The Wits Business School Chair in African Philanthropy

The Wits Business School (WBS) Chair in African Philanthropy, the first of its kind
on the continent, is a joint initiative with the Southern Africa Trust. The purpose is
to advance the cause of philanthropy and social investment by better
understanding the function and types of gifting across the continent.
The Chair aligns with the WBS approach of ensuring business is fully aware of the
values and dynamics of the societies in which they operate, in this instance, the
richness of gifting that underpins the resilience of African societies.


African philanthropy, or ‘gifting’, is an age-old practice in Africa and plays a
central role in most communities across the continent. Knowledge and research
on the topic, however, is limited. The Chair in African Philanthropy aims to build a body of knowledge, data, research and teaching infrastructure and human
resources which will take the field of gifting forward into an era of renewed
socio-economic development in Africa. It aims to bring African-inspired, practically
relevant study to the area and role of African philanthropy, contributing to the
teaching curriculum as well as researching and educating about practical ways of
engaging in effective socially-inspired economic initiatives.


The Chair in African Philanthropy was co-designed around four themes

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The WBS Chair in African Philanthropy is a strongly participatory initiative which aims to apply a pan-Africa perspective on the practice of gifting.
Ongoing collaboration from stakeholders across the continent will ensure the development of theories, models and tools appropriate to the continent’s
experience, context and needs.


Stakeholders include:


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  • Policymakers
  • Public, private and civil society leaders


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  • Academics
  • Foundations


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  • Social and philanthropic investors



The following organisations have provided seed funding:

The Chair’s Profile

The full profile of the Chair will be implemented in 2017, which will include:


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  • Accreditation of Masters of Management in the Field of African Philanthropy
  • MBA curriculum sessions
  • Executive education programme content
  • Postgraduate research
  • Academic articles
  • Stakeholder dialogues


The ‘Ecology’ of Gifting

There is more to African philanthropy than modern philanthropy, or grant-making. It is a rich, interconnected system, or ecology, comprising various types of gifting, of which modern philanthropy is but one.

Gifting can be seen as both horizontal (a naturally deep rooted culture of person-
to-person giving and support) and vertical which requires the creation of
roots. Vertical gifting is complex and developing system involving the actions of
high net worth individuals, foundations, donors, social enterprise and corporate
social investment (CSI).

The Chair of African Philanthropy Foundational Paper

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“As the cradle of humankind, the continent of Africa is a place where identity,
culture, survival and economics meet. But wide spread poverty and increasing inequality also make clear the stresses that this relational system has faced and must still must cope with. It should be clear that the knowledge relied on so far to understand this critical ethical interface on the continent – who gifts to whom, when, why, why not, how much and with what effects – is far from systematic, robust or unbiased. Remedying this situation must be a collaborative endeavour with outreach into leadership development, teaching, policy and practice. Guiding students, their employers, investors and the many organisations concerned about the continent’s welfare calls for well thought through, high quality, teaching informed by carefully crafted (comparative) research.”


Click here to read the full paper.

“Rain reaches and feeds the
roots. The sun photo-synthesises
gifting structures. Together, over
a long time, these resources have
formed the plural ecology of
African gifting.”.”


– Alan Fowler

About Professor Alan Fowler

Alan Fowler is emeritus professor at the Institute of Social Studies and a former
president of the International Society for Third Sector Research. He has been
appointed visiting professor at Wits Business School for the Chair in African
Philanthropy and is responsible for establishing its profile and programme.


Click here for Alan Fowler’s biography.