Interview with Francis Kiwanga, Executive Director for Foundation for Civil Society and African Philanthropy Network, Board Chairperson.
“I believe in local empowerment, for there to be a true development, people cannot continue to be passive in the process but they have to participate to build a long-lasting development”, Francis Kiwanga.
May you please tell us a bit about yourself and the work that you are doing at Foundation for Civil Society in Tanzania? I am the Executive Director of the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS) in Tanzania, the largest funding mechanism in the country. We are a grant making as well as a capacity development support facility for civil society organisations (CSOs) in Tanzania. As for my background, I am a lawyer professionally. I have worked in the human rights field before I went into doing my consultancy work for some time. I have been with the FCS for 5 years now, joined back in 2015.
How did you end up being a board member and chairperson of APN?
When I joined the FCS in 2015, I found the Foundation being a member of different networks focusing in philanthropy and grantmaking in the continent and globally. In this regard, FCS was one of the founding Steering Committee Members of the Africa Philanthropy Network Grantmakers Network (AGN), which was re-branded in the AGN Assembly 2015 in Arusha, Tanzania into an African Philanthropy Network (APN). Thus, by virtue of my position as an Executive Director of the FCS, I became a board member of APN. Membership at APN is corporate and for the same reason the constitution of APN, the Board is formed by cooperate members. In 2019, APN board was selected and FCS happened to be one of its nine (9) members, and at the same time, I got an opportunity to be elected as the chairperson of APN’s Board.
What have you enjoyed most about this role?
I like being a part of this movement because from the beginning it was more like African Grantmakers coming together for a collective agenda, with common interest. I have seen APN transform itself from what used to be Grantmakers association into becoming a movement within the continent. Now, I see APN being active as a go-to-to platform where African philanthropy support organizations and individuals can come together, a platform that is bringing voices which were not here before. One particular example is the work that is being done during this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, bringing experiences from different parts of Africa, learning from each other and finding out what are the good practices and strategic solutions in dealing with the pandemic within the African context.
What is an area of APN’ work that you are particularly passionate about?I am passionate about one conversation that we started a long time ago on galvanizing philanthropy in Africa and I have seen APN taking the lead. One is to bring the voices on local/Africa community giving within, the narrative around African philanthropy and there are so many ways in which people give in Africa but very little is documented and or little is shared. I see APN is now taking that role, building a strong narrative about African giving as well as bringing out the voices and forms of giving which I would say is hard but, APN is working hard to make all these narrative visible. “I am happy that now this is the kind of conversation that is going at the Secretariat, the Board as well as the APN members collectively, we are building a strong narrative about Africa philanthropic giving-various forms and ways which are never documented. We need to appreciate and make the world recognize that there are so many forms of philanthropic giving in Africa, while we also understand, that there is more that needs to be done to unlock the potential for African philanthropy and its contribution to the development of the people”, said APN Chairperson.
Is Africa’s philanthropic sector changing and evolving on the continent? If yes, how?
I would say yes, African philanthropy is changing. It has it has been undermined for many years, we do not have many positive stories from the African continent and for that reason. I see APN is taking a transformational approach by doing things that maybe were not done and were supposed to be done. APN is encouraging the conversation of African Philanthropy so that we can negotiate for the shift the culture and story of giving- giving strategically!
I think philanthropy as a field is evolving on the continent. Various Pan-African support networks have been established. As a continent we are evolving in the sense that people give a lot for social purposes, but for some reason their giving is not appreciated -currently we have APN and other regional networks that are ready to take up the role of promoting its value. APN is now bringing up these issues and I believe it is important to have a strong narrative about the different ways the African continent is giving and to empower our local people on strategic giving within the continent. In this, we will ensure that communities do not only become recipients but also contributors into their own development.
In your work, how are you addressing the power structures that perpetuate poverty and marginalization in your country or on the continent?
From where I am sitting and from my organization’s perspective, we want to see a better Africa; we want to see poverty being alleviated in Africa. We choose to work with the people by sensitizing them, by mobilizing them so that they can realize their potential. I believe so much in local empowerment, for there to be a true development people cannot continue to be passive in the process but they have to participate to build a durable development. We have also chosen to work on the area of policy around Africa because sometimes we may not be in the right place partly because the decisions we make, even the various policies that we implement are developed somewhere else and are only coming to Africa to be implemented. What we want is to be people centric and to develop policies that reflects the wishes of the people as well as build communities that can act for themselves, where necessary. We also want communities to participate actively in the development processes and that will help is addressing power imbalance. In Tanzania, we are driven by a philosophy that for there to be a durable development people have to be involved. FCS is championing this cause by encouraging active participation of locals in the development process.
Dependency on external funders, including international NGOs, reinforces a perception that many organisations are disconnected from their roots, have no obvious impact, and have no long-term viability. In a changing development landscape, what are some of the strategies you are exploring an institution for sustainability?
We know that to be sustainable depending on foreign aid is not a permanent solution to our problems. We are focusing on the legislative framework so that those that are giving (for both the individual and the corporates) can find either some incentive or get tax relief in future. We also realize that for people to give we need to build a strong narrative on why they need to give. Thus, changing of mindset and changing of culture is also what we are trying to do. We are the champions working with communities so that we mobilize our people in local giving. At our institution, we have different ways in which we mobilize resources; our staff are contributing 1% from their salaries for the sustainability of the organization. We also have staff dedicating some of their time to income generating activities as well. Learning from our colleagues in the sector, we have setup a subsidiary entity that focus on income-generation and at some point, they will be ploughing back the profit into the Foundation for it to continue to be sustainable. It is not easy, but we have started somewhere making steps in the right direction to generate our own resources for pushing our own agenda.
What is an inspiring quote that you would like to share?We have a saying in Kiswahili and it can be translated into English to say, “We give by our hearts”. For me this is very important because even for the money that we receive from outside Africa there are people who are giving back to the society and not because they have so much wealth but because they are moved by a cause. With that saying, I believe that in Africa, we are united by our philosophy of togetherness, that should make us recognize that we need to give so that we move forward together. By using the wisdom from this saying at the continent level and at the country level, we need to continue giving not because we have so much wealth but because we want to see our countries getting better and even the continent getting better.