“It’s a great opportunity not only for East African farmers to increase the diversity of crops but to forge partnerships with government and development agencies to further develop the regional economy,” said Sam Nwanze, chief investment officer for Heirs Holdings, a private investment firm that partnered with the foundation to make Mtanga Farms grant. “What makes this different from other investments is the promise to increase sales for farmers, increase their profits from higher yields of a popular crop and overhaul marketing and retail food operations in Tanzania. And then there’s a great opportunity for pan African innovation transfer to farmers in West Africa.”
Eighty percent of the Tanzania population are farmers, producing 42% of the nation’s GDP. Yet economists predict the country will have one of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies between 2011 and 2015.
Elumelu’s foundation, among the leading African-funded practitioners of impact investing, brings both philanthropy and investing together as a new development model for African business. A 2010 report by JP Morgan Chase and the Rockefeller Foundation suggested that such investments worldwide could grow to $500 billion by 2020, and that the landscape for such philanthropic-minded investments is promising but relatively new in Africa.
The few African institutions engaged in such investments toil away in cultures propped up by foreign aid dependency. Over the past 60 years, rich countries have sent over $1 trillion in development aid to Africa, according to Dambisa Moyo, a former economist at Goldman Sachs and author of “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa.”
Elumelu has issued a call for “Africapitalism,” which he defines as economic transformation via private sector commitments to generate economic and social wealth. He is not alone in his quest to revamp Africa’s economies. The continent’s richest person, Aliko Dangote, who reportedly has a net worth of $13.5 billion, runs a foundation (named for him, as well) that announced a N5billion naira ($30 million) program aimed at the creation of one million jobs. Dangote heads an empire that includes the continent’s biggest cement maker. He also has interests in sugar, flour milling, salt processing, textiles, real estate and oil and gas.
In addition, last year, the Nigerian oil magnate Theophilus Danjuma gave $100 million to his foundation to make grants in education, healthcare and the arts. Other huge African donations were made by South Africa’s Francois van Niekerk ($170 million to community-based projects) and Mark Shuttleworth ($40 million to education, the arts and social change projects).