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Why the Philanthropy of African Billionaires Won’t Solve Anything

African countries have seen their fair share of philanthropy activities by local and international foundations owned by billionaires. Despite their massive involvement, the different challenges on the continent persist.

This is an indication that the problem transcends beyond money, just as Patrice Motsepe, a South African billionaire, noted. Though he did not spell it out, the fact remains that the different philanthropy activities through foundations on the continent are yet to achieve a level of change on the continent that significantly improves the common man’s life. This is evident with the recurrent and continuous economic and social challenges. 

Anand Giridharadas, the author of “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” also exposes this in his book. He said that the wealthiest people are fully involved in philanthropy activities and busy fighting for equal distribution of wealth as long as it does not threaten their position at the top.”

The same goes for Lynn Parramore in her article “Toxic Philanthropy? The Spirit of Giving While Taking” she said that philanthropists only speak about peoples’ plight and never talk about the perpetrator. These were philanthropist capitalists who remained unaccountable for their actions.

One good example was published in the Los Angeles Times in 2017. This was based on the Gates Foundation. The article “Dark Cloud Over Good Works of Gates Foundation” revealed the effect of the Foundation’s philanthropy and its investments in the Niger Delta.

The article states, “The Gates Foundation has poured $218 million into polio and measles immunisation and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time that the foundation is funding vaccinations to protect the health, it invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing the delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe.”

Let’s look at how charitable foundations owned by billionaires do more harm than good through philanthropy activities in African countries.

Their charitable donation changes nothing

It is ironic that for tax-deductible only, 10% of the profit made by a company can be allotted to a recognised foundation. Section 25 of the Companies Income Tax Act (CITA) states, “The deduction shall not exceed 10% of the total profits of that company for the year of assessment in which the donation is made,” the remaining 90% is used to facilitate some investments that, most of the time, are contrary to the mission statement of the foundation. Consequently, more societal challenges are created on the continent.

This tax and management loophole has been misused by billionaires unwilling to pay taxes to the government. By donating 10%, their tax payment is reduced. Due to this, they started different philanthropic activities to redirect the 10% back into their pockets by engaging in projects and missions favouring them. Also, giving the 10% will make it seem like they are giving back to the people from their pocket.

Some ultra-wealthy individuals have their assets and money kept in tax haven countries to escape tax payment. This was revealed in the Panama, Pandora and Paradise papers released by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). One of the wealthy people included is the richest man in Africa, Aliko Dangote.

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Indirect robbery of human rights

Since the impact of the proposed 10% for philanthropy is not being felt and the billionaires are controlling the 90%, indirectly, the government are being deprived of funds that could have been redirected into society to benefit the citizens. This way, citizens are being robbed of their societal rights. It is worsened by the unconscious transfer of power to billionaires due to the amount of money they control.

Hence they decide on some of the policies without getting approvals from the government. Unsuspectingly they create their government and dictate how the economy will be. Since everything is done under philanthropy, it remains obscure, and they are allowed to do it. This way, the economy remains unequal, and they have the power to decide.

Image laundering

Most of the time, billionaires with controversies surrounding their questionable activities use philanthropy to appease the public. This way, they earned social capital and legitimacy. Gradually, people forget the terrible deeds and embrace the new perception painted by the foundation’s activities. This way, they hide their capitalist and monopolistic intentions behind good deeds and gain more power over unsuspecting poor people.

As they are poor, they rely on the billionaires’ good deeds. This explains why most philanthropic activities thrive in areas where there is abject poverty, squalor, and high levels of illiteracy or unemployment. This is because the aim is not to be generous but to condition people to the perfect image that has been created and also distract people from their unethical activities and the same time, enrich themselves.

Philanthropy thus allows them the moral license that strengthens positive self-image. This way, they worry less about their evil actions as they use the good to justify the bad.

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