Friday, March 02, 2007

The Problem with Bill Gates' Philanthropy in Africa...

...Is that it appears to help, but in the end does more damage.
Bill Gates, the world's richest man, on Friday delivered a snub to the ethical investment movement by saying his foundation should concentrate on grant giving, rather than judging the social impact of businesses in which it invests. (FT)

Now Gates is investing in a project called the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which seeks to fix the problem of hunger by promoting high tech farming.
But promoting technological solutions that have done so much damage (like GM Crops) is simply irresponsible. Besides, there is a an abundance of food in the world, it is just distributed unfairly. Things like unfair trade policies and subsidies are a huge part of the problem. Monocultures and environmental degradation in vulnerable regions is another.
From Stuffed and Starved via zmag
The Gates solution ends up exacerbating the problems facing the poor, shoring up institutions and companies that scalp poor farmers. And then they offer a band-aid, one that helps the wound go septic.

Philanthropy isn't meant to be like sausage-manufacturing - yet every step of the way in the Gates plan for Africa, from endowment investment to the agricultural spend, induces nausea. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. Microsoft's chief software architect has spent a career developing technological patches, and then patches for those patches, and so on. If one were uncharitable, we might see the Foundation itself as a patch for his falling personal stock in the 1990s. It does rather seem that Gates' generosity is charity in its worst form, a mode of self-aggrandizement. Such is the narrow vista, and greatest tragedy, of the world's richest man. (The Rest)

There is a major flaw in the Gates vision; the solution to major third world problems like hunger is not charity - it is justice. Imagine the benefits if Gates put his considerable money and influence behind programs for justice instead of these controlling, damaging acts of "charity".


Polly Jones said...

I think 'charity' at home and abroad is very scary stuff because it lets people pretend everything is okay and they (we) never have to examine their (our) own behaviour...Did you ever see the Oprah show with the 'Red' campaign? Apparently, consuming 'red' merchandise...mostly iPods and Gap the new plan to save the world. Ugh.

Unknown said...

No matter how wealthy a person is or is not; you only know what you know. Which means rich people just like anybody else can benefit from a detailed briefing on a subject. You should take it upon yourself to enlighten Mr. Gates and his advisors from his Foundation. It is very easy to criticize folks- why don't take the high road and educate the man. I think his heart is in the right place-take advantage of the opportunity now.