African Gifting: Pluralising the Concept of Philanthropy

  • Alan FowlerEmail author
  • Jacob Mwathi Mati


This article adds to conceptualisations of philanthropy. Applying an ontological approach within an evolutionary perspective, it advances an analogous African narrative of pro-social transactions of gift-giving, or gifting, associated with Marcel Mauss. Originating on the continent, this relational behaviour is subject to indeterminate complex processes which co-determine any society’s institutional design. Analysing gifting’s sociopolitical influence on the continent pays attention to the (non-)agonistic as well as the ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ features of gifting across pre- to post-colonial eras, examining their role in establishing patrimonial systems of governance. When gifting is set against (institutionalised) philanthropy’s dominant discourse, issues for its critique are identified. Suggestions for further inquiry and implications for improving development on the continent are provided.


Gifting Philanthropy (Non-)agnostic transactions Ontological analysis 



We acknowledge and value comments from anonymous reviewers.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Standards

The article complies with ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© International Society for Third-Sector Research and The Johns Hopkins University 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Witswatersrand Business SchoolJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Social SciencesThe University of the South PacificSuvaFiji Islands
  3. 3.Society, Work and Development InstituteThe University of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

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