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How the rich can support social good

Last week a list of 50 super-rich Kenyans was released. Social media was abuzz. From the positive end of things, it was great to precipitate discourse around private wealth.

Much of the reactions were negative and lacked substance on the future of this wealth. We failed to think philanthropy. In some of the advanced countries, it is private wealth through philanthropy that enhances public initiatives.

Indeed the most conventional modern definition of philanthropy is “private initiatives, for public good, focusing on quality of life”.

It was apparent that many of the super-rich are not young. It is, therefore, an opportune time for the public to nudge them to follow in the footsteps of Mohamedally and Maniben Rattansi, Manu Chandaria, Equity Group Foundation through chairman Peter Munga and CEO James Mwangi whose philanthropic efforts continue to impact many lives.

The names of these forward thinking giants will outlive them for their love of humanity.

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Mohamedally and Maniben Rattansi’s educational trust fund has educated thousands of Kenyans and kept the family name alive for ages.

The Rattansi Trust was established in 1956 as a result of the philanthropic thoughts of Mr Mohamedally and his wife Maniben who strongly believed in social justice and the centrality of education in the advancement of individuals.

Their vision is that “Education lights the path to development.” Today, the Trust is second to Equity Bank in offering bursaries to students from poor families.

The Chandaria Foundation’s footprint is all over the country focusing on health care and education.

There is not one word that can describe Mr Chandaria’s humble demeanour but one thing about him will remain — his name — that will forever stand taller than he. His foundation was started in 1952 and has built many hospitals and schools throughout the country.

Equity Group Foundation was established in 2006 in recognition of the need to scale up the existing corporate social responsibility initiatives by the Equity Bank Group.

It focuses on six areas, including education, financial literacy, agribusiness, environment, health and innovation and entrepreneurship.

Its partnerships with MasterCard and USAid has seen thousands of academically talented, yet economically disadvantaged, Kenyans go to school. Most top universities in the world are built by philanthropic initiatives.

Several research programmes are supported by resources from philanthropy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is actively involved in research to find cures for many diseases.

The Ford Foundation that has been around for more than a century is involved in research that positively impacts the lives of people globally.

Given the fact that Africa has many problems, our rich would be spoilt for choice of where to put their money should they decide to have their names embedded in the history of the country for years to come. It will not be prudent on their part to leave all of their wealth to the family.

Knowledge from many parts of the world shows that such wealth does not build the family but rather it becomes the source of conflict.

This is perhaps the reason Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have made it clear to their children that they work for their own wealth as much of what they have made will end up in philanthropy.

Endowment funds

Several public secondary schools admitted highly talented students from poor background but they may not afford the fees. To sustainably deal with such a problem, we need to establish endowment funds that would pay school fees.

It will be the noblest thing if our super-rich could donate towards such an endowment fund in their name. One hundred years later, their name would be greater than it is today.

Philanthropy is the “love of humanity” in the sense of caring, sustaining, developing and enhancing “what it is to be human” on both the givers’ (by identifying and exercising their values in giving and volunteering) and recipients’ (by benefiting).

As Dr Hassanally Rattansi said, “If God has given you something more than you need, whether it is money or talent, you are only a trustee. Use what you need and give the rest to the people around you”.

The writer is a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi and a former Information permanent secretary.

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