Meet the Advisory Board: How Theo Sowa envisions CAPSI as a facilitator of Africa’s future 

Theo Sowa | CAPSI Advisory Board

Meet the Advisory Board: How Theo Sowa envisions CAPSI as a facilitator of Africa’s future


Theo Sowa | CAPSI Advisory Board

There is much that we have learnt from our rich and diverse African history that we can use to strengthen our continent for the future.  The importance of nurturing communities, celebrating diversity and being deliberate about documenting the richness of our stories in our own voices, enables us to position the continent to prosper with Africans who are empowered with the tools to succeed.


Theo is a respected voice in international social development, whose work has impacted the lives of women and children across Africa. In addition to serving on international organisations boards, Theo leads the African Women’s Development  Fund (AWDF), the first and largest women’s fund in Africa, that supports women’s rights activism and organisations through access to funding, resources and networks. She is also a member of the CAPSI Advisory Board and recently shared her reflections on why it is critical that Africa invest in developing its own narrative around philanthropy and social investment. She shared with us her reflections and vision for CAPSI.


Giving, as a practice, is deeply rooted in African culture with many of us able to share examples of community care and inter–generational support on quick recollection. Africans can tell stories of how families and social groups came together in times of need with whatever resources they had available that resulted in deep and long-lasting outcomes. This nature of giving has always been done as a core value and has proved very sustainable in its application, passed on from generation to generation. However, even with this rich history, the sector of philanthropy is commonly misunderstood to be a Western practice, particularly with the rise of donor foundations.


More notably and critically, philanthropy is incorrectly perceived to be done to Africans to rather than by Africans.  Theo says, “It’s really frustrating that there is an incorrect perception across the globe that says that philanthropy is done to Africans, yet our experiences and knowledge show us that Africans have been involved in philanthropy for generations upon generations. And while philanthropy can be vertical in the context of larger foundations, in much of Africa it is predominantly horizontal in its operation.’”


Some of the stories of African giving include that amazing generation of grandmothers who stepped in to care for children at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa; the diaspora Africans building communal infrastructure in their home countries; communities that create systems in response to the needs of bereaved members and their families in their time of mourning – almost always a financially and emotionally challenging period. Yet these acts of giving sadly pale when placed next to the volume of  foundations’ giving, despite their deep relevance in daily lives. “Sometimes our African elders  had little in the way of material wealth, yet they continually gave from the core to care for their immediate and extended families and communities. The percentage of their giving, when compared to that of some of the more high-net worth individuals, is worth far more; but they are not celebrated as philanthropists who helped change the trajectory of communities and nations,” says Theo.


This challenges us to proactively begin changing that perception through storytelling, studying more aspects of African history, and encouraging the traditions of giving in current and future generations.


Theo believes that in this context, CAPSI plays a connecting role as a centre that raises the profile of African giving in a way that is authentic, allows for development and can be celebrated. Through this, future generations of Africans will have a gold mine of knowledge to develop and nurture the practice of giving. She continues, “Through CAPSI, we as Africans have the opportunity to tell our stories around giving while studying and developing the practice in authentically African, nuanced ways.”


A major part of what is needed is a change in how society prepares itself for the continual coming of age of its different generations. The meaning of philanthropy as solidarity needs to be deeply understood and practically applied to be relearnt as an integral facet of Africa’s history. CAPSI has the resources and capability to capture the traditions of solidarity and mutual support in a way that uses academic analysis, while highlighting practical action. Theo believes that unless this is done with intention, there is a risk that Africa’s narrative will be distorted and thus make our rich yet meekly documented history, seem like a myth. With growing access to digital communication platforms, the opportunity to disseminate knowledge through creative and engaging mechanisms allows for wider adoption by younger generations.


Further to this, Theo’s wish is to see CAPSI adopt a default mechanism towards human rights where it enables equality in its acts of solidarity. Acknowledging the philanthropy of women, people living with disabilities, LGBTQ communities and other marginalised populations and non-elitist communities will allow CAPSI to be imaginative about how it supports wider issues of equality and diversity. As a progressive institution, CAPSI along with its partners and donors, can play a major role in restoring clarity on giving as a sustainable way of life in Africa, by Africans.



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The Carnegie corporation of new york

Established in 1911 by Andrew Carnegie, the Carnegie Corporation of New York is one of America’s oldest grantmaking foundations and promotes the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding.

Their work focuses on international peace, the advancement of education and knowledge, and the strength of our democracy.

The corporation supports CAPSI with research and development of a new cohort of scholars.

The Charles mott foundation

An automotive pioneer, philanthropist, and leader in the community, Charles Stewart Mott cared about innovation, fairness, and communities.

By working toward a world where each individual’s quality of life is connected to the well-being of the community, both locally and globally, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation continues this legacy.

A founding funder of the Centre, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation supported the establishment of the Chair and continues to support our programmes.

The Ford Foundation

As an investor in transformative ideas, individuals and institutions, the Ford Foundations is one of the founding funders of CAPSI.

They have supported the planning and establishment of the centre and continue to support our programmes and operations.

Their invaluable work includes providing grants, investing in individuals through fellowships, and challenging inequalities through civic engagement, creativity, free expression and more.

The southern africa trust

Established in 2005 to respond to high levels of poverty and inequality, the Southern Africa Trust aims to increase the voices and agency of the poor.

This is in the hopes that it enables them to reach the necessary audiences and influence regional public policies as unrepresented stakeholders.

They are a founding partner of CAPSI and acted as a fiscal sponsor for Mott and Ford grants in the establishment of the Chair.

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Susan Maposa

With 22 years of professional experience in Africa and Asia, Susan Maposa has developed a wide range of skills and expertise in the fields of philanthropy and social development.

This has established her as a leader in her work with multilateral and bilateral agencies, non-governmental organizations, research institutes and universities as well as consultancy firms. Her experience includes programme conceptualisation, design, management, implementation, evaluation and documentation.

She describes herself as a “pracademic”, and is passionate about working across the field of theory and development practice building one into the other. Read Susan’s complete bio and an excerpt from her research project.

Wycliffe Nduga Ouma

Wycliffe Nduga Ouma is a PhD candidate and a Research Assistant at the Wits Business School in Johannesburg.

Mr. Nduga has worked as a Research Associate with the Kenya School of Monetary Studies, a Central Bank of Kenya Research Institute mainly concerned with the Monetary Policy, Exchange Rates Movements, and Balance of Payments. He has also consulted and conducted training on Financial Markets and Investments for Organizations such as Knight Frank Commercial and Residential Properties in Kenya. He was part of the broad team that conducted research and wrote the Integrated Economic and Development Plan (Document) for Turkana County, a regional government authority in Kenya.

For the better part of 2017, Mr. Nduga consulted in the Finance and Accounts Department for the Italian Chamber of Trade and Industry, Johannesburg. Currently, alongside the PhD dissertation, Mr. Nduga assists in Teaching and Facilitation of the Financial Investments Decisions for the MBA students, Finance and Accounting, Financial Risk Management, Research on the Connection Between Finance and Corporate Philanthropy, and advising on research and classwork for MBA and Master students at the Wits Business.

He has a passion for research and consultancy in the areas of Financial Markets, Financial Risk Modelling, Investments and International Trade.

Keratiloe Mogotsi

Pan Africanist, pracademic, researcher, lean six sigma coach, project management professional and African Philanthropy Lecturer at the University of the Witwatersrand — Keratiloe Mogotsi does it all.

She is currently a lecturer here at the Centre on African Philanthropy and Social Investment at the Wits Business School. Her research areas include disaster philanthropy in Africa, venture philanthropy, African philanthropy and philanthro-capitalism in Africa.

As someone who is passionate about the continent and its people, she uses her skills as an educator and coach to excel in everything that she does.

Alan Fowler

As a co-founder and long-time associate of INTRAC, Alan Fowler’s professional life has seen many changes. From being an Organisational Development Advisor, Foundation Programme Officer and Researcher, he is now an academic as he serves as an honorary professor and Chair in African Philanthropy, a role the first of its kind, at the Wits Business School. 

A career spanning some forty years devoted to civic agencies and NGOs has produced eleven books and dozens of papers about their role in international development, as well as numerous capacity building materials, conference presentations, lectures, and seminars. Combining theory and practice as a ‘pracademic’ continues as the thread in his contribution to citizen-driven social justice.

Bhekinkosi Moyo

Dr Bheki Moyo is a writer, author, researcher and thought-leader with keen interest in questions of African resources, democracy and governance.

In addition to championing the African discourse on philanthropy, he has contributed to the growth of many African civil society formations and participated in most African processes of development and governance.

Over the course of his career, he has written extensively about African philanthropy, civil society, and governance. Additionally, he has extensive experience in leadership, management, and strategic roles.

Xolani Dlamini

As an experienced Digital Publisher specialising in academic/scholarly publishing, particularly Open Access journals, Xolani Dlamini has been involved in managing and publishing various academic journals in different fields of study.

Thandi Makhubele

Thandi Makhubele, the current Programme Manager (Acting) at CAPSI, joined us from the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) where she worked for twelve years in various departments, including TV News and Current Affairs and Supply Chain and Legal services.

She holds an Honours Degree in International Relations and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Security at the Wits School of Governance with a focus on Philanthropy and Women’s development.

In addition to volunteering with Hand of Compassion, providing help to young pregnant women and displaced women, she hopes to bring her passion for human development, security, and creativity to the Centre.