New York (AFP)
The shocking announcement of the divorce of billionaire philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates after 27 years of marriage has raised questions about the future of their hugely influential charity.
Here, AFP examines the Gates Foundation, how it works and the projects it funds, its impact on the pandemic, and how the nonprofit may be impacted by the split.
– Its mission and its vast budget –
The couple say the idea for the foundation came to them as young parents when they read a newspaper article about millions of children in developing countries dying from easily treatable illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia. .
In 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was launched to fight disease and poverty around the world. In the United States, the focus was initially on access to computers and the Internet to improve education in general.
With 1,600 employees in offices around the world, the Gates Foundation distributes approximately $ 5 billion annually in areas such as global public health and development.
The foundation claims to have spent $ 54.8 billion since its inception.
More than $ 2 billion has been devoted to the fight against malaria alone with the aim of eradicating the disease transmitted by mosquitoes “in a generation”.
The charity has also contributed billions of dollars to a global campaign to end polio through widespread immunization of children. He donated over $ 50 million during the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
Dozens of other programs it funds include nutrition, sanitation, maternal and child health, and agricultural development.
– Fight the pandemic –
Last year, the foundation pledged around $ 250 million to help fight the pandemic, with part of the funds going towards the distribution of life-saving doses of Covid-19 vaccines in parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia from South.
Money has also been spent on testing, personal protective equipment and supporting overwhelmed health services, especially in developing countries.
She also played a key role in founding Covax, a global program to help deliver vaccines to the poorest countries.
In total, the foundation claims to have spent some $ 1.75 billion to fight Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.
He found himself embroiled in controversy after being accused of pushing the University of Oxford to sign an exclusive deal with AstraZeneca for its vaccine rather than cede the rights to a drug maker.
– Who runs the foundation? –
Bill, 65, and Melinda, 56, are co-chairs of the charity while Warren Buffett is a director. The CEO is Mark Suzman.
In his early years, when Bill still ran Microsoft on a daily basis, Melinda was seen as running the foundation.
In 2008, Bill moved to a part-time position at Microsoft to devote himself to the foundation. Last year he left his senior positions at Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway for the same reason.
It is difficult to say which, in either of these, is the most influential.
In her 2019 memoir, “The Moment of Lift,” Melinda wrote that they were arguing over who would write the foundation’s annual letter, which Bill typically did.
“I thought we were going to kill each other,” she said. They have been writing it jointly since 2014.
– Where does the money come from? –
The Gates transferred some $ 20 billion in Microsoft stock to the foundation in its early days.
In 2006, Buffett announced that he would donate most of his fortune to the foundation in the form of shares in his company Berkshire Hathaway.
Four years later, Gates and Buffet launched the Giving Pledge Initiative, which encouraged the wealthy to donate at least 50% of their wealth to charities, including the Gates Foundation.
More than 200 personalities have signed up to date.
The foundation has an endowment of more than $ 46 billion.
At the end of last year, it had a large equity portfolio, dominated by Berkshire Hathaway and also including Walmart, Caterpillar, US-based Waste Management and the Canadian National Railway Company, according to Investopedia.
– Does divorce threaten the foundation? –
Bill, the fourth richest man in the world with a fortune valued by Forbes at $ 130 billion, and Melinda have pledged to continue working together for the foundation.
But their divorce could create new questions about their wealth, most of which have yet to be donated to the foundation, despite the co-creation of the Giving Pledge.
The future of the Gates Foundation may depend on the financial terms of the divorce, which are still unknown.
Melinda may want to follow the lead of MacKenzie Scott, who quickly donated around $ 6 billion following his divorce from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2019 and is now a powerful independent philanthropist in her own right.
© 2021 AFP