Review Article

State philanthropy: The demise of charitable organisations in Botswana

Kenneth Dipholo, Keneilwe Molosi-France
Africa’s Public Service Delivery & Performance Review | Vol 7, No 1 | a243 | DOI: | © 2019 Kenneth Dipholo, Keneilwe Molosi-France | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 21 August 2018 | Published: 27 February 2019

About the author(s)

Kenneth Dipholo, Department of Adult Education, University of Botswana, Botswana
Keneilwe Molosi-France, Department of Adult Education, University of Botswana, Botswana

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Background: Charitable organisations just like other constituents of the civil society are a vital partner to the governments. Charities provide essential services that positively impact the lives of citizens. Some charities have lobbying functions and the considerable international influence necessary to facilitate social change. Their contribution to the economic, social and political sectors of a nation is widely recognised and governments are expected to create the circumstances in which charities would continue to flourish and fulfil their obligations. However, the quest by charities to partner with governments has always proved inexplicably uneasy and full of twists and turns.

Aim: This study conducted a literature review hypothesising that while the Botswana state will continue to play a role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens, strong state involvement in charity work fundamentally strikes at the very heart of the life of charitable organisations.

Setting: This study conducted a review of literature on charities in Botswana positing that while charities are expected to work without direct governmental involvement, many have been subjected to state regulation and crippling state control measures. In the context of a developmental welfare state such as Botswana which has lately acquired a philanthropic character, it is argued that charitable organisations are increasingly becoming irrelevant and risk losing public trust that undergirds their core mandate of relieving suffering and providing essential services. A consequence of this would be a return to a stronger state that leaves little room for non-state actors to effectively influence social change.

Methods: This study conducted a review of literature on the operations of charities in Botswana in comparison with international practices in order to dissect similarities and abnormalities that have a bearing in the legitimate and universal mandate of Botswana’s charitable organisations.

Results: Three key issues emerged from this study. First, it has been discovered state philanthropy threatens to render charities obsolete. Secondly, it has been discovered that most charities have allowed themselves to operate as extended arm of the state hence are dependent on the state for their operations. As corollary of the preceding discoveries, the study maintains that for their survival, Botswana charities must recalibrate and reposition themselves in order to remain relevant.

Conclusion: The article concludes that widespread state philanthropy championed by the Head of State threatens to relegate and render charitable organisations virtually irrelevant and redundant unless they re-engineer themselves.


state philanthropy; charitable organizations; developmental state; welfare state; Botswana


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