Bill Gates, who will retire from Microsoft on June 27, said that he would take up charity work on a full time basis.
“With success, I have been given great wealth,” Gates said in June 2006. “And with great wealth comes great responsibility to give back to society, to see that those resources are put to work in the best possible way to help those in need.”
That pledge will see Gates, 52, take a hands-on role as co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s richest charity, which thanks to the generosity of Gates and his close friend, fellow business tycoon Warren Buffet, currently has a war chest of $37.3 billion dedicated to improving health care and fighting poverty in the developing world.
The foundation is destined to become even richer with both its main benefactors pledging to donate almost their entire fortunes and to require the foundation to spend all its money within 50 years of their deaths.
Currently, the foundation is required by law to make grants of at least $1.5 billion annually, but the plan is to dramatically increase that figure, and plans are already in the works to double the foundation’s staff of 250 employees.
The foundation is split into three units.
The Global Health Programme currently donates some $800 million a year — roughly equal to the annual budget of the UN’s World Health Organization. It plays a leading role in efforts to eradicate polio, fight AIDS and spread the use of vaccines and immunizations.
The Global Development Programme helps fight extreme poverty, with grants that support micro-finance loans, agricultural development in Africa and the spread of information technology.
Among the biggest projects of the United States Programme are scholarships for high-achieving minority college students, Internet access in libraries and numerous other educational initiatives.
Gates is determined to have a major impact on the world’s major problems and has been studying furiously to get familiar with the science behind the issues.
He also brings his clout, vision and business acumen to the table, which could be decisive in pushing forward remedies and cajoling governments who might have different agendas.