While there are a number of businessmen offering their wisdom and wealth to a variety of causes across Africa, there are increasing numbers of female philanthropists currently standing out and making a real difference across their continent. Dedicated to improving healthcare for those who have been marginalised by society, increasing awareness of certain issues facing their countries, and increasing the educational opportunities for all, these women are leading the way and should be admired, and their example studied.
The women leading the way in Africa
The field of women philanthropists in Africa is vast and varied. Wendy Appelbaum, for example, has donated an estimated $23 million to charities and organisations in South Africa, and has worked tirelessly to draw attention to the importance of intensive healthcare for African women; even today, women are heavily marginalised, and the work of businesswomen such as Appelbaum has been crucial in the education of the African people and the empowerment of minority social groups.
Similarly, Mamphela Ramphele, a politician, doctor and academic, has been a prominent activist during her adult life, founding the Black Consciousness Movement, and becoming the very first black women to hold the position of vice chancellor at a South African University – that of Cape Town. Ramphele has also been a managing director of the World Bank, and a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, as well as holding several honorary degrees; her influence and philanthropic activities have been far-reaching.
The richest woman in Africa, Folorunsho Alakija, is currently using her wealth for good, having founded the Rose of Sharon Foundation, which empowers widows and orphans with business grants and scholarships. Frequently ignored, these family groups are exploring education and finding opportunities where none existed before, and are able to support themselves for the first time.
The impact of the Gede Foundation in Africa
Leading the way in the field of healthcare and philanthropy is Jennifer Douglas Abubakar, the wife of former Nigerian vice president Atiku Abubakar, and founder of the Gede Foundation. Mrs Abubakar, a former journalist and PhD student at the University of Washington, is concerned with the stigma attached to HIV and AIDS, which are both prevalent in her home country of Nigeria. She founded Nigeria’s very first organisation to acknowledge the stigmas surrounding the illness, and has worked tirelessly to ensure its success. Since its launch in 2002, the Gede Foundation has offered clinical services to tens of thousands of patients, as well as offering pharmaceutical care and laboratory assistance in clients’ own homes and in remote areas, and pushing the boundaries of understanding HIV and AIDS. In addition, Gede’s Orphans and Vulnerable Children program continues to highlight the issues surrounding Africa’s most marginalised social groups, while the foundation also supports those with varying degrees of mental health issues. Mrs Abubakar’s dedication has helped this organisation to succeed in its aims and continue to grow.
Although often considered a marginalised group within their own society, there are a number of African women leading the charge in philanthropy; without their hard work, dedication and financial contributions, the fields of education, empowerment and healthcare would be far less explored within Africa.