African Philanthropists Help Lead the Fight Against Ebola

The stories of those being struck down by Ebola — and of the loss to their families, friends, communities and countries — are gut-wrenching. As I write this, the World Health Organization estimates that in the hardest-hit countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, there are nearly 16,000 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of Ebola. Over 5,600 people have died from the disease, including caregivers within families and healthcare workers, many of whom are volunteers.

It is easy to feel helpless in the face of such a tragedy. But we are not. And African philanthropists, and Africans with lesser means, have shown the way.

  • When it comes to organized philanthropy, take for example the forethought of Nigeria’s Aliko Dangote, who joined the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International in the effort to eradicate polio in Nigeria. The infrastructure they built, and the habits of cross-sector collaboration they fostered, played a pivotal role in Nigeria’s success in treating and then containing the spread of Ebola there.
  • Consider also Zimbabwean philanthropist Strive Masayiwa, Founder and Chairman of Econet Wireless, who along with his wife Tsitsi has partnered with Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union, in an initiative to tap the talents and resources of African businesses to aid in the fight against the disease. Dr. Zuma has helped raise more than40 million from African businesses since November 8, 2014.
  • Through African Rainbow Minerals and their family foundation, South African philanthropists Patrice and Precious Motsepe have donated1 million to the Ebola Fund in the Republic of Guinea to assist that country with clinical management, social mobilization, medical coordination and other key mechanisms of controlling the disease.
  • And Tony Elumelu, Chairman of Nigeria’s Heirs Holding and an advocate for a distinct brand of “Africacapitalism,” has committed funds from his foundation not only to his native Nigeria, but to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to equip medical teams in all four countries.

These are just some examples of African giving at work. In recognition that crises such as these require the resources and dedication of the public, private and citizen sectors, these “strategic philanthropists” seek to match, support and magnify the hard work of sometimes fragile governments, and the generosity of tens of thousands of individual Africans with lesser means. They are the family members and community members — volunteers all — who risk their lives each day in the hope of saving another. Like the philanthropists described above, they are staying true to a long and deeply held tradition of giving – giving from the heart and giving from the head. We have an opportunity to do the same.

It takes us all.

This piece first appeared on The Huffington Post under the title “African Philanthropists and Community Members Help Lead the Fight Against Ebola.” Follow Jane Wales on Twitter for more insights into strategic philanthropy in Africa.