The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one the biggest philanthropic organization in the world. The majority of the foundation’s focus is on health, poverty, and development in Africa. Haddis D. Tadesse, Ethiopia Country Representative of the foundation spared sometime out of the forum to discuss his views about the forum and his foundation’s work.
Capital: What is your organaization doing right now?
Haddis D. Tadesse: The Bill and Melinda gates foundation was created a decade ago because the family of Bill and Melinda Gates believed that inequities in health, food security could be alleviated if the right intervention was put in place. Particularly in the health sector where there’s a huge disparity between the developed world and the developing world, where kids were dying because the right vaccines weren’t delivered to them or the proper treatment was not being conducted. Bill and Melinda gates use their personal resources to get to this issue. The foundation in its history has given over USD 26 billion to efforts in health and development. About five or six years ago when Warren Buffet gave a huge chunk of his resources to the foundation, we also started exploring some other opportunities, and we thought agricultural development had a unique opportunity of not only becoming an economic agent of an economy but also addressing the food security and poverty reduction tool. So we’re now involved in health which is primarily our biggest investment area. In the US we focus on education and then we have an agricultural, financial services, water sanitation and urban programs around the world including emergency relief for polio. In some cases when emergencies happen, we intervene and provide some support. Generally that’s what we’re doing ,we give roughly anywhere between USD 3 to 3.5 billion annually, Africa represents perhaps about half of the giving and within that, Ethiopia is one of the priority countries.
Capital: Why are you attending the forum?
Haddis: We have been attending and been a partner with the WEF for a number of years now, both at Davos and the regional summits. We find it a unique opportunity where you have critical and important people coming together from government, the private sector, the NGO community, and from media. Increasingly the forum is focusing not only on economic growth but also on developmental issues. I just left the session where heads of states and other business leaders were talking about agriculture which obviously is a backbone of the economy for many countries including Ethiopia, so we find this forum as a venue where we can engage multiple partners at the same time over a three day period. We find it very useful as a strategic member of the WEF and we’ll continue to engage in that level.
Capital: What do you expect from this forum particularly?
Haddis: Well in this forum there’s a lot of excitement about the transformation of Africa, analysts and other observers expect this is to be a tipping point for Africa to really go into a transformational journey. We believe strongly in development being a critical component in that, so the grow Africa initiative that’s coming out of the WEF or other initiatives that focus on development and health issues are paramount. We continue to support that stance particularly in the agricultural sides; we think the initiative that’s coming out is promising. We will continue to go to the G8 and then the G20 summits, which have really galvanized the global community to do something meaningful about agriculture, and we’re very excited about that.