APF Speaker Martin Short: “The Biggest Bet in Philanthropy Today Isn’t About Charity – It’s About Investment”


The biggest bet in philanthropy today isn’t about charity. It’s about investment.

The failure to provide children with the right nutrition during their first 1,000 days throws away the potential of millions of kids. 45% of all child deaths can be traced to under nutrition. It costs African nations up to 16.5% of GDP each year. That is simply not sustainable.

How will nations in Africa rise to the challenges of the 21st century without healthy, educated, empowered citizens?

The scale of the challenge is big – far too big for any one person or organization to tackle alone. It’s also a big opportunity but one that will succeed only by working in partnership. Partnership are hard work. It means that both parties will have to give up something precious to achieve the larger goal. Without compromise partnerships are merely rhetorical clichés.

Good nutrition is an investment that unleashes human innovation and creates opportunity for economic growth. It’s an investment that makes our shared development aims for the 21st century – from health and education to food security and climate change – possible.

Nutrition is more than just a health or social development issue. If you have a stunted workforce you have a stunted economy.

But it’s an investment that offers one of the highest returns in development – $16 on every $1 over a child’s lifetime.

Philanthropy in Africa is uniquely positioned to take this bet and make this bold step to drive transformational change for children and economies. Success depends on more financing, systemic reform and long-term sustainability. Let’s talk about two opportunities:

First, bridge the financing gap. African philanthropy can bring the private and public sector together to pool resources. Currently, less than 1% of ODA is spent on nutrition. Domestically, nutrition spending is similarly under prioritized. Only 2.1% of national budgets are spent on nutrition-specific interventions. Together with other private sector resources, African philanthropy can incentivize and unlock public investment – ensuring systemic reform and long-term sustainability. It can also attract Northern private sector money – putting African nations firmly in the driving seat.

Money without capacity will not deliver results. To have the greatest impact, we also need to build government capacity and shape stronger national systems that can sustain progress. Moral imperative is not enough. Without robust systems and government commitments, we are in danger of just funding an ideology.

That’s why the second opportunity is to bring private sector principles to development to catalyze better nutrition outcomes. We know what works in nutrition but we need to improve how things are done – not just what is done. African leaders have acknowledged the importance of nutrition by establishing the African Leaders for Nutrition. African philanthropy can contribute financially but also push for greater transparency, traceability and accountability from all partners.

By working in partnership, we can drive transformative nutrition outcomes for adolescent girls, women and children at scale.

Now is the time to take bold steps. Together, we can make this bet count.

Is African philanthropy ready to take on this challenge? African leaders clearly are and at The Power of Nutrition we definitely are….

About: Martin Short is the Chief Executive of The Power of Nutrition, a charitable foundation whose goal is to unlock $1 billion in new financing to accelerate progress on child under-nutrition faster and on a scale that few can achieve alone. Follow @gofundnutrition to learn more about our work.