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08.03.10

Bill Gates’ Forced Parenthood of Africa Receives Press Backlash

Posted in Africa, Bill Gates, Patents at 4:31 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Lifeless trees on parched land

Summary: The role of the Gates Foundation in Africa is explored more properly by investigative journalists who explain why such intervention from the West is usually self serving

THIS is today’s last post about the Gates Foundation. It is also the longest.

Before we get started, everyone is encouraged to read the good new article from The Guardian:

Inside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

[...]

The way Gates and his elite staff have chosen to try to do so is by running their charity as a kind of business. Edwards calls this approach – increasingly popular at private foundations funded by business-people – philanthrocapitalism; others call it “venture philanthropy”. Steiner explains: “Sitting here in Seattle, we’re not going to solve Africa’s problems. Africans are going to solve Africa’s problems. We’ve got to find the Africans.” Often, this means the foundation mounting competitions for grant applications, and giving money to the winners, which usually means the most “pioneering” (Steiner’s word) and those that promise to fulfil a need not met by other charities.

Foundation staff describe this process, and indeed all their work, in business-school language: achieving “leverage”, building the foundation “brand”, serving “markets” and “customers”. Or they use the language of management consultancy and computing: “Bill is about numbers,” says Steiner. “He wants to see the data. He values data more than ideology.”

Gates’ influence in Africa is a subject we dissected in posts that include:

Gates Keepers commends the author for what it names “best Gates Foundation coverage of the year”:

Who says long form journalism is dead? In this brilliant article that would never be published by an American newspaper, the British political journalist Andy Beckett takes on the Gates Foundation. This article is a frontrunner for Gates Keepers’ best Foundation coverage of the year award.

What’s more, the report from The Guardian has inspired others to comment in Ratio Magazine. To quote some portions from “Less Charity, Mr Microsoft”:

He is the ultimate geek done good: Bill Gates. Chairman of Microsoft, Master of the Universe, one of the richest men in the world, with a personal wealth of an estimated USD60bn.

[...]

And then, I guess, Bill got bored. Or maybe just wanted to try out world domination another way – by being nice. In 2006, he announced that he would only work part-time at Microsoft, and full time at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. By 2007, he and his wife had given an estimated USD27bn to charity. Like his Microsoft success, Bill Gates’ charitable activities are XXXL, too. By the end of last year, the charity had an endowment of USD33.5bn, and Warren Buffet as a trustee together with Bill and Melinda Gates. The foundation’s status as a charitable organisation requires it to donate at least 5% of its assets every year, i.e. at least around USD1.5n. Just to put this in perspective: The USD800m that the foundation spends under its health programme are roughly equivalent to the entire budget of the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO).

So, given that there’s much poverty, surely bigger is better? The Guardian recently published an interesting analysis titled ‘Inside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’ and this was one of the questions that the author pursued. The foundation has quickly become ubiquitous, thanks to both its generous finances and its star power: ‘’Every conference I go to, they’re there. Every study that comes out, they’re part of. They have the ear of any [national] leadership they want to speak to. Politicians attach themselves to Gates to get PR. Everyone loves to have a meeting with Gates. No institution would refuse,” the author cites a charity professional.

[...]

I was mulling this ‘venture philanthropy’ with the niggling feeling that I had overlooked something. Eventually, I realized what it was: That Bill Gates, a man clearly so talented in doing business, in earning money, decides that The Poor must be helped through charity.

[...]

If the Gates Foundation prides itself on doing things a different way, it still does not challenge the aid industry as such: it gives grants to intermediary foundation, many of whom represent the business-as-usual of the aid industry and the illusion of the fixability of single issues. And charity is limited, as the article points out: ‘For all the charity’s resources and connections, for all the attendant risks of over-confidence and over-mightiness, on the ground in Africa or Asia the foundation’s immense-sounding grants are a miniscule fraction of what is required to create a fairer world.’ In contrast, a successful business has no such limit. Microsoft is everywhere. It pays taxes for governments to fund their own healthcare system. Employs people so that they can buy their own mediation. Really now, Bill – I had expected more!

Despite this bad publicity for the Gates Foundation, there are actually some fans of these practices. This one comes philanthrocapitalism.net, maybe part of the PR effort. Speaking of PR, check out this new piece titled “Lintas Media bags media duties of Bill Gates-funded Urban Health Initiative”

Media duties?

It this where the money goes? Controlling messages that the public receives? We covered this questionable pattern of spendings before.

Here is another new example of public speaking from the Gates Foundation, this time at the Chamber. This whole foundation thing has grown into some kind of a movement.

The “Gates Foundation Sells Off Almost All HealthCare Investments” according to one source and Gates Keepers responds with: “A year ago Patty Stonesifer said Gates Foundation investments had no social impact. Now with Tachi in trouble the Foundation is selling off its pharma investments. Huh?” For background about Tachi Yamada, see the previous post about shareholder conflicts.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private philanthropy fund, sold off almost all of its pharmaceutical, biotechnology and health-care investments in the quarter ended June 30, according to a regulatory filing published Friday.

The Seattle-based charity endowment, set up by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates and his wife, sold its total holding of 2.5 million shares in health-care giant Johnson & Johnson in the quarter, according to the filing.

This is significant. “The Gates Foundation Bails,” says another headline.

According to this piece, the Gates Foundation unloaded basically all of its pharma and biotech stock holdings during the second quarter. Merck/Schering-Plough, J&J, Lilly, through Vertex and all the way to InterMune, Allos, and Auxilium – they held millions of shares of these, and it’s all gone.

Was the public backlash playing a role here? That the Gates Foundation was investing (for profit) in the very same interests Gates was promoting through politicians? Let’s turn our attention to politics for a moment. We are well aware of financial-based political influence games that are played by Gates; the Boston press had this to publish last month: “On national standards, the Gates Foundation gets what it pays for”

Cue the surrogates. First, they got a memorandum from Mike Cohen actively supporting the national standards. Two problems with the source: (1) Gates gives Achieve millions of dollars, so anything Achieve says on the topic should come with a truckload of salt, and (2) Achieve’s Board now includes none other than Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

The Commish and the Secretary are also leaning on the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE). I like MBAE (and especially admire Linda Noonan, their executive director). In theory, if MBAE does a comparison of MA’s to the national standards on their own, that’s great. Welcome to the debate. But the MBAE analysis is directly funded by the Gates Foundation and the analysis is to be done by West Ed in San Francisco (and Woburn). Yup, Gates funds West Ed, too. An “objective,” “independent” analysis? Then the history of MBAE itself brings conflicts of interest. MBAE was co-founded by Secretary Reville; their former Board chair is Maura Banta, currently chair of the state’s Board of Ed (and someone who actively supported the inclusion of softer “how-to-skills” in our standards and assessments and now the adoption of weaker national standards). This is akin to being judge and jury in its own case.

I have no problem with Gates funding whatever they want. But the money merry-go-round gets dizzying (see here) when you think about the conflicts. No amount of salt is going to make this taste like cotton candy.

Last month Gates met the British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and got access to other parliamentarians, essentially lobbying other British politicians. Here is another specific example:

IBBLE VALLEY MP Nigel Evans and Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons welcomed chairman of Microsoft Bill Gates.

It is dangerous when any individual is deciding for the world without ever being elected (and still with personal agendas and investments). The Taipei Times is another sceptic:

Last May, Gates, Soros, Warren Buffett and David Rockefeller Jr, Rockefeller’s great-grandson, held a long private meeting in New York, not far from the UN, along with an assortment of media potentates such as Ted Turner, Oprah Winfrey and Michael Bloomberg. It was reported that Gates had been involved in summoning them all together and that the “Good Club,” as it supposedly called itself, discussed the world’s economic, environmental and health problems, the dangers of over-population and how rich people could better help poor people.

The Sunday Times quoted an unnamed participant at the meeting, who said that without anything “as crude as a vote” the gathering had agreed that the world’s problems “need big-brain answers … independent of government.”

Gates is typically finding politicians to advance his goals. Nigeria's Jonathan is a good example from this year (there are still new articles coming out of there for PR purposes, seemingly placements with emotional, touching photos). We have already given people like Colin Powell as examples and quite recently — as recently as a month back — we gave Harper as another example (it is still in the news). Going further back there are many other famous/powerful public figures whom Gates uses to endorse his agenda. One of them is Clinton. Bill and Blll (Clinton) are still collaborating on a push originally initiated by Gates. There was a lot of coverage about it last month. When not focusing on the wedding of Chelsea Clinton, the press wrote extensively about this tag-team act [1, 2, 3, 4].

Bill Clinton and Bill Gates urged AIDS activists on Monday to squeeze value out of every cent of funds to fight HIV, saying they could not expect donors to give more in hard times unless it was carefully spent.

Francoise Barré-Sinoussi, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008 (for contribution in discovering HIV), has a criticism of the Gates Foundation. Francoise Barré-Sinoussi said in last month’s interview:

Very often their programme is too much directed by the Gates foundation and they don’t consider enough the local situation.

Basically, whenever Gates wants something done, then he charms someone in politics too. Then he ensures that only his own venture gets to decide what routes to explore.

Here is more new criticism:

Not only do we have to listen to Bill Gates, of all people, give a speech at the start of the International AIDS Conference, but we have to put up with speech previews. Double coverage. The Gates Foundation PR people are milking this one for all it is worth.

So are the Gates Foundation grants in HIV prevention efficient? Don’t expect to hear from Bill on this one. There is almost nothing about prevention in this preview.

This takes the heat off Tachi.

There is nothing wrong with fighting AIDS, but the problem is that Gates monopolises research in this area and has investments in the companies which profit from AIDS. It’s no coincidence that even AIDS organisation managers are willing to go on the record criticising Gates, whose methods in fighting AIDS now include adult circumcision [1, 2], adding to criticisms over abortion, which is another controversial subject.

“Gates has created a huge blood-buying operation that only cares about money, not about people.”

AIDS organisation manager, December 2009 (New York Times)

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