George Soros began his philanthropic work in Africa in 1979. Today, the Open Society Foundations have a network of foundations and offices across the continent, working on democratic governance, economic advancement, and a host of other issues.
Offices and Foundations
The Kampala office serves as a satellite for the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa.
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
The Dar-es-Salaam office serves as a satellite for the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa.
Freetown, Sierra Leone
The Freetown office serves as a satellite for the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
The Abuja office serves as a satellite for the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
The Monrovia office serves as a satellite for the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
The Conarky office serves as a satellite for the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Kinshasa office serves as a satellite for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.
The Luanda office serves as a satellite for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.
Cape Town, South Africa
By the Numbers
Expenditures by Year
George Soros began his philanthropy in South Africa, giving scholarships to Black South African students in 1979. The Foundations’ work in Africa has expanded dramatically since then, and notably provided support to a range of civil society groups that helped drive a wave of democratic change starting in the 1990s.
With the end of apartheid, we opened our national foundation in South Africa in 1993, followed by our first African regional foundation—the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa—in 1997. Our Open Society Initiative for West Africa, based in Dakar, followed in 2000. The Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa opened its doors in Nairobi in 2005, after Kenya held multiparty elections in 2002. We also established an office in Tunisia in 2014.
Highlights of Our Work in Africa
Starting to Build a More Open World
Nurturing Democracy and Addressing Inequality in Post-Apartheid South Africa
Expanding Open Society Work in Africa
Helping People Living with HIV and TB in Africa
Supporting Development in Post-Conflict Sierra Leone and Liberia
Holding Soldiers Accountable for Rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Under coordination by our Africa Regional Office, our network of regional and national foundations in Africa works on many of the essential issues facing the continent.
Our four regional foundations across the continent have been supporting a range of responses to the pandemic, including efforts to raise public awareness about the risks of the virus and support for steps to mitigate its impact—particularly on vulnerable communities, women, and children. Our grantees continue to speak out against the excessive use of sometimes deadly force by police who are enforcing closure orders and to push for the release of nonviolent prisoners at risk in overcrowded prisons and jails. Our advocacy has focused on the need to ensure that expected new treatments and vaccines developed to combat the virus are equally available to all and in all countries.
In the ongoing battle against HIV and AIDS and other diseases in Africa, our work has focused on ensuring that those affected by illness can get access to the health care and support they need and be treated with respect. Our Public Health Program has supported legal groups that ensure access to public support for people facing life-threatening illnesses, and deal with issues such as land-ownership succession in a way that gives security to the families of people suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Open Society also responded to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa with an emergency $4 million grant to fund the building of treatment facilities.
Beginning in Kenya, South Africa—and then expanding to additional countries—we supported “citizen audit” programs, where local groups use publicly available information on government contracts and plans to check on whether the promised goods and services—from schools to lavatories—were actually built, and to what standards. These efforts add to our work with governments across Africa to develop freedom of information laws and institutions that give ordinary people information about government decision-making and budgets. Our support for democratic engagement in West Africa has included the creation of a web-based “situation room” that supports election monitoring efforts by independent civil society groups.
Across Africa, we support efforts to promote early childhood education, which can play a powerful role in supporting young children’s future education and healthy development. We have worked in Liberia since 2007, helping the government build a national early childhood development system that includes a national curriculum and training systems for teachers. Open Society also offers support to colleges and universities, and works to support access to education for all.
Our Human Rights Initiative is engaged in supporting groups across Africa who face discrimination and sometimes violence because of who they are or how they live. This includes an ongoing campaign to raise awareness of the experiences of Africans with albinism, as well as our long-standing support for equal treatment of LGBTI people. The Open Society Foundations also advocate for the resolution of nationality issues that leave many Africans stateless—an issue that can fuel ethnic division and tensions.
Our Global Drug Policy Program is actively engaged in legal reform in Africa that promotes a decriminalized approach focused on public health and human rights, rather than prohibition and punishment. In South Africa, we support volunteer networks working toward an official and legal end to the aerial spraying of glyphosates over cannabis farms, in a country where 26 million people (half the population) use traditional medicine that relies heavily on cannabis use in various forms, and has recently decriminalized the use and growth of cannabis for private consumption.
Our Economic Justice Program is involved in a range of work in Africa, from investing in infrastructure to supporting smallholder farmers in Ghana, to backing social entrepreneurship initiatives. The program’s work includes supporting efforts to promote women’s participation in the economy using nontraditional business models.
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