African Billionaires Are Giving Back to Africa

When South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe pledged to give the bulk of his wealth to philanthropic causes earlier this year, he joined a growing number of high-net-worth African families and individuals who are using their wealth to improve society, Voice of America reports.

In January, Motsepe, a mining magnate, pledged to give half his wealth — estimated to be $2.65 billion by Forbes magazine — to his foundation, which works to help impoverished South Africans. According to VOA, Motsepe learned at a young age the importance of giving back from watching his mother hand out free groceries to poor customers at the family's grocery store.

Motsepe's foray into mega-philanthropy is hardly a one-off; indeed, he is following in the footsteps of other successful African entrepreneurs who felt a responsibility to give back. They include Sudan-born Mohamed "Mo" Ibrahim, whose London-based foundation works to improve governance on the continent by awarding a prize for achievement in leadership.

"I think...many men who are self-made, including Patrice Motsepe, realize that money is not something that has any value as it collects in a bank," said Elizabeth Donaldson, whose great-grandfather, Lt. Col. James Donaldson, launched the Donaldson Trust in 1936 to advocate for voter rights in South Africa; today the trust, which has about $3 million in assets, supports various community initiatives. "It only has value because it can allow somebody else, who like you started at the bottom, to get that chance....Patrice Motsepe spent his teenage years packing his dad's stockroom in Mamelodi. And he has learned, I think, like many of those men, that unless you give something back, it almost has no value."

Anita Powell. "Billionaire Patrice Motsepe Joins Club of African Philanthropists." Voice of America 04/30/2013.