Bill's pill's - the Gates Foundations' upbeat report card on poverty

open | 07 April, 2013

If you think a annual report by a philanthropy organization is equal to taking a sleeping pill, think again.

The latest annual report from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a charity as big as the GDP of a mid-sized country in Africa, is, exiting, uplifting reading from start to finish.

The reason being, that the writer, Bill Gates himself, gives a in your face, crisp and to the point report card on, not his own foundation, but the state of the developing world as a whole.

And the world’s largest giver by far explains why he thinks the World has changed to the better. Manna from heaven for development fundi’s and cynic’s alike.

Bill Gates gives very convincing reasons why things are not at all as bad as we might think: why the global development fabric has been patched up in some important way’s over the past ten years.

We are, he explains, actually well on our way to reach a fair amount of United Nation’s millennium goals, the MDG's - about to expire in 19 months.

As perhaps one could expect from a man who's made his success in the business world Gates believe this in no uncertain measure is thanks exactly to that, to the introduction of measuring of development goals.

To measure development success is not new as such. Bill Gates credit's Unicef's first Executive Director, Jim Grant, for having introduced measurable goals in Global vaccine programs already in the early 70's.

“Few people may have heard of Grant, but his impact on the world was as significant as any profit-driven leader like a Henry Ford or Thomas Watson. (…) Thanks to Grant’s efforts and thousands of vaccinators, the percentage of infants worldwide receiving necessary vaccines rose from 17 percent in 1980 to 75 percent in 1990, saving millions of lives every year.”, writes Bill Gates.

Vaccination is one of the Gates Foundation’s own ‘darling’s’. The Gates’ can take a large chunk of the credit for financing and pushing for the eradication of polio across the world. There were for the first time ever, no single polio case in India, last year. And the number of cases across the world are down in hundred’s, most of which are in politically inflamed pockets in Pakistan and Nigeria.

The Gates Foundation is also on the front line of research and implementation of programs to control- and treat HIV/Aids and Malaria. Education is another important field.

Bill Gates singles out Ethiopia as one of the development world's real success stories after the country started to implement policies aimed at reaching the MDG's, in particular by introducing preventative health clinics across the country. By introducing vaccine routines and thorough family planning the country’s child death rates decreased dramatically.

Gates compares with the situation in Ethiopia in the mid-Eighties. A time when the country was hit by one of the worst famines ever in Africa. The first Live Aid concert followed and gave rise of a generation of western youth eager to reach out a helping hand. (I myself went to Ethiopia and not yet independent Eritrea in 1988 to do a report for Swedish development agency Sida on how to try and learn from the famine and try and prevent anything like that happening on the same scale again. I covered how village water pumps were introduced, how more resistant crop’s and better stockpiling during good years and even turning to fishing, could help preparedness.)

About ten years ago, says Bill Gates, Ethiopia's’s leaders started to make the 'right choices'. The people’s well-being, education and training came in the spotlight, in most areas (with the exception of freedom of expression).

This way Ethiopia also became an attractive proposition for foreign investments. The country is one of Africa's shining lights when comes to economic growth. In this regard it helped that two of the world’s richest men took a special interest in the country – Gates in supporting development, Ethiopia born Mohammed Al Amoudi in channeling massive amounts of investments.

The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation have come a long way since its inception. But it has taken a decade for them to gain full acceptance. They’ve hit some big bumps on the way, with questions about how the Gates Foundation’s money sometimes is invested in fields that are contrary to the Foundations explicit goals.

However the Gates’ have encouraged a new generation of giving. Philanthropism has become the right thing to do across the world if you have surplus money. The 50/50 movement, where all billionaire members commit at least half of their fortunes to good causes have gained momentum and taken root also beyond America’s borders.

The tone in Bill Gates’ report is humble, Gates brags about others structural- or trend setting achievements, not his own.

What the Gates's have learnt is that the main development driver is not giving, it is a combination of humility, respect and aspirations. And, indeed, to measure efforts somehow.

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