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Friday, June 23, 2006

Bill Gates' Philanthropy: So What.

Last week we got news that Bill and Melinda Gates would be working full time on their foundation. The media fawned over Mr. Gates, worth billions, for his getting medicine to disease racked Africans (and others). Hooray for Gates.

I don't care.

Let me tell you why I don't care. Africans have been living in Africa since humans have been on the planet. None of the diseases killing them now are new with the possible exception of the HIV virus. How on earth did all these Africans survive all this time without nary a white man in sight much less philanthropic organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation or Doctors without Borders? The answer to that question is the same answer as this one:

What is missing in most places where disease is killing off people: Government. Good government.

The only thing Doctor with Borders or other groups do when they "cure" preventable diseases in Africa is address the symptom of a bigger problem. So long as the bigger problem is not dealt with, there will always be sick Africans for white people to make themselves feel good about helping. I'm not saying that the people are not sincere but it is a waste of donor's money to constantly deal with problems that are not only preventable but also recurrent.

In a post on Niger I noted that the government of Niger actually has a policy that the UN and other NGO's will take care of the poor and destitute. It's actually a national plan to have outsiders do the governments job. This is what needs to be addressed. Bill Gates could have say paid off the debt of a country that is "doing the right thing". Mr. Gates could fund the African Union so that they can be more effective. Mr. Gates could fund organizations the promote good governance. These things aren't as glamorous as starving children and emaciated adults but in the long term the aforementioned ideas would do more to prevent preventable and treatable diseases than Doctors Without Borders.

But there is another issue. Europe ad America are sucking the continent dry of trained medical staff. Mr. Gates could fund hospitals in Africa that could provide doctors with a financial incentive to stay in Africa. This lack of adequate medical personnel is possibly as great a problem as the issue of good governance. Even if the government was running adequately, it would be a very very long time before most countries in Africa would have the economic clout to match wages and quality of life desired by the 'educated', so there would have to be some sort of incentive to keep these individuals even with good governance.

So yeah, I'm not really impressed by Gates' work in Africa because it keeps Africa as the object of pity and dependence.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Plus, billionaire Warren Buffett plans to earmark 10 million dollars in Class B shares to guess who? The Gates Foundation, already the world's largest philanthropy valued at 29 billion. More of the same...