SEATTLE, Washington — When it comes to decreasing global poverty, few can match the charismatic and optimistic approach of Bill Gates. If you were to ask Mr. Gates what the ultimate goal would be, he would go far beyond merely lifting people out of poverty. To lift those out of endemic poverty, one must think beyond the mere necessities of life. One has to think in terms of not only prevention but also human development. Bill Gates thinks decreasing global poverty is achievable and has the numbers to back it up.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
As the homepage of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation states, the founders are “impatient optimists working to reduce inequity.” Bill Gates and his foundation have stated the belief that the path to ending global poverty runs through quality healthcare and education. The foundation has focused on these two initiatives. It has seen those outcomes reverberate out and have positive impacts on everything from political stability to economic development to social justice and the rising of women and girls in countries such as India and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have taken a broad approach to combat poverty and inequity. The organization’s health initiatives have played an instrumental part in the fight to eradicate polio. Its development projects have far-reaching programs that help nations around the world with emergency relief as well as access to vaccines and the internet. The foundation has contributed $2.5 billion to the GAVI Alliance since 1999 in order to help increase access to vaccines to countries in need. Gates has taken on poverty and underdevelopment in broad strokes. They focus not only on nations as a whole but the individual families and communities that inhabit them.
Leaving Microsoft to Help the World
After leaving Microsoft, his founding company and brainchild, in 2008, Bill Gates set out on a mission to help what he refers to as “the bottom 2 billion.” Gates has talked about the frustration that comes when you see that children around the world are continuing to die from easily preventable diseases. In many cases, these are diseases that have been completely cured or eradicated in developed nations, such as the U.S.
Gates has taken on more of an overseeing role at his foundation along with his wife, Melinda, who he credits as one of the driving forces behind the foundation’s success. Much like his former role at Microsoft, Gates sees the future of global poverty eradication as an issue that can be solved by technological innovations on behalf of nations and economies. By investing time and funds to scientific sectors, one can not only find cures for diseases but can also manufacture product innovations. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded more than $450 million through 45 grants to 33 different countries in 2003 alone to facilitate new breakthroughs.
Mr. Gates, a voracious reader, also likes to keep abreast of a variety of topics and fields, not knowing where the next innovation may come. One innovation could come in the field of fertilizer, for example, or by discovering a portable toilet that recycles water. All of these investments are done with the help of his wife and the development team at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, they help decide which projects have the greatest potential and deserve investment across the fields of technology, manufacturing, and developmental nonprofit work.
Working Towards a Better Future
In the foundation’s 2014 annual letter, Bill Gates wrote, “By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient.” This quote lays out the optimism under which Gates operates. He is not naive to the work that has to be done. But, he is strengthened by seeing the progress that has already been made by his foundation as well as by ordinary individuals, communities and organizations around the world.
In an interview with 60 minutes, Charlie Rose expressed amazement at the prospect that, “He [Gates] can dramatically reduce the number of kids under 5 who die.” Gates’s father appropriately responded, “There’s no way to be unimpressed about that.” Let’s hope Bill Gates continues his commitment to decreasing global poverty through his foundation’s impressive work.
– Connor Dobson