Unleashed in lockdown: Generosity during COVID in Uganda

By Jacqueline Asiimwe, CEO, CivSource Africa.

Like most countries around the world, when news of the coronavirus pandemic came through, Uganda went into a total lockdown. All except essential workers were disallowed on the streets. This was an unprecedented crisis and the government needed a lot of support to address the pandemic.

The government quickly set up a COVID-19 National Task Force to coordinate the country’s response. And then it was like the floodgates opened! Ugandans from all walks of life started sending money to and giving towards the COVID-19 response. During the lockdown, President Museveni took to the airwaves and communicated updates to the country almost on a weekly basis. After each communication, he read a list of private sector companies and individuals that had given money and other forms of support, to address the COVID-19 crisis.

That is when our ears literally pricked up. CivSource Africa is passionate about telling stories of African giving and generosity. We do this both to counter the narrative that Africans do not give, as well as to promote and highlight the Ubuntu spirit that stretches across the full length and breadth of our continent.

We set out on a quest to document the giving that was happening. We were very keen to collect stories not just from the capital city and from ‘big’ givers. We also wanted to tell the stories of the ‘little people’, the everyday folks who rose to the occasion and provided much-needed help and support to their neighbors, families, friends, and even extended help to total strangers. Gathering these stories felt surreal. It literally felt like we were witnessing angels on duty! We were honored to compile these stories into a report titled “Generosity in the time of COVID-19.”

Even as we were gathering these stories, we were awake to two things. First, we were awake to the rumours that persisted about how the money given, especially to the National Task Force, would be administered. Whether they would be administered properly, whether there would be accountability and whether the people managing this money would desist the sting of corruption. We know that we must continuously answer the accountability and transparency question if we are to grow and strengthen local philanthropy in our country.

The other issue we were awake to was that the stories we compiled are not anywhere near a true representation of all the giving that happened during the lockdown. We are certain there are many more stories we missed, partly because many people like to give anonymously, and we greatly respect that. But the other fact is that one single organization does not and cannot have the capacity to collect all the giving stories happening across our country. But we do know that we have to find a way to build the network of people that will help tell these stories, because they are worth telling and givers are worth celebrating.

In the months to come, we shall continue to mull over these two lessons that we learned – how to engender better accountability and transparency, and how to create the infrastructure that enables us better gather and tell stories of giving and generosity.

In the meantime, though, we are proud to present our report to you and we wish you good reading.


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By Jacqueline Asiimwe, CEO, CivSource Africa.

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