shows that wealthy Africans were making commitments in dollars and in time, influence and resources to ensure that Africa had the assistance needed.

While this pandemic was something entirely new and it blind-sighted the world, the philanthropic response aptly reflected and continues to reflect a history of giving by African donors towards disaster relief. 

Tsitsi Mutendi is a co-founder of African Family Firms, an organization that aims to facilitate the continuity of African family businesses across generations. She is also the lead consultant at Nhaka Legacy Planning and the host of the Enterprising Families Podcast.

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Kanye West faces new hurdle in business and personal life as Australian visa denial looms

The potential denial of a visa may be the latest in a long list of repercussions facing Kanye West.



Kanye West, now formerly known as Ye.

African-American multi-industry creative, Kanye West, who is now formerly known as Ye, may face a new hurdle in his business and personal life as he may be denied entry into Australia.

The African-American rapper-turned-mogul had reportedly planned to meet the family of his new partner, Melbourne native Bianca Censori, but his anti-Semitic comments in October may prevent him from entering the country.

The news of a potential ban was confirmed by Australian Minister for Education Jason Clare, who stated that individuals who have made similar comments have been denied visas in the past and that Ye will have to go through the same process and answer the same questions.

“People like that who’ve applied for visas to get into Australia in the past have been rejected,” Clare said. “I expect that if he does apply, he would have to go through the same process and answer the same questions that they did.” 

Anti-Defamation Commission Chairman Dvir Abramovich and opposition leader Peter Dutton have joined in calling for Kanye West to be banned from entering Australia due to his “appalling” comments.

The backlash from Ye’s anti-Semitic remarks (Kanye West) has already had a significant impact on his business ventures and wealth. In October, he lost all of his partnerships through his brand Yeezy with companies such as Adidas and Balenciaga.

The termination of the Adidas partnership, which began in 2013, had a substantial impact on Ye’s net worth. Forbes reported that the termination of the deal led to a decline of more than $1.6 billion, taking Ye’s net worth from $2 billion to $400 million.

The cancellation of the partnership that grew the Yeezy line into a brand that accounted for up to €1.5 billion ($1.47 billion) of Adidas’ total sales over the last decade is expected to cost the German behemoth up to €250 million ($247 million) in earnings.

The aftermath of Ye’s anti-Semitic comments has been negative for his wealth and ranking as one of the richest Black individuals in the US and one of the richest businessmen globally.

The potential denial of a visa to enter Australia may be the latest in a long list of repercussions facing Ye because of his anti-Semitic comments. 

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East Africa

James Mwangi’s Equity Group to receive $4.1 million for acquisition of Spire Bank

Equity Group is the largest financial services conglomerate in East Africa.



James Mwangi.

Equity Group Holdings, the Kenyan financial services giant led by James Mwangi, is set to receive millions of dollars from Mwalimu Sacco’s acquisition of financially distressed Spire Bank, as the teachers-backed lender agreed to pay Equity Group Ksh510 million ($4.1 million).

The deal is structured as an asset purchase transaction, backed by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), and will see Equity Group assume control over the assets and liabilities of the troubled bank.

The $4.1-million payment by Mwalimu Sacco to Equity represents the difference between the assets and liabilities of Spire Bank, implying that the bank holds zero value and the teachers have lost millions of dollars after purchasing a majority stake in 2014.

Mwalimu Sacco CEO Kenneth Odhiambo said the key consideration was to stop the bleeding and preserve Sacco’s bottomline for its members.

Equity Group will settle all redundancy costs for the more than 100 employees who will lose their jobs following the deal. The bank’s non-performing loans stand at Ksh2.63 billion ($21.1 million), and Equity’s immediate task will be to step up collections and recoveries.

The process of exiting Spire Bank was not as seamless as the initial acquisition, with Mwalimu Sacco citing the bank’s decline as beginning after the withdrawal of Naushad Merali’s deposits worth Ksh1.7 billion ($13.7 million), which represented one-fifth of the bank’s total deposits. 

The takeover of the troubled Spire Bank may present additional challenges and opportunities for Equity Group, which under the leadership of Kenyan businessman, Mwangi reported profits in excess of $280 million in the first nine months of 2022.

As of today, Equity Group shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange are trading at Ksh44.95 ($0.361) per share, a 0.99 percent decrease from their closing price on Fri., Jan. 27.

This values the company at Ksh170 billion ($1.36 billion) and Mwangi’s 3.38-percent stake at Ksh5.74 billion ($46.1 million).

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Nigerian billionaire Abdul Samad Rabiu’s food conglomerate achieves milestone with $195-million profit

Rabiu and his son, Isyaku Naziru Rabiu, own 99.8 percent of BUA Foods.



Abdul Samad Rabiu
Abdul Samad Rabiu. ©Billionaires.Africa

BUA Foods Plc, a leading food conglomerate majority owned by Africa’s fourth-richest man Nigerian billionaire Abdul Samad Rabiu, has achieved a milestone in its financial performance as it reported record-high earnings at the end of its 2022 fiscal year.

With a profit surge surpassing N90 billion ($195 million), the company’s latest earnings report highlights its impressive growth and financial strength. The Abdul Samad Rabiu-led food conglomerate has reported a record high in its financial performance, with its profit for the year ending Dec. 31, 2022, surging by a staggering 30 percent.

The unaudited financial statements reveal that the group’s earnings rose from N69.77 billion ($151.5 million) in 2021 to N90.4 billion ($196.3 million) at the end of 2022, driven by an increase in revenue from its diverse product portfolio of sugar, pasta, bakery flour, and wheat bran.

The remarkable growth reflects the company’s ability to continuously expand its offerings and maximize profitability in a competitive market.

BUA Foods’ revenue surged from N333.37 billion ($723.8 million) to N417.82 billion ($907.1 million) due to increased sales of non-fortified sugar N79.15 billion ($171.8 million) to N144.29 billion ($313.2 million) and other food items such as sugar molasses, bakery flour, pasta, and wheat bran.

The increase in consumer demand for food items, including stockpiling, resulted in higher prices and a corresponding boost in revenue for the group.

The robust performance led to an increase in retained earnings and shareholder equity from N192.66 billion ($418.26 million) and N200.7 billion ($435.7 million) in 2021 to N237.15 billion ($514.86 million) and N245.21 billion ($532.35 million) in 2022.

The outstanding financial performance is expected to result in a substantial increase in dividend earnings for Rabiu and his son, Isyaku Naziru Rabiu, with their 99.8-percent ownership in the consolidated food conglomerate.

This will be a marked improvement from the N62.9 billion ($151.6 million) that they received in dividends last year.

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