Trusts, Foundations and Donors in Nigeria

As the powerhouse of West Africa, Nigeria is an interesting and sensible base to operate from as a funder. During our recent trip to the country, we were fortunate to meet with three major funders there. Here’s a bit more about them and what they do:

Tony Elumelu Foundation

The Foundation funds projects across Africa and was set up almost three years ago by the Nigerian businessman, Tony Elumelu. He wanted to set up an organisation whose mission was to promote the competitiveness of the African private sector. The Foundation now has four key pillars:

  1. Leadership and management development: Supporting entrepreneurs, working with fast-growing businesses and partnering with the African Management Initiative. They target SMEs with a proven track record.
  2. Policy: Identifying barriers to entrepreneurship, working with Government to address issues, co-creation of legislation… The Foundation have also tried to set up a National Competitiveness Council to target barriers and tackle problems, such as multiple taxation brackets. The Foundation are currently sponsoring work to identify the barriers that most annoy and stymie entrepreneurs across different sectors.
  3. Access to finance and impact investing: Access to finance is clearly a huge barrier to the private sector in many parts of Africa. The Foundation works to address these issues and has, for example, helped establish Rwanda’s first commodity exchange.
  4. Research: This stream conducts research into entrepreneurship and the private sector to identify the best ways of helping the sector develop and become more competitive. It cuts across the other three fields.

The Foundation has a clear entrepreneurial spirit reflecting the background of its founder. We are particularly interested in their work, as they have recently announced plans to increase the amount of support they offer to Nigerian tech start-ups. It’s a very welcome abujaannouncement and we look forward to possible collaborations over the coming months and years.

Ford Foundation

With its global reach and significant endowment, Ford Foundation is one of the biggest and best known names in philanthropy. It was a pleasure, therefore, to meet the team in Nigeria to discuss the Foundation’s work there. The Foundation has four offices in Africa (Lagos, Joburg, Nairobi and Cairo). Lagos acts as their West Africa office, although 70% of their activities are in Nigeria where they have four key focus areas:

  1. Transparent, accountable and effective government.
  2. Youth sexuality and health.
  3. Advancing media capacity, including new tech.
  4. Heritage and legacy.

While all offices in Africa work on the same broad set of issues, each of them has one that they focus on more than the others. Given the work Indigo has supported in areas such as youth sexuality and health, as well as our work on transparency, accountability and service delivery, there are clear possibilities for collaboration and lessons sharing.

McArthur Foundation

Unlike the Ford Foundation, the McArthur Foundation’s only African office is to be found in Nigeria. The majority of their work is therefore focused on Nigeria, the only exception being their higher education programme. They have four main programmes:

  1. Population and reproductive health: This works on the issues of maternal mortality and young people’s sexual health. They don’t have a large mhealth component, although OneWorld UK is one of their grantees and is working to make the sexual health curriculum online and provide teen sexual advice through a hotline service. They are currently in the process of doing some data analysis and research to discover the most common issues that young people want to know about. Sustainability – particularly the costs associated with the phone service – is a big consideration.
  2. Human rights and international justice: This category covers elections, transparency and accountability. Enough is Enough is one of their grantees, as is WANGONET. This stream has involved work on oil transparency and oil spills funded by DFID, while they are also in collaboration with OSIWA on accountability issues. McArthur also work with one or two organisations in Kano, including CTAD who are combining traditional and new media and are starting work on a mobiles-for-peace project.
  3. Girls education: In this sector, the only grant awarded has been to Efiko. McArthur hope to support more organisations in the future as and when appropriate organisations come to their attention.
  4. Higher education: This stream involves support for HE infrastructure projects, e.g. bringing broadband to universities, installing smartboards etc.

I’d like to say a huge thanks to all the above organisations for your time when we were in Nigeria. It was great to find out more about their work and even better to meet with the Tony Elumelu Foundation who is carving a path for future African philanthropists.