The First Lady, Mrs Jeannette Kagame, has said that philanthropy could be the avenue through which Africa would attain sustainable development.
She was on Thursday delivering opening remarks at a cocktail reception which she co-hosted with Bloomberg Philanthropies – under the theme “Innovative Partnerships for Women in Africa – in New York, US.
The event was held in the offices of Bloomberg Philanthropies and brought together First Ladies from various countries, including Benin, Chad, Israel, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Namibia and Rwanda; Bloomberg Philanthropies top executives, including its founder, Michael Bloomberg; along with other high-profile business executives and philanthropists from around the world.
The gathering was intended to highlight the importance of strong political will on women inclusion and to address the shift in trend from donation to social entrepreneurship.
It also sought to create a conversation on the economic empowerment of women through partnerships between public sector and philanthropists.
Various speakers at the event, including Mrs Kagame; the First Lady of Namibia, Mrs Monica Geingos; and Bloomberg, emphasised that philanthropy may be a niche where women social entrepreneurs further connect the public and private sector to create what was described as “true development”.
Mrs Kagame noted that philanthropic partnerships are key, adding that the vast potential of Africa is best exploited when social enterprises, the private sector, and governments come together.
“That coming together is the path to a sustainable development, and a critical game changer, where growing economies, healthy communities, thriving businesses and well-regulated environments become altogether intertwined,” she said.
Citing the significance of philanthropy in the quest for sustainable development, Mrs Kagame said: “I would say that, for us, the relevance of these philanthropic partnerships is that all parties involved are winners”.
“Investors are attracted to this model because they can tap into new markets while honouring their social responsibility; recipients develop new skills and expertise, including managerial capabilities, to eventually grow their own businesses and invest in other ventures; and governments win on all ends, with new investments fuelling countries’ growth and people shifting from dependency to self-reliance”.
Expounding on the importance of establishing partnerships with various entities around the world, Bloomberg said that “team work is essential to success”, adding that it can yield great results when a group of people share innovative ideas for the betterment of communities around them.
Bloomberg spoke about his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, being active for the past 15 years through various programmes dealing with public health, environment protection, women empowerment and job creation on the African continent.
He acknowledged the support provided by Mrs Kagame towards programmes for economic development of women, but also other successful partnerships created over the years with government and non-governmental institutions in different countries.
In her address, the First Lady of Namibia, Mrs Monica Geingos, spoke of the important work done by First Ladies around the world through their foundations, and gave the example of her One Economy Foundation, that seeks to uplift the most vulnerable out of poverty by “building a bridge” connecting them to the right opportunities.
Mrs Kagame hailed the US-Africa Business Forum held by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the US Department of Commerce on Tuesday, which announced millions of dollars worth of support to women coffee farmers in Rwanda and the DR Congo, saying that it illustrates commitment to integrated development model.
She argued that investing in women has a “lasting impact” on communities and economies. In fact, she pointed out, “they will use the knowledge and skills acquired to better their lives and those of their families in the larger sense”.
The First Lady also shared Rwanda’s gender mainstreaming efforts, demonstrated through the country’s leading position in the UN Women’s ‘HeforShe’ campaign, which aims to engage men and boys to achieve true gender equality and women representation at all levels. She highlighted how the campaign has since gained notable support from the country’s private sector.
“For us, creating sustainable opportunities for women is deeply embedded in their historical central role in decision-making within their communities, as expressed in our traditional saying ‘the woman is the heart of the home’”, First Lady said.
She hailed philanthropists who have become part of “the story of Rwanda”, acknowledging them for investing their resources, talents and hearts in the country’s “brighter future”.
“The multi-layered partnerships woven by every single one of you, friends of Rwanda, started with the belief in creating life-changing opportunities for our countrymen and women, via deeply humane, and culturally sensitive initiatives of high standard, as developed over the years,” she said.