Strive Masiyiwa named to Bill & Melinda Gates foundation board of trustees

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – Zimbabwe’s richest man Strive Masiyiwa has been appointed to the board of trustees of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

For the first time in its existence, the foundation will have trustees other than members of the Gates and Buffet families.

The Econet founder, who also sits on the board of streaming platform, Netflix, said he was honoured by the appointment.

“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 honoured to join the co-chairs and the incredible team at the foundation in fighting disease and poverty throughout the world.”

Masiyiwa, 61, has an estimated net worth of US$2.6 billion, according to Forbes.

In its inaugural annual letter published on Wednesday, the foundation named Masiyiwa, Baroness Nemat (Minouche) Shafik, Thomas J. Tierney, and CEO Mark Suzman, as new members of the board. They join co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates.

Baroness Shafik is the director of the London School of Economics and Political Science and former deputy governor of the Bank of England.

Tierney, co-chair and co-founder of the Bridgespan Group, is also the chairman of American multinational e-commerce corporation, eBAY.

In 2020, Bill Gates Sr., who was a member of the board, passed away. Shortly after his demise, billionaire 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.

The board members will work alongside Gates and French Gates, bringing independent and diverse perspectives to help strengthen the foundation’s governance, Suzman said.

Suzman highlighted the foundation’s efforts to fight poverty and disease, while creating a better, fairer world.

According to Suzman, this new governance structure 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 US$2 billion to the global Covid-19 response, with a focus on making sure support reaches marginalized communities as quickly and effectively as possible.

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