The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has announced the appointed Strive Masiyiwa, Zimbabwe’s richest person, to its new board of trustees.
For the first time in its existence, the foundation has gone out of the Gates and Buffet families to name board members.
In 2020, Bill Gates Sr., who was a member of the board passed away. Shortly after his demise, Warren Buffet, one of the biggest funders of the foundation, also decided to step away from the board, leaving just Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates at the saddle.
In its inaugural annual letter published on Wednesday, the foundation named Masiyiwa, Baroness Nemat (Minouche) Shafik, Thomas J. Tierney, and Mark Suzman, as new members of the board.
They join co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates. The board members will work alongside Gates and French Gates, bringing independent and diverse perspectives to help strengthen the foundation’s governance.
The annual letter by Suzman, the CEO of the foundation, highlights the foundation’s efforts to fight poverty and disease, while creating a better, fairer world.
According to Suzman, this governance also represents an explicit recognition by Gates and French Gates, especially in the wake of their recent divorce, that the foundation will be well served by the addition of independent voices to help shape its work in the future.
The board, Suzman said, could include up to nine total members, with conversations ongoing about adding to the initial slate to enhance representation across gender, geography, and expertise.
The board announcement comes at a time of unprecedented global challenges; the COVID-19 pandemic is reported to have slowed, halted, and even reversed hard-won gains in global health and development around the world.
After nearly two decades of steady progress, tens of millions of people have been thrown back into poverty, childhood vaccination rates have dropped, and diseases from malaria to tuberculosis have resurged.
Since January 2020, estimates show that the Gates Foundation has committed more than $2 billion to the global COVID-19 response, with a focus on making sure support reaches marginalized communities as quickly and effectively as possible.
STRIVE MASIYIWA SITS ON NETFLIX BOARD
Strive Masiyiwa, chairman and founder of Econet Group, who also sits on the board of streaming platform Netflix, said he is honoured to be joining the team.
“Over the last 20 years I have worked with the Gates Foundation, beginning with efforts to improve agricultural production for more than 400 million smallholder farmers in Africa, to improving livelihoods for the poorest people across Africa and the world,” he said.
“We have worked together to address global health crises like the Ebola and COVID-19 pandemics. I am honored to join the co-chairs and the incredible team at the foundation in fighting disease and poverty throughout the world.”
BARONESS SHAFIK HEADS LSE
Baroness Shafik, director of the London School of Economics and Political Science and former deputy governor of the Bank of England also joins the board.
“I am honored and delighted to be joining the board of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and I look forward to working with my fellow board members to support its mission of advancing human flourishing,” she said.
“I’ve spent my career working in some of the world’s great international and academic institutions because, like Melinda and Bill, I realize that the hardest problems facing humanity are not confined to a single country or sector, but are universal challenges that call for reason, empathy, and cooperation.
“I’ve long admired the foundation for standing for those values across borders and all parts of society. The pandemic, climate change, and other crises have shown its work to be more relevant and necessary than ever.
“I will dedicate my service as a board member to upholding those collaborative values within an organization that exists to enable everyone to live a healthy and productive life.”
TOM TIERNEY IS CHAIRMAN OF EBAY
Tom Tierney, co-chair and co-founder of the Bridgespan Group, is also the chairman of American multinational e-commerce corporation, eBAY.
Tierney said “the Gates Foundation is an extraordinary organization with over two decades of persistent, pragmatic, and disciplined experience fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world”.
“The opportunity—and the imperative—to accelerate the foundation’s impact has never been greater. My aspiration as a new board member is to do my share in helping the co-chairs and the leadership team capture this potential, in service of society.”
Board members will serve three-year terms, with a two-consecutive-term limit.