“We are not imposing our values on Africa” – Bill and Melinda Gates

Bill and Melinda Gates answer 10 of the toughest questions they are frequently asked regarding their Foundation’s work.

In the couple’s 2018 annual letter recently delivered, both addressed a pertinent question about western solutions to Africa’s problems from Uche Pedro, founder of leading Nigerian lifestyle and entertainment blog BellaNaija.com.

As the biggest foundation in the world with over 122 million saved-children’s lives to its credit, it is very likely that the foundation would assume it knows what is best for countries in Africa lacking basic social amenity.

However, Bill and Melinda disputed these notions, when asked if they are imposing their values on other cultures. According to them, seeing to the survival of children and ensuring they do not die of basic sicknesses like malaria and malnourishment, which can be avoided, cannot be seen as solely their value but a human value.

To bill and Melinda, values transcends beyond actions to how those actions are carried out. Understanding of peoples needs and working hand in gloves with people who have first hand experience of these challenges are what matters most.

In the letter Melinda noted “We’re acutely aware that some development programs in the past were led by people who assumed they knew better than the people they were trying to help. We’ve learned over the years that listening and understanding people’s needs from their perspective is not only more respectful—it’s also more effective”.

Constant criticism holds the notion that, leaders and organizations, mostly foreign, see their dependents and beneficiaries as tabula rasa who do not know what is best for them and are willing to embrace development and innovation hook, line and sinker.

Unfortunately, most developments carried out without proper consultations end up not providing value to its target audience argues Nobel-winning economist Angus Deaton.

There have been strong political and economic arguments to wealthy nations giving aid to poorer African countries. Economists widely believed that the key to triggering growth was to pump money into a country’s factories, roads and other infrastructure.

Meanwhile, these monies are being pumped with hopes of spreading the Western model of democracy and market-based economies.

A research by economist Bill Easterly of New York University shows that, increased foreign aid in Africa was directly proportional to worse economies/ lower economic growth.

However, Melinda notes that the foundation differs from others before it. she explained that She, Bill, their 1500 employees in partnership with organizations and local experience, all work together to provide for the needs of the people.

“We have about 1,500 employees in offices on four continents who look at the data, survey the universe of possible approaches, study what’s worked and what hasn’t, and develop strategies that we believe will maximize our impact. But one of the most important parts of their job is to listen to partners, adjust the strategies based on what they hear, and give implementers’ the leeway to use their expertise and their local knowledge”, she emphasized.

When asked the real motives of giving their monies away and what they stand to gain. The Microsoft founder, said he and his wife were passionate about the eradication of polio and malaria and it is just a plus that their names would be remembered with these projects.

There are two reasons to do something like this Melinda added, “one is that it’s meaningful work, the other reason is that we have fun doing it. Both of us love digging into the science behind our work. At Microsoft, I got deep into computer science. At the foundation, it’s computer science plus biology, chemistry, agronomy, and more” besides “the best use of extra wealth is to give it back to society”.

Reassuring that the money is being used for a noble cause Melinda said “Maybe 20 years ago, we could have made a different choice about what to do with our wealth. But now it’s impossible to imagine. If we’d decided to live a different life then, we wouldn’t be us now. This is who we chose to be.”