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11 June 2021

Philanthropy that puts education at the heart of growth

How sharing expertise can help foundations educate the youth of Africa 

Amos Onyango is a man who has always held education in Africa dear to his heart. Beginning his life as a teacher in his native Kenya, it was out of a passionate belief in the vision of a self-sustaining Africa that he made his foray into the world of philanthropy. Training at the Heinrich Boll Foundation, Nairobi Branch, he became a Project Manager at the PLO Lumumba Foundation, an organisation founded by the former Director of Kenya’s Anti-Corruption Commission, Professor P.L.O Lumumba, who currently serves as the Director of the Kenya School of Law . 

The operations of the PLO Lumumba Foundation span 38 African countries, and Onyango currently serves as Executive Assistant to Prof. Lumumba himself in addition to his role as Project Manager. Today, he also serves as an advisor to several other African foundations including the Angola based Kuculá FoundationSouth Sudan Research Institute and Nigeria’s SID-Care Global Network

“It’s the commitment to a shared vision that unites these foundations. They prioritise initiatives that give hope to those who have lost it.” 

Onyango’s experience across foundations gives him a unique viewpoint from which to consider the challenges facing philanthropists in Africa.  

“Governance is a problem in Africa. When you are looking at what activities foundations sponsor, it’s not just about doing an activity for the sake of doing an activity, the outcomes need to be beneficial. There needs to be value added to the society.” 

It is with this philosophy that Onyango approaches his work with Kuculá Foundation. Founded by the Angolan businessman and entrepreneur, Mirco Martins, Kuculá Foundation aims to create lasting positive relationships with future leaders, influencers, and decision-makers. They achieve this by increasing access to tertiary education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, providing youth mentorship, youth leadership training and equal opportunities for the sustainable development of African communities. Through Kuculá, Onyango is working to replicate the Africa Mentorship Program that he helped pioneer with the PLO Lumumba Foundation, which has seen over 1000 youths across Africa receive direct mentoring from the organisation’s founder. 

Kuculá’s three pillars are Education Scholarships, Community Development and Mentorship & Coaching. The word Kuculá in the native Angolan language means “growing,” and its founders believe that the only way to grow is to educate. That’s why it seeks to support top performing students from financially challenged backgrounds by working alongside other partners, as well as offering leadership training to guide them as agents of change, transformation and solutions.  

Its mentorship programme seeks to build connections with experts from different fields, offering what Onyango says is a better way to help the young choose and ultimately pursue vocations. By giving them the support to obtain an education in the first place, Kuculá seek to go a step further by connecting their sponsees to a network of established professionals who can serve as future mentors. Building on the template of the PLO Lumumba Foundation, Onyango believes that these networks can be shared across foundations which share the same vision to achieve maximum impact.  

“To take it to the next level, we also need to focus on technology. Doing things online is becoming the modern way of communication. We hope to build out an online platform that will allow more people to upskill online”.  

His colleague, Abuta Ogeto, who previously worked at the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, reports that Kuculá currently sponsors around 7 students, and is looking to expand its scholarship base to secondary and high-school students. He echoes his colleague’s vision of there being a gap between what education can provide, and what skills are ultimately needed.  

“Bigger foundations in Africa, like Mastercard Foundation, give us a lot of inspiration. They sponsor around 20,000 high school students every year, and partner with local organisations like the Wings to Fly Foundation. We want to expand the number of students whom Kuculá directly supports by around 40 to 60%, as well as trying to attract more assistance.” 

With Onyango and Ogeto both drawing from their experience and insights at other foundations, they are hoping they can impart their lessons learned working in the non-profit sector to help Kuculá provide more African students with an education that serves them for life.  

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Kuculá Foundation scholarships and programs target young people who have already displayed outstanding academic and leadership talents, to study in various universities.
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