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New Foundation Will Help Africans Set
Their Own Agenda For Long-Term Development‎‎

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New Foundation Will Help Africans Set
Their Own Agenda For Long-Term Development‎‎



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DAKAR, 6 June 2006 — Based on a deeply-held conviction that the search for solutions to Africa’s development challenges must be led by Africans, the Ford Foundation today formally launched an independent philanthropic foundation for the continent, based here and managed by an experienced and diverse board of African leaders.

The new foundation, TrustAfrica, has just completed a five-year development phase within the Ford Foundation, using the time to explore its potential role, develop ideas, and make initial grants. With a growing track record behind it, and with new democratic governments and an increased focus on regional partnerships and development on the continent, both organizations believe the time is right for TrustAfrica to become a fully independent institution.

Launched with a $30 million commitment from the Ford Foundation, TrustAfrica will convene innovative African leaders from varied disciplines to identify new approaches to the violence, discrimination and economic isolation that impact many African nations. Although most of the challenges facing Africa today transcend borders, most donors working on the continent channel their money through country-specific programs. TrustAfrica will break that mold by developing and funding regional initiatives that have relevance across the continent.

"Instead of relying on ready-made solutions from abroad, TrustAfrica offers a forum for developing collaborative, locally-grown solutions to the challenges before us,” said Gerry Salole, Chair of the TrustAfrica board of trustees. "It also allows Africans to take their rightful seat at the table among donors and others who influence development."

Half of the $30 million commitment made by Ford to TrustAfrica is earmarked for an endowment. TrustAfrica has already begun diversifying its resources with a $1 million grant from the International Development Research Center. Additionally, 200 individual donors, many of them Africans living on the continent or among the African Diaspora, have made contributions, reflecting a genuine sense of ownership of an institution that is run by and for Africans. The all-African board brings broad experience in development and philanthropy and a firm commitment to good governance.

"Africans need and deserve to have a greater voice in the international donor community and in development efforts across their continent," said Susan Berresford, the president of the Ford Foundation. "We think creative new institutions such as TrustAfrica can help Africans take on a greater role in directing change, and help provide the resources to do so."

In some respects, TrustAfrica functions as a kind of African think tank. It brings together visionary figures – scholars, activists, entrepreneurs, artists, policy makers and other civic leaders – to set priorities, forge partnerships and mobilize resources. Then it makes grants to implement some of the recommendations made at these workshops. During its pilot phase, the trust funded the participation of women in peace talks in Liberia, convened an unprecedented meeting on citizenship and identity (the first to approach the issue from an Africa-wide perspective) and helped dozens of African organizations develop the institutional skills needed to do their work more effectively.

"We bring a new approach to philanthropy and development in Africa," said Akwasi Aidoo, Executive Director of TrustAfrica. "Instead of following the lead of external donors — or pushing an agenda of our own making — we help Africans work together to set their own priorities and chart their own course for a safe, free and prosperous future. We believe African leadership must set the agenda for development."

TrustAfrica also seeks to forge closer ties with the African Diaspora to strengthen global alliances for Africa. Accordingly, it is recognized in the United States as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and in Mauritius as a charitable corporation. It is committed to maintaining the highest standards of institutional performance, including sound management, accountable and transparent governance, effective communication, and sustainable results.

New Round of Workshops and Funding

Planning is under way at TrustAfrica for three upcoming workshops and a new round of funding. The first of these gatherings, in September, will look at ways to build sustainable peace. The second, near the end of the year, will explore issues of religious pluralism. The third, in January, will focus on opportunities to advance regional integration.

"These are not new challenges," Aidoo said. "But they require new solutions, for the old approaches have not worked. Fortunately, there are change-agents willing and able to step up to the plate. These are the kind of partners that TrustAfrica supports."

When it began in 2001 under the aegis of the Ford Foundation, TrustAfrica was first known as the Special Initiative for Africa. Its premise was that Africans need a greater voice in the international donor community as well as philanthropic resources that Africans control.

Last year, Ford committed $100 million to 18 emerging and established foundations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, Eastern Europe and Russia. TrustAfrica is one of the newest of these foundations.

* * *

For further information, please contact:

Akwasi Aidoo, TrustAfrica Executive Director

+221-433-6285 in Dakar


Joe Voeller, Ford Foundation Office of Communications

+1-212-573-4821 in New York



More information about TrustAfrica

What is Trust Africa?

TrustAfrica is a new African foundation that promotes peace, economic prosperity, and social justice throughout the continent.

It hosts dialogues, makes grants, and provides technical assistance so that African institutions can work together to develop appropriate and lasting solutions to the continent’s most pressing challenges.

TrustAfrica is incorporated in the United States as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and in Mauritius as a charitable corporation. It is headquartered in Dakar, Senegal.

How is it different from other foundations working in Africa?

The work of TrustAfrica is shaped to an unprecedented degree by African stakeholders. It does not take its cues from external donors, nor does it push an agenda of its own making. Instead, it hosts workshops that enable leading figures from across the continent to guide its program strategy by identifying needs, setting priorities, crafting solutions, and making recommendations for funding.

Why is it being launched now?

This is a pivotal moment for Africa – one of urgency and opportunity. Despite ongoing crises in several countries, Africa now has more democratically elected, civilian governments than ever before. The challenge is to sustain and expand this trend so peace and prosperity can flourish.

Civil society groups are also gaining momentum in Africa, providing an important opportunity to reduce conflict and corruption and hold governments accountable to the common good.

TrustAfrica has just completed a five-year development phase within the Ford Foundation, using the time to explore its potential role, develop ideas, and make initial grants. With a growing track record behind it, both organizations believe the time is right for TrustAfrica to become a fully independent institution.

What does it fund?

TrustAfrica is tackling some of the most pressing problems facing Africa today. It makes grants in three broad areas: peace and security; citizenship and identity; and regional integration.

TrustAfrica grantees are bringing new voices and fresh ideas to peace talks and disarmament efforts; working to harmonize economic policies across the continent by promoting regional investment, fair trade and the free movement of people; and safeguarding the rights and cultural expression of people throughout the continent.

Who runs TrustAfrica?

TrustAfrica is an independent organization governed solely by Africans. Its diverse board is made up of African leaders who share extensive experience in development and philanthropy, as well as a firm commitment to good governance. Dr. Akwasi Aidoo, former head of the Ford Foundation’s offices in Senegal and Nigeria, serves as Executive Director.

Where does it get its funding?

The Ford Foundation has committed $30 million over the next five years to launch TrustAfrica. Half of these funds will be used to seed a new endowment for the group. TrustAfrica has already begun to diversify its income with a $1 million grant from the International Development Research Center. It has also launched a fund-raising campaign to spur individual donations from Africans living on the continent and abroad. Over 200 individuals have already made contributions, reflecting a real sense of ownership of an institution that is run for Africans by Africans.

How did TrustAfrica get started?

First known as the Special Initiative for Africa, TrustAfrica began in 2001 as a pilot project under the aegis of the Ford Foundation. During this period, Dr. Aidoo hosted a series of workshops with African leaders to set priorities and guide initial grant making.

More than 160 leading figures from across the continent attended the workshops and helped generate ideas and map out strategies for funding. After inviting partner organizations to submit proposals to implement these recommendations, $5 million in exploratory grants were made to fund approximately 20 projects.

What’s next?

Three new workshops over the coming year will challenge African leaders to find new approaches to promote sustainable peace (September 2006); religious pluralism (late 2006); and regional integration (January 2007). TrustAfrica will make a new round of grants to support proposals that emerge from these talks.

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