South Africa has a strong culture of giving, with foundations providing the majority of million dollar gifts in 2014.

There are relatively few in South Africa that have the capacity to give at the level of a million dollars or more. Those who do donate tend to operate under the radar, meaning that the figures we have reported are likely to underestimate the true scale of giving. Wealthy individuals rarely talk about their giving, and it is only recently that some of South Africa’s foundations have begun to provide public information on the extent of their philanthropy.  

Despite the tendency towards anonymous or low-profile giving, we found 19 gifts around the million dollar mark. Causes relating to higher education and health proved to be the most popular recipients. 

Number and value of Million Dollar Donations

South Africa's million dollar donors gave 19 donations worth almost $53m in 2014.



Total value of donations worth $1m+


Total number of donations of $1m+

Based on the exchange rate of R11m equalling $1m, we noted eleven grants valued at $1m or more, as well as eight gifts of $922,203 (R10m) or more in 2014. The combined value of these  donations for last year was $52.8m (please refer to section four as to why the latter are included). 

We acknowledge that this is not the full extent of grants made in 2014[1]. First, information on the size and scope of philanthropy, especially among high-net-worth individuals, is not yet consolidated in South Africa. So although a number of recent reports have illustrated the scale and nature of the philanthropic landscape (for example, Nedbank[2], Citadel Wealth Management[3] and UBS[4], among others), precise national quantitative information is not available.

A second factor that inhibits the discovery of large donations is that they are often made anonymously, or on agreement of confidentiality. In 2014, 11 of the 19 gifts were of this nature. This is not surprising in South African private philanthropy, as individuals and institutions guard their privacy for a number of reasons, mostly related to the unequal nature of South African society. In addition, many black African philanthropists simply prefer to keep their giving private due to traditional religious or moral beliefs. 

The scale and consistency of African giving in general fluctuates widely, and - as shown by recent research – large amounts are not always the norm [5].

[1] GastrowBloch Philanthropies, 




[5] Africa’s Wealthy Give Back, (covering giving by wealthy Africans in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa), produced by UBS in partnership with TrustAfrica, 2013 p 52 

Average size of Million Dollar Donations

The average size of million dollar donations was $2.8m. 

The average (mean) million dollar donation was around $2.8m. The median (the middle value when all are placed in ascending order) was $1.4m, while the mode (the number that occurs most frequently) was just under $1m.




in 2014



in 2014




in 2014


Value of Million Dollar Donations

The majority of donations were worth $2m or less, however one donation was worth in excess of $10m. 

Most (13) of Africa’s 19 million dollar donations were worth under $2m in 2014. This includes eight grants of $922,203 (R10m). With current exchange rates these donations are technically below the R11m level that we noted as being equivalent to a million dollars, but they nevertheless represent substantial investments and are included in the report given the significant fluctuations in the exchange rate last year.

The two largest gifts in 2014, of $10.1m and $9.2m, went towards helping to build a new children’s hospital in Johannesburg. The hospital, funded through the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital Trust, is an initiative of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. 


Source of Million Dollar Donations

Foundations provided the highest number of million dollar gifts in 2014. 

As noted above, 11 of the 19 donations discovered were made anonymously or on condition of confidentiality[6]. This factor is in itself of interest, illustrating the character of giving by wealthy Africans. Private and family foundations provided the vast majority of the donations whose source is known.

Among the million dollar donations highlighted in the public domain in 2014 were three grants made by the Motsepe Family Foundation, totalling $5.6m. The Foundation was established by South Africa’s first black mining sector billionaire, Patrice Motsepe and his wife Precious, who have also signed up to Warren Buffet’s Giving Pledge

The Motsepe couple’s decision to make their giving public and to take part in the Giving Pledge was motivated by their wish to encourage further giving by wealthy South Africans by acting as role models. In a recent interview with the BBC, Mr Motsepe said he was also inspired by the spirit of ‘ubuntu’, an African belief system which translates as ‘I am because you are’ – meaning that individuals need other people to be fulfilled.

He noted: "South Africans are caring, compassionate and loving people. It has always been part of our culture and tradition to assist and care for less fortunate and marginalised members of our communities. This culture is also embodied in the spirit and tradition of ubuntu/botho."

His wife Precious told the BBC that the move would help counter the impression that Africa is always waiting for outside help. "Yes we've got challenges but we also have an opportunity, particularly in this century, to turn our continent around and portray Africa in a positive light.

"We can…show the world that not only are we recipients of aid, but we can also begin to do things for ourselves."[7].

[6] ‘Anonymous’ means that the recipient organisation was not told the source of the funding. ‘Confidential’ means that the recipient was told the source of the funding but asked not to reveal it.


Location of Million Dollar Donations

Donors were principally Johannesburg-based.

Most known local donors revealed in this study were from Johannesburg, which is in Gauteng province and considered the country’s economic powerhouse. Unsurprisingly, the Motsepe Family Foundation is headquartered in Johannesburg, while the Gauteng Education Department funded educational institutions within the province.

Recipients of Million Dollar Donations

Most receipients were in the Western Cape or Gauteng.

South Africa comprises nine provinces, and in 2014 all known South African recipients of million dollar donations located in Gauteng and the Western Cape provinces, which house the country’s two largest cities.

Organisations based in Cape Town received seven grants totalling $7.8m, while ten grants totalling almost $43m were given to recipients in Johannesburg.


unique recipients

in 2014

Distribution of Million Dollar Donations

The majority of donations were made to higher education and healthcare.

South Africa has one of the highest rates of public financial investment in education in the world. At about 7% of gross domestic product (GDP) and some 20% of total state expenditure, the government spends much more on education than on any other sector. 

The country has an active higher education sector, with 23 state-funded tertiary establishments: eleven universities, six universities of technology and six comprehensive institutes[8].

South Africa’s premier universities such as those of the Witwatersrand and Cape Town are considered to be world-class institutions of higher learning.






19 gifts of $1m+




3 gifts of $1m+


Higher Education


12 gifts of $1m+


Human Services


2 gifts of $1m+


Overseas [9]


2 gifts of $1m+



[9] ‘Overseas’ relates to recipients based in a country other than South Africa.