Inequality and the Value of Philanthropy




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Dec 16, 2019
by Claire Kidwell
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Inequality and the Value of Philanthropy

Oluwatoyin Adegbite-Moore discusses closing the inequality gap in Nigeria through philanthropy and youth development Oluwatoyin Adegbite-Moore (Photo: Katrin Kerschbaumer)

Oluwatoyin Adegbite-Moore recalls that she did not personally encounter racism until she left Nigeria and went to college in the United States. Since then, closing inequality gaps has shaped her work in the philanthropy sector – first in the US and now back in her home country and across the continent.

Adegbite-Moore attended Toward a More Inclusive and Diverse Global Philanthropy: Strategies to Address Social, Economic and Historic Inequality at Salzburg Global Seminar to share her work, her experiences, and her Pan-African focus.

“I think it’s hard to correct decades and centuries of inequality. However, we can begin to really, through empathy, get people around understanding the importance of working together… My livelihood and my peace is actually dependent on making sure that other people also come out of poverty and can make a decent living.”

Improving prospects and conditions for people is a theme that runs through her work. She says that she wants to make sure everyone can “take care of their responsibilities.”

Adegbite-Moore is the executive director for the West Africa region at  Africa Venture Philanthropy Alliance, a network for social investors committed to building high impact community across Africa. Prior to that, she founded Sheafam & Tam Limited, a transformative management consultancy firm specializing in strategic planning, business process management, change management, human resources and talent management for the public and private sectors in the US and Nigeria.

It’s now a question of what systems are in place and which systems need to change, according to Adegbite-Moore, when it comes to the role of philanthropy in addressing inequality.

One of these areas of inequality AVPA works on is women’s role in Nigeria: Traditionally a matriarchal society before colonization, women today face gender discrimination in home and the workplace. Adegbite-Moore says that the gender system is shifting back, creating a resurgence in the concept of women in power.

Long-subjected to great inequality between the continent and West, Africa has a growing intracontinental wealth gap. Adegbite-Moore advocates for a Pan-African focus, which aims to encourage and strengthen solidarity between all indigenous and diaspora ethnic groups of African descent, in the philanthropic sector.

“It took leadership and someone saying, look, it doesn’t have to be this way. We need to change. We need to work together. Our destinies are connected where our humanity is connected. And we need to make sure we make a change.”

Africa has long been a recipient of international aid, but Adegbite-Moore says this aid influx contributes more to inequality than alleviating it, widening gaps within systems such as education. Philanthropy, while meant well, can sometimes take away economic opportunities which would close these gaps. She suggests, “we need to really kind of start thinking about maybe the models that we used to use before are no longer working.”

“Creative, you know, innovative opportunities need to be looked at and to see how we can learn from each of our regions, because we’re all dealing with one big issue in Africa right now. And that is our population is a very young population and it’s going to be young for several decades to come.” The median age in Africa is 19 years old; in Niger, Uganda and Mali the median age is below 16 years old.  

Adegbite-Moore says philanthropy needs to start with education to instill an altruistic mindset into the minds of Africa’s young population.

“You start young, you get into the school, you make philanthropy and volunteerism part of the school curriculum. So people know right from when they’re young the importance of giving back, the importance of giving. And again, looking at philanthropy from a very wide definition, it’s the giving of time, the giving of money and the giving knowledge. So at an early age, you focus more on giving in terms of time. What can you do as an individual to help your neighbor or what can you do to help your friend? Or what can you do to help at home?”

With this mindset, Adegbite-Moore hopes to see a more empathetic generation rise up in Nigeria.  She looks forward to “a world where young people right from the beginning really understands the value of philanthropy and what it means and how it can contribute to social change and transformation.”

The Salzburg Global Seminar Program, Toward a More Inclusive and Diverse Global Philanthropy: Strategies to Address Social, Economic and Historic Inequality, is part of The Philanthropy and Social Investment series. The program is held in partnership with the Hewlett Foundation and Capital Group Companies.