By Itohan Abara-Laserian
Dr Chichi Aniagolu, Regional Director, Ford Foundation West Africa, has charged local philanthropists and governments to fill emerging gaps and play vital role in fostering lasting, sustainable change in the economy.
Aniagolu said this in a statement by the foundation and made available to the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Lagos.
According to Aniagolu, it is relatively obvious that the economy is not doing well and government and the private sector has always been the ones called upon to improve the economy.
She said: “But the reality is that without an active civil society and without local philanthropists taking the risks that the government and the private sector are not willing to take, the development we want to see may not be feasible in a very long time.
“I can give you an example: we are a giving people, because we do not have a social security programme in this country, many people have to support the less privileged in their families but the reality is that while that type of giving is extremely important; it is not sustainable.
“It is also not what will make the type of difference that we want to see.
So, what we are advocating for at the Ford Foundation is that people who give at the grassroot level should be thinking about it in a sustainable manner.
“Imagine that you live in the diaspora and you send money home but the village your parents live in has no healthcare system; your relatives are going to schools that are completely dilapidated.
To what extent will what you send them make a difference?
“If your parents fall ill, they won’t be able to survive it because there is no way they will be able to get the kind of treatment they need in that local village they live in.
According to Aniagolu, this is why people have to think about how to support local communities to be able to provide the services that are necessary for the existence of people.
She also noted that local businesses were struggling with government policies and a lot of those businesses do not understand the policies because government doesn’t always consult them.
Aniagolu added that looking at HIV, education, agriculture, water and sanitation, many of them were done with the support of civil societies and with funding from development partners.
“We are saying that businesses can also benefit from this; if they will support local NGOs, civil society organisations that are very good and working with government to develop policies, they will be in the position to develop the kind of policies they will like to see with the government, especially in dealing with the challenges around taxation.
“In England, the philanthropy sector brings in £11 billion every year and the United Kingdom is a developed country.
The reality is that there are many innovations that neither the government nor the private sector can do.
“There are innovations that are expensive and risky that the private sector will not be able to fund and that the government is not interested in.
Most times we talk about agriculture having huge potentials but have we ever wondered why it never takes off?
“We have over 200 million people who need food, that a viable place for people to come in and invest in agriculture, the reason it does not happen is because agriculture is extremely under-developed and the private sector is not going to take the risks that are required to be able to develop the sector,” she noted.
Aniagolu highlighted the benefits philanthropists should enjoy from government saying there should be incentives for giving.
“Philanthropists should get tax breaks, like the conservative government in England has a White Paper for giving, a whole policy around giving.
“No matter how much you give in Nigeria, it doesn’t come out of your tax; there is nothing you get from giving yet there are many people who are supporting family members.
Giving needs to be incentivised for small companies and other people who want to give.
“More importantly, just as the government has recognised that it is not good at doing business, it must recognise that it is not good at providing social services either.
It needs to be looking at a government-civil society-private sector partnership,” she said.
Edited by Folasade Adeniran