Type into Google “fundraising for African Charities” and a plethora of good causes come up, ranging from water and sanitation, to helping the African child, but I’m at a loss when it comes to understanding how they raise their money.
I’ve been raising funds with great difficulty for the work that my charity TACT does in Nigeria – the country of my heritage and the birth nation of my mother and father. We work in rural communities in Eastern Nigeria and provide funding for widows to build businesses in order for them to help themselves and stimulate the local economy. We work with young women to train and develop their expertise in sewing and tailoring so they can start their own business and contribute to the community. This ensures that they avoid joining the cohort of ladies in the oldest industry known to man- the “night trade.” In addition, we support a mental health organization that takes severely psychotic or emotionally disturbed people off the streets and into a wellness center, where, with an in-depth remedial program and the right drugs, they can be helped to restore their mind and regain a place back into society.
All good work, I hear you say, but nonetheless very hard to raise funds for. To date we (myself, my trustees and volunteer supporters) have done half marathons, ridden between capital cities, held golf days and run programs from our sister organization The Akabusi Company in order to support TACT work abroad. Most of the money that comes in has been from well meaning business and people from the UK (not always the most wealthy) but very little has come from Africans in the Diaspora.
I must add that this is not my way of having a go, but rather a sincere question:
Is it time that the African child helped itself, and if so, how would you recommend that we engage it to do so?
While Black British people can be said to have been in these islands for many centuries, many of the people of African origin who live in the UK today can trace their roots to the cohort of Africans in the Diaspora that came to this country between 1950-70. The majority of these people of African descent were from the Caribbean and came to the UK as part of the post second world war drive to rebuild Britain, as the indigenous population realised it needed help from the colonies.
However a smaller contingent was from the main continent and arrived strictly for educational purposes (both academic and professional) while engaging with menial tasks as a mode to support the income from their parents, villagers and well wishes who had sent them here in the first place. The latter scenario best suited my parents, who came in 1955 with the intention of getting educated and then going back home to help develop the infrastructure of their homeland. This turned into a full Nation Building program as Nigeria received independence on the 1st of October 1960. On their return to the country of their birth there was much excitement as they got stuck into the nation building program.
But seven years later all was plunged into disarray as civil war laid waste those dreams and turned hope into despair. In my humble opinion, 50 years later the country has still not recovered from the disaster (for another blog) but I have no time to go into it here.
The upshot is that Nigeria (home of 160million people) still has the vast majority of its people living on less than $2 a day.
This vast majority has limited access to clean potable (not portable) water, sanitation, electricity, safe working environments (even if they have regular work) medical services and yada yada yada the beat goes on.
Where has the spirit of our fathers gone? The desire to be a part of the Nation Building Program, to get involved as my brother’s keeper and in the words of Mahatma Gandhi “to be the change that you want to see?” I have found it easier to mobilize well-meaning Europeans, than to engage my African brothers and sisters with what I am doing in Nigeria, and there can be many reasons why. In my limited research I came across this table on population shifts in the UK and the influx of ethnic minorities within Britain and must admit to be surprised by the data.
One of the reasons why it might be difficult to raise money from the African population or to get them to engage with the main continent, is that actually per head of population, the major influx of the African into the UK is really recent: 1991-2001.
The effects of recent immigration may mean limited income within the community or that they may be so focused on establishing themselves here that they have little room or sentiment for what is going on back in their ancestral home. It could also be that they indeed are doing their own little bit to support friends and family back home (“charity begins at home”) and they have no room for somebody else’s dreams. Or perhaps it is a mixture of both of the above and more.
Nonetheless I would be very interested in the opinion of people who interact with AfricaOnTheBlog as to how you see the landscape, and what you would advise us do about it, if indeed there is anything that can be done.
Some other thoughts that crossed my mind were/are: –
1. The Nigerian/African is still tribalised and therefore only has eyes for their own community.
2. Nigeria still suffers from an image of corruption, so much so that even those who originate from the country don’t trust that any money donated will get to its intended target.
3. Africans in the Diaspora are still, in the main, in the lower strata of society economically, and have limited disposable income for good causes.
4. Africans, in an attempt to assimilate the host country’s ethics, have lost touch with the sense of brotherhood within mainland Africa.
This list is not exhaustive and I’m really interested in your thoughts around the third sector, and on raising funds from within the African community for work in the mainland continent.