8 African Business June 2021
Business Intelligence News Billionaire philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates have confirmed that they will continue to work together on their pioneering African development efforts despite announcing their divorce, writes David Thomas.
The Microsoft founder and his wife, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has put African health, education and development at the heart of global policy debates over the past two decades, announced in May that they are to divorce after 27 years of marriage.
In a statement, the couple said that they “no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives” but confirmed that they would continue to work together at the multi-billion dollar organisation at the heart of their philanthropic efforts in Africa, the developing world and the US.
The Seattle-based foundation says it has spent $53.8bn since 2000, including funding pioneering AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis research and treatment. Led by CEO Mark Suzman under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and fellow billionaire investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett, the organisation has African offices in Addis Ababa, Abuja, and Johannesburg.
A union that impacted the world In response to the news of the divorce, African development workers lauded the couple’s contribution.
“Project managing projects funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in West Africa to ensure funding efficiency was one of the highlights of my career. So sad to read this end to a union that impacted the world,” tweeted
Development work to continue despite Gates divorce strategy expert Ayò-Bánkólé Akíntújoyè.
In the last year and a half, the foundation says it has committed more than $1.75bn to support the global response to Covid-19, including more than $680m in newly allocated funding to help slow transmission, support responses in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and fund the development and procurement of new tests, treatments, and vaccines.
The foundation is a multibillion dollar donor to GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, which is co-leading COVAX, the global effort to secure vaccines for developing countries which has begun to deliver millions of doses to poor African countries.
In early February 2020, the Foundation provided a grant to help the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) scale up testing capacity across sub-Saharan
Africa. The organisation is also a multi-billion dollar funder of the World Health Organisation and its regional offices.
Beyond Covid-19, the foundation has focused on agricultural development, financial services for the poor, education, water, sanitation and hygiene initiatives in Africa and elsewhere.
In recent months, Bill Gates has turned his attention towards the battle against climate change, publishing How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, a book that offers his response to the global crisis (see review in the May edition of African Business).
Microsoft founder Gates, 65, is the fourth wealthiest person in the world, according to Forbes, with a fortune estimated at $124bn. The Gates and Warren Buffett established the Giving Pledge, a commitment by billionaires to give away the majority of their wealth.