This episode originally aired on Sep. 17, 2020.
All this week on “Marketplace Tech,” I’m revisiting some of our shows from 2020. That includes an interview I did with Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is trying to eradicate polio and malaria globally. He created a billion-dollar climate investment fund. He’s funded multiple factories to find a vaccine for COVID-19 and played matchmaker to companies around the world to get that vaccine distributed.
Gates is in the position to do all this because he is one of the world’s richest people. So I asked him how his philanthropy ends up doing so much of the work of government. He said some of it is mission creep. Take malaria.
“At first I thought our role would just be to create the drugs and the nets, and that we wouldn’t need to fund the actual delivery side, because once we had the tools, the uptake would be there,” he said. “But the delivery side, I underestimated how hard it was and how we would have to partner up to figure out what kind of vaccine would be acceptable, what kind of medical intervention, even how do you tell people that they really need to sleep under that bed net?”
Gates was quick to add that he doesn’t think countries should rely on his foundation’s funding or money from any philanthropy to address basic needs.
“By spending money on malaria, as opposed to some fancy vacation or something, yes, the world’s resources are going more into malaria now than they did before,” Gates said. “And so yes, our values do change what gets funded in this economy, and malaria just was, in my view, grossly underfunded. And I’m surprised that that was the case, but it created an opportunity to have really dramatic effect for money that although at an individual level, it’s a lot, relative to the global economy, to government-type budgets, it’s actually quite small.”
The full transcript of “Marketplace Tech’s” interview with Bill Gates is available here.
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