Government, rather than billionaire philanthropy, is and will continue to be the main catalyst for meaningful change in the world, according to Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates.
Philanthropic initiatives “can often take risks,” she said in an interview Wednesday at the Bloomberg Equality Summit. “They can try innovations that sometimes work and sometimes fail. They can look for new solutions, they can help us collect the data. But ultimately it’s always up to government to scale up these innovations, to create this change.”
Gates, 56, is married to Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, the world’s third-richest person with a net worth of $140 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The Gates Foundation, which the couple founded together, is one of the largest private charitable foundations in the world, having made almost $55 billion in grant payments through the end of 2019. A former general manager at Microsoft, Gates now helps drive strategy at the foundation, with a particular focus on gender equity.
A major supporter of vaccine development and distribution efforts long before the pandemic, their foundation has donated hundreds of millions of dollars toward the production of Covid vaccines and tests. Gates cited the creation of a Covid-19 vaccine as “a perfect example” of how wealthy private individuals can work in tandem with entities like pharmaceutical companies, providing research money to leverage innovations.
But ultimately, she said, it’s up to governments to execute.
“It’s billions of dollars from the government that will pull that vaccine through and purchase it for Americans and people in low-income countries.” she said. “So it’s always up to government,” though philanthropy “can help lead the way.”