Dawn of the UAE as an emerging hub for strategic philanthropy

A driving force is the wider region’s shifting demographics and generational wealth transfer

Muhammad Arshad, head of the Rotary vaccination team at Karachi’s main railway station, gives polio vaccinenation to a toddler aboard a train waiting to pull out. in Karachi, Pakistan on Wednesday 08 Jan, 2014. 
Photographer: Asim Hafeez
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The Arab world has long been known for its traditions of charitable giving, deeply rooted in its cultural and religious fabric. Yet the Covid-19 pandemic brought about a shift in philanthropic practices, underscoring the need for more strategic approaches to address our region’s complex challenges.

As the world navigates a geo-economic and geo-social inflection point, the UAE has emerged as a beacon of hope, poised to lead the charge in shaping the future of philanthropy within and from the global growth markets across Asia and Africa.

Starting today, Abu Dhabi is hosting the three-day Asian Venture Philanthropy Network Global Conference 2024. This is the first such conference in West Asia that brings together social investors, philanthropists, corporations, policymakers, researchers, entrepreneurs and implementing organisations from around the world to work towards greater collaborative action for accelerating impact. It reflects the UAE’s commitment to convene and facilitate global multi-stakeholder conversations in a world that is confronting a confluence of crises.

One of the driving forces behind the UAE’s rise as a philanthropic hub is the wider region’s shifting demographics and generational wealth transfer. Asia and Africa today make up almost 80 per cent of the world’s population and global youth, and a majority of the global economy.

The UAE is taking proactive steps to build the necessary infrastructure to support strategic philanthropy

Within these regions, $26 trillion is expected to be transferred across generations in the coming two decades, resulting in a growing pool of resources available for philanthropic endeavours. Moreover, the rise of a new generation of digitally savvy donors is reshaping the landscape of giving, demanding greater accountability, transparency, and measurement of impact from the projects and organisations they give to.

A global survey by Alliance, a non-profit publication that analyses trends in the charitable sector, revealed that 89 per cent of respondents believed that Africa and Asia, including the Middle East, will see the highest growth in its philanthropic giving over the next 25 years.

Technological innovations have played a crucial role in democratising philanthropy and enhancing its effectiveness. Digital tools and online platforms have made giving more accessible, while emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and digital currencies hold the potential to revolutionise philanthropic practices. The UAE, with its advanced technological infrastructure and burgeoning innovation economy, is uniquely positioned to harness technology for positive social and environmental outcomes across growth markets.

Further, the UAE is taking proactive steps to build the necessary infrastructure to support strategic philanthropy.

The establishment by President Sheikh Mohamed of the UAE’s International Humanitarian and Philanthropic Council reflects a clear commitment to realising this objective. Chaired by Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed, the Council is expected to oversee the policy agenda for international humanitarian and philanthropic affairs and develop the future vision and implementation frameworks for enhanced outcomes across this domain.

Local initiatives such as the Pearl Initiative’s Governance in Philanthropy programme in collaboration with the Gates Foundation, and NYU Abu Dhabi’s Strategic Philanthropy Initiative are equipping philanthropists with the knowledge and resources needed to maximise their impact. By fostering collaboration between all stakeholders and promoting best practices, these developments are laying the groundwork for a thriving philanthropic ecosystem in the UAE and beyond.

The role of business in advancing philanthropy cannot be understated, especially as we strive to generate a multiplier effect through public-business-philanthropy partnerships.

In the UAE, corporate giving has traditionally been generous, however there is a growing recognition among business leaders of the importance of aligning social goals with business objectives. By collaborating with non-profit organisations to better understand social and environmental priorities, businesses can enhance the positive impact their business models have on society. Equally, as philanthropies look to embracing technology, data analysis and finer measurement of outcomes, better collaboration with business clearly presents an opportunity for growth.

To mainstream strategic philanthropy and unlock its full catalytic potential, it is essential to proactively address any potential barriers for the sector to thrive. Governments play a crucial role in creating enabling environments for philanthropy through supportive legislative frameworks and regulatory systems. In turn, non-profit organisations must embrace transparency and accountability as sources of competitive advantage, while donors must take an active interest in where their charitable funds are being allocated and the impact they are generating.

As the UAE emerges as hub for philanthropy, it has the opportunity to lead by example and inspire others to embrace frameworks that nurture the practice of strategic philanthropy. By harnessing the power of technology, fostering collaboration between stakeholders, and promoting a culture of transparency and accountability, the UAE is poised to drive positive change in the sector and make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions around the world.

Published: April 23, 2024, 4:00 AM