Higher Education and Diaspora Philanthropy in Sub-Saharan Africa

This report analyzes how universities in sub-Saharan Africa engage with the African diaspora living in the United States for the purposes of enhancing opportunities for students and strengthening institutional capacity. 

We interviewed advancement leaders at African universities and philanthropy infrastructure organizations in order to understand how higher education institutions in sub-Saharan Africa engage U.S.–based diaspora communities through philanthropy.

We find that African universities are beginning to engage stakeholders beyond their alumni in order to tap into a broader community of people interested in advancing the higher education mission, but not all universities have the infrastructure in place to leverage this engagement effectively. Other challenges include fluctuations in external funding for higher education due to political and economic uncertainty at the national and international levels, and individual donors’ perceptions of governance and transparency at the national and institutional levels. 

There are also promising trends: Although members of the African diaspora in the United States have historically tended to engage in direct philanthropy and remittances, younger donors are beginning to also give to higher education institutions. In addition, some members of the diaspora are finding creative new ways to connect cultural traditions in their home countries with specific Western philanthropic practices. 

We close with a proposed research agenda that will increase our understanding of the role diaspora communities have played in supporting higher education—and how they might be more effectively engaged in the future.

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The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy provides a comprehensive approach to philanthropy through its academic programs and executive training courses that are designed to empower students, professionals, and volunteers to be innovators and leaders who create positive and lasting change in the world. 

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