Posted on 5th Feb 2018 12:20:17 in
NAIROBI, KENYA: The changing tide of global geopolitics is having profound effects on the character of philanthropy as we have known it.
The nationalism and economic populism that is surging in West European and American politics that culminated in the election of Donald Trump appears to be driving donor dollars away from recipient countries.
This steady retreat by the previously ubiquitous Western bilateral donors following political changes in their home countries has seen the identity of benefactors gradually change to assume a more domestic face.
A new breed of the ‘donor’ is emerging in Kenya – the corporate sector. Charity activities by Kenyan companies especially in support of education scholarships have expanded significantly.
These are now gradually displacing the red number-plated, four-wheel-driving European or American-owned agencies whose names make up what has been referred to as the ‘alphabet soup’ such as USAid, DFID, GTZ, Sida, Danida and Cida.
Recent reports that USAid had not made its usual support to “Wings to Fly”’ education scholarship programme run by Kenya ’s Equity Bank have seen the number of scholarships cut from 1,700 in 2017 to around 1,000 in this year.
The Wings to Fly initiative offers secondary school scholarships to academically-gifted children from needy backgrounds. Since inception in 2010, the programme has benefitted more than 15,000 students and projects to offer scholarships worth in excess of Sh5.8 billion in five years. See Also: Landlord and bank in dispute over rent arrears
This year, Co-operative Bank is offering scholarships to more than 700 students at a cost of Sh200 million every year, a programme which is internally funded by the institution.
“Education is one of the most expensive items in any household budget and yet has the highest potential to liberate people from poverty,” says Co-op Bank Managing Director Gideon Muriuki on why the bank finances scholarships.
In the period following the release of national examinations, hardly a week went by without some major corporate organisation announcing a notable commitment to education charity.
Kenyan companies continue to join the ‘giving back’ bandwagon in major ways, motivated by genuine interest to offer a helping hand to the needy, or perhaps by popular pressure to share their good fortune with others, manage possible hostility from host communities, earn positive reputation among peers, or build brand equity.
Safaricom retains a corporate social investment estimated at Sh1 billion a year, in addition to establishing a modern M-Pesa Academy as a model school of the future.
KCB is rapidly expanding education grants just as Coca-Cola and Diageo continue to sustain their well-established reputation in supporting worthy causes.
The independent Palm House Foundation has also mobilised substantial resources to fund numerous scholarships. For many years, Shell/BP were also longstanding sponsors of Starehe Boys School.
Even the Kenya Red Cross Society has realised that perhaps the one sustainable way of funding their good works is through doing business, by investing in ambulance services, hospitality – Boma Hotels – agribusiness and allied.
Mr Muriuki says with the keen interest that majority of Kenyan households have in offering a good education to their children, the country has a good opportunity to mobilise much higher levels of domestic resources to fund charities if incentives are provided.
“For example, the Government can amend the income tax law to make all contributions to approved education charities a tax-allowable expense, so that any donations to the charities can be deducted from tax liabilities of the person making the donations,” he says.
“This way, our popular fundraising events for the needy would henceforth become ‘structured harambees’ with a tax benefit to boot.”
His sentiments were echoed by Equity Group Chief Executive James Mwangi, who at the unveiling of 2018 Wings to Fly scholars, urged the Government to enhance tax benefits for local companies that offer scholarships and paid internships for young trainees undertaking academic and technical courses in local institutions.