Morocco, in response to the recent earthquake devastation, has chosen to accept earthquake aid offers from just four countries. This decision underscores the significance of in-kind giving in Africa. In-kind giving, deeply rooted in the heart of Africa, represents a cherished tradition where individuals and communities contribute tangible resources, goods, or services to address various societal needs and challenges. This practice, handed down through generations, stands as a testament to the enduring wisdom of indigenous cultures across the continent.
In Africa, in-kind giving manifests in several distinct forms, each reflecting the unique needs and circumstances of the communities involved. One of the most prevalent forms of in-kind giving in Africa involves the sharing of agricultural produce. Farmers and community members contribute a portion of their crops, such as grains, fruits, or vegetables, to support those who may be experiencing food scarcity or hardship. This practice fosters solidarity within communities and ensures that no one goes hungry. In pastoral communities, livestock holds great significance. In-kind giving takes the form of donating cattle, goats, or other animals to help families in need or to mark special occasions like weddings or funerals. These gifts can be both a source of sustenance and a symbol of social cohesion.
Beyond material resources, in-kind giving extends to the sharing of skills and craftsmanship. Artisans and craftsmen offer their expertise to teach younger generations traditional skills, such as pottery, weaving, or metalwork. This form of in-kind giving preserves cultural heritage and ensures the continuity of traditional crafts. Communities often come together to collectively contribute their labour and time to build infrastructure or address communal needs. This practice is particularly vital in rural areas where access to formal labour markets may be limited. Community labor helps construct schools, bridges, and other vital infrastructure.
Individuals often donate clothing, blankets, and household items to support those facing economic hardship or during times of crisis. These contributions serve as a form of social safety net and help alleviate the burdens faced by vulnerable members of the community. Indigenous healers and herbalists provide their services as a form of in-kind giving, utilising traditional knowledge to address health concerns. This practice reflects the holistic approach to healthcare prevalent in many African societies. Elders and knowledgeable community members play a pivotal role in imparting wisdom, values, and knowledge to younger generations. This mentorship and educational role are a vital form of in-kind giving that fosters cultural continuity.
Africa’s indigenous approaches to in-kind giving are deeply rooted in the communal spirit that characterize numerous African societies. This communal spirit has been integral to the survival and progress of communities across the continent throughout history, as they have thrived by pooling their collective resources, knowledge, and labour. These practices underscore the essence of interconnectedness and mutual support within African communities.
One prominent example of in-kind giving deeply embedded in African culture is the concept of Ubuntu, which is particularly prevalent in Southern Africa. Ubuntu encapsulates the philosophy of interconnectedness among individuals and emphasizes acts of kindness and mutual support. This philosophy is manifested in various ways, such as the sharing of food during harvest festivals and the tradition of helping neighbours in times of adversity. In essence, Ubuntu reflects the belief that the well-being of one is intertwined with the well-being of all, fostering a strong sense of community cohesion. The Igbo people of Nigeria follow a similar communal approach known as Omenani. Within the Igbo society, Omenani involves contributions of both labour and resources for communal projects, such as the construction of homes, schools, or other infrastructure. This collective effort not only enhances the physical infrastructure of the community but also strengthens the social fabric by fostering cooperation and a shared sense of responsibility.
In all these indigenous African approaches to in-kind giving, there is a fundamental recognition of the importance of collective well-being and solidarity. These practices not only provide practical assistance during times of need but also serve as a testament to the enduring spirit of community and mutual support that has long defined African societies. They exemplify the notion that by coming together, individuals can collectively address challenges and work towards the improvement of their communities, reflecting the rich mosaic of African cultural values and traditions.
In recent times, there has been a growing awareness of the significance of indigenous approaches to in-kind giving, particularly within the realms of philanthropy, domestic resource mobilisation, and social accountability. This newfound recognition has prompted philanthropic organisations to forge partnerships with local communities to strengthen and perpetuate these invaluable practices. These indigenous methods have proven to possess a unique capability to address the specific challenges faced within local contexts.
To ensure the sustainability and efficacy of these indigenous approaches to in-kind giving, it becomes imperative to implement capacity strengthening initiatives that are finely tuned to the distinct needs of each community. This entails the development of tailored training programmes that not only preserve traditional knowledge and skills but also empower community members to continue these practices with resilience and enhanced effectiveness.
Moreover, advocacy strategies are instrumental in fostering an environment conducive to the growth and flourishing of indigenous approaches. These strategies play a pivotal role in shaping both policy and operational frameworks that support the continuation of these time-honoured practices. Achieving this requires active engagement with local leaders, government authorities, and philanthropic organisations to create a collaborative ecosystem that nurtures, advocates for, and promotes the adoption of these culturally rooted methods. Through effective collaboration, these stakeholders can ensure that indigenous approaches to in-kind giving not only endure but also thrive, making a lasting positive impact on the communities they serve.
Africa’s indigenous approaches to in-kind local giving are not merely memories of the past but essential components of its future. These practices are deeply rooted in the continent’s cultural and social fabric, representing a wellspring of resilience and interconnectedness. Africa can tap into their profound potential to address modern challenges by recognising, preserving, and revitalising these indigenous approaches.
The synergy between tradition and modernity in Africa’s development landscape is not a mere aspiration but a pragmatic imperative. Indigenous approaches, when integrated with contemporary development efforts, can catalyse transformative change within communities. These practices have the power to build more resilient societies, where traditions and modernity complement each other harmoniously.
To secure Africa’s future, it is imperative to embark on a journey of rediscovery, embracing the wisdom embedded in these indigenous approaches. The time has come for Africa to recognise its cultural wealth as a driving force for development and to invest in the preservation and expansion of these indigenous practices that have stood the test of time.
Charles Kojo Vandyck is a dynamic development practitioner and thought leader who is who is driving transformative change within civil society. He is a founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon). He is the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and hold several positions such as Trustee of INTRAC and an Advisory Board Member of Disrupt Development among others.