As part of a new International Data Relations series that engages with executives, leaders, and country experts on philanthropy and the social sector from around the globe, Sue Rissberger, liaison for Africa and Asia in the International Data Relations department at Foundation Center, spoke with Bekeme Masade, executive director of CSR-in-Action in Nigeria. In the Q&A that follows, Masade shares her perspective on the philanthropic sector in Nigeria and explains how CSR-in-Action, a social business networking platform and advisory enterprise in Lagos, is helping to drive collective social action in the country — and Africa more generally.
Foundation Center began working in Nigeria in 2013, and Bekeme has played a pivotal role in providing local expertise to inform the center’s initiatives. One of those initiatives is a new Web portal, set to launch this fall, designed to highlight the efforts of philanthropy in Nigeria and provide resources for those interested in helping to build the capacity of the country’s social sector.
Sue Rissberger: How is the philanthropic and nonprofit sector defined in Nigeria?
Bekeme Masada: The philanthropic sector in Nigeria is broadly comprised of actors who give and receive goodwill. Organizations who receive goodwill include orphanages and institutions that support the physically and mentally challenged and, more recently, the “empowerment” of vulnerable groups. These actors are often supported by corporate organizations as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts. Religious organizations in Nigeria, such as churches and mosques, are an example of actors distributing goodwill by channeling their resources and efforts to support social causes, including the refurbishment of schools and the provision of potable water by donating bore holes to their host communities.
The nonprofit sector in Nigeria, on the other hand, is mostly defined by foundations and nongovernmental organizations, with the latter often supported by businesses as part of their corporate social responsibility efforts. It is common practice for businesses in Nigeria to support a specific cause by financially supporting an NGO, or sometimes a public institution like a school. More often than not, though, there is no clear distinction between NGOs and foundations, as smaller foundations often engage in the same kinds of activities as NGOs. In fact, only a handful of Nigerian foundations are engaged in grantmaking activities – primarily those owned by wealthy individuals and a few that are directly owned by a for-profit business.
SR: There are now five Funding Information Network partners located in four cities in Nigeria: Abuja, Lagos, Kano, and Port Harcourt. What is your vision for how these Funding Information Network partners can service civil society organizations in Nigeria?
BM: These partners will serve as primary sources of information on philanthropy for Nigerian civil society organizations within their respective geopolitical zones. We envisage a system where CSOs use the Funding Information partners to identify grantmaking organizations, develop their proposal writing techniques, and apply for international or local grants. A primary challenge to the effective usage of these partners, though, is publicity. The degree to which partners in the network are utilized will depend on the amount of publicity they receive.
We believe there is an information gap with respect to available grant opportunities in the teaching/thought leadership space. Knowing this, Funding Information Network partners could be of service to actors beyond the stratum in which civil society organizations traditionally operate.
The majority of smaller foundations operate primarily as NGOs, supporting specific causes with the support from businesses to which they send proposals. In other words, the term “foundation” is loosely used in Nigeria, and that makes it is difficult to determine, based on the name alone, which foundations make grants and which are looking to secure grants.
SR: Tell us about CSR-in-Action? What projects are you excited about or have in the works? And what are the organization’s biggest challenges?
BM: CSR-in-Action is the premier independent ethical action network for collective social responsibility in Nigeria and counts local governments, corporations, nonprofits, and individuals as members. We have a clear vision as to how we can advance transformative collective action in Nigeria, and it is grounded in the sense of responsibility all our members feel in the way they carry out their day-to-day activities. It’s really about promoting and advancing the idea of world-class governance in Nigeria, and we do it in two ways: first, through an interactive online portal; and second, through targeted initiatives focused on youth emancipation, women’s rights, ethical governance, and sustainability, all driven forward by solid partnerships.
A few of our upcoming projects that we’re excited about include hosting the 3rd Sustainability in the Extractive Industries (SITEI) Conference on October 24; publishing the second edition of our Collective Social Investment Report, which includes a special feature that ranks companies based on their performance in relation to the Millennium Development Goals as well as their adoption of the United Nations Global Compact principles; and establishing the Nigerian Business Council for Sustainable Development. We were also recently approved as a Certified Training Partner by the Global Reporting Initiative in Amsterdam and are in the process of concluding arrangements with Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen to provide cost-effective sustainability training to the Nigerian market, with direct certification by both bodies.
SR: What is your role in terms of promoting greater accountability among social sector organizations in Nigeria?
BM: SITEI, CSIR, training, and sustainability reporting are our primary channels for promoting accountability in Nigeria. For example, the theme of this year’s SITEI discussion stems from last year’s message from the keynote speaker, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, founding director of Transparency International, a senior consultant with OSIWA, and former minister of mines and steel development, who espoused the need within the sector to eschew opacity. To ensure that the relevant actors are held accountable, the focus of this year’s conference is on entrepreneurship and its emergence in the extractive industries, with a special focus on the inclusion of youth and women.
– Sue Rissberger