I say oil rich gulf countries, you think of what? Exactly. Biased portrayals of this region and its wealthy citizens makes you think of rich, spendthrift sheikhs driving Ferrari’s and casually blowing money in Chanel stores. But guess what? Beyond the cheap pictures you find scattered on the web, the Gulf region has been building its stature on the world stage and establishing itself not only as a Business hub, but as a scientific and artistic center as well. We tried to further explore the great, and sometimes undocumented work being accomplished in this region, and one way to go about it was to sit with Kofi Rashid, advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation for the Middle East and South East Asia.
Why Philanthropy? Because the best way to judge someone is by looking up how much good they do around. Success is not about how many billions you can stack up in your Swiss bank accounts, but is about how many lives you impact through your work. One way to extend a helping hand, especially when you have a lot of dollars flowing through, is philanthropy, and when we say philanthropy, we’re talking big bucks and big scales!
When dealing with charitable work and big endowments, making sure that every penny you spend makes a difference is sometimes much of a struggle. Giving away just as a mean of paying back to those in need is great, but what’s even better is actually impacting lives and ensuring that your money isn’t wasted along the way. This mentality in philanthropy is a brilliant mix of humanitarian aid and business smart spending. Your company’s finances are no joke, and if you are not capable of maximizing your return on investments, then you’re heading towards bankruptcy. Adopting similar attitude in the Philanthropy world is a step forward in cutting with the old blind giving that has proven to be no more than grand failures across the world. Billions are poured in the regions most troubled places, and yet years after years the story remains the same: corruption, diseases, illiteracy and whatnot. But again you open a couple more Google pages and you hear about people in the brink of eradicating a disease! This is no coincidence, because these same people are the ones sitting on their desks and tracking where every dollar is spent and making sure it goes to the right projects and efforts.
The Bill & Melinda Gates foundation are the true embodiment of how successful philanthropy can be beyond the failures of conventional charities, and it comes as no surprise that more and more people are turning towards the visionary behind Microsoft in order to understand and better implement successful strategies that can have a lasting impact. The Gulf countries and their wealthy individuals are among those who are determined to go beyond charity and start making their donations count.
Kofi Rashid stresses that “Wealthy individuals in the Gulf countries have great records in terms of donations and charitable contributions, but because of the nature of the culture and religion, they don’t talk about it that much. There is a sense that documenting such actions would amount to bragging. Billions from this region are being spent in supporting ailing economies, distributing vaccines, opening schools and building hospitals across the Muslim world, but they won’t go around flaunting about their latest 100 million dollars donations on TV or in a Magazine.”
But just because they’re silent about it, doesn’t mean they’re not working backstage on improving the ways they give up their wealth. Individuals from the business and governmental sector are partnering up with the biggest names in the philanthropy world in an effort to bring home the expertise of names that have been around for years. Such partner is the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation.
“When Bill Gates invests his fortune in fixing critical issues around the world, and we’re talking billions here, he wants to make sure that his money is well spent, and every dollar is spent wisely. He is managing the foundation with a similar business mindset that he employs in Microsoft. He is rational and very strict when it comes to the operations of Bill & Melinda Gates foundation”. We shouldn’t be surprised then to see Bill Gates increasing his foundations’ efforts in the GCC region where both the wealth and the will is present to create a positive change around.
“We’re working along with high net worth individuals in the gulf. All we do is advise them on how and where to spend their donations. Using our extensive dealings in philanthropy across a wide range of issues, we issue recommendations and show them how they can have an even greater impact.”
Maybe money can’t buy happiness, but it sure can save lives, put a family into a house, bring light to a remote camp or deliver vaccines to those in need. The gulf region is progressively moving towards making sure that its wealth will impact lives in other ways than making Lamborghinis available or bringing exclusive brands over to Dubai. Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, with their increasing involvements and networking with the richest in this area, is not only increasing the pool of dollars that will go into solving the world’s biggest problems, but is establishing a culture of charity that is highly efficient and impactful. These efforts stand as a confirmation that the GCC countries are moving strongly into establishing themselves as a global center for innovation and leadership across al sectors, and is a standing ovation for the increasing popularity of the Bill & Melinda Gates approach to philanthropy and charitable work.