x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Bill Gates spreads philanthropy in the UAE

US billionaire Bill Gates is urging the wealthy in the UAE to give to the poor.

Bill Gates, Co-Chair & Trustee of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, urges the wealthy in the UAE to give to the poor.
Bill Gates, Co-Chair & Trustee of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, urges the wealthy in the UAE to give to the poor.

Bill Gates said he planned to have meetings with donors and other philanthropists while in the Emirates, hoping to "get the wealthy to give".

The US billionaire said a number of people in the country had shown interest in contributing to "the issue of helping the poor".

One company - Al Ansari Exchange - has already agreed to contribute and yesterday announced a US$5 million (Dh18.3m) donation over the next five years for polio eradication, and to support the prevention of neglected tropical diseases.

Mr Gates said the largest chunk of donations to his charity - 60 per cent - came from governments' foreign aid budgets. The rest came from philanthropists.

But he said the balance between philanthropy and government spending in the Middle East was not "as black and white", as the two are often one and the same.

"Sometimes in this region ... the definitions aren't as clear but the initiatives here will make a big difference," he said.

Mr Gates said he encouraged people with funds to donate and that he was "sure they will find it quite fulfilling".

He was speaking in the capital yesterday ahead of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, and said he understood the need by some to "know that their dollars really have impact".

He said that scepticism was why the Gates Foundation had "such professional teams and measurement systems".

Mr Gates said he was "very demanding in terms of value-for-money, real impact, and hopefully our success and credibility is something that encourages other people to get involved".

He described Yemen as the country in the region that needs the most help.

"We want children to have enough to eat and not die from disease," Mr Gates said.

"[Yemen is] one of the countries that the aid community needs to do better in getting the tools [of support] out to."

* Marie-Louise Olson