Matshidiso Masire recently joined Baird’s CMC as a full associate. Along with her deep expertise in programme development and public affairs, communication and advocacy strategy, Matshidiso also brings to the table her passion for sustainable change in Africa.
In Part 2 of this three-part series (read Part 1 here), Matshidiso highlights challenges specific to southern Africa with regards to strategic philanthropy, explains why she is passionate about her field and describes one of the most inspiring experiences of her career.
Q. Are there any challenges you face that are specific to southern Africa?
MM: In many ways, South Africa is the only country that insists, through black economic empowerment, that companies must give back. So one of the biggest challenges is changing how these companies understand “giving back”, to make them see that they can have real, sustainable impact if they plan ahead.
Typically, people here call putting their name and phone number on t-shirts philanthropy. My question to these people is always – so what are you giving back? Because there’s nothing left behind, really. I see that more as marketing. We are working towards helping people to better understand the shift from just sponsorship –giving 10,000 pula here, 20,000 pula there – to more long-term, well-thought-out programmes. There are a lot of organisations that come into Africa. They do good – don’t get me wrong, they do good – but they’re not sustainable. We need to move from one-time, short-term things to long-term programmes that benefit the beneficiaries more directly. It’s not easy… We are trying to change a mindset, but to overcome, we must continue to highlight the importance and benefits of this shift.
Q. What drives your passion for work? Why do you feel what you do is important?
MM: I lived in 4-5 different countries, away from Africa, for many years. But no matter where I lived, my area of responsibility was always Africa. I was based all around the world, but always working with African countries – and I want to continue to do so. Even with Baird’s CMC, I am the Africa “eyes and ears”, so to speak. That’s what I’m passionate about – Africa!
It gives me great pleasure and satisfaction to be involved in programmes that are going to better the livelihood of my fellow Africans. If I look at some of the work of Baird’s CMC, I think the health research and advocacy aspect of my work is what I enjoy the most. I feel strongly about whatever I’m advocating for, as long as it’s for the betterment of my people.
I grew up in a family that believes very strongly in giving back and maybe that’s why I have a passion for philanthropy and making a difference. I believe that if any aspect of my work makes a difference in even one person’s life then I’m on the right path. I may never see the people that I work for, but I sleep well at night. The reason I keep going back to health is that a healthy nation is the wealth of a generation. My country, Botswana, has been devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Our life expectancy has been cut in half. If we can become a healthy nation…then we have a healthy future. The young people in the country today are our future.
Q. Is there an experience in your career that stands out, that shaped you in some way?
MM: The few years I spent advocating for increased HIV/AIDS funding in Africa was an eye opener for me. I can’t pinpoint one single event – the entire process was a learning experience. Having to negotiate with governments and realising that they sign all these declarations without enough consideration…I found that people are very quick to put their signature on paper without scrutinising what it means and how it’s going to be implemented. Turning that piece of paper into actual dollars is a mammoth task – an area that has interested me ever since then.
I visited Rwanda for work during those years. Going there and seeing the advances they had made showed me that with the right leadership, countries can begin to truly address some of the very serious challenges we have in the healthcare sector on the African continent. Rwanda is a very interesting country. The president has taken a leadership role in healthcare – he is very knowledgeable about what’s going on in the sector. All the senior people you come across are well prepared for the positions they hold. I think that sort of sincere political involvement and investments will go a long way in helping Africa rises up from being the poor cousin to a global player.
In Part 3, read about the benefits and frustrations that go with being a global citizen, how Matshidiso’s family shaped her core values, and advice for newcomers in the field.