Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The Private Sector: A Critical Development Partner

October 04, 2011

It’s been an eye-opening experience to be in Spain this week where I’ve been advocating to the current and likely future leadership about the importance of the country maintaining its foreign aid commitments. Everywhere you turn, Spaniards are talking about how difficult the economic climate has become with little end in sight.  So while we argue our case, it’s also more important than ever to think of other creative ways to raise money for international development, including working with the private sector.

Today, “la Caixa” Foundation – the charitable arm of the leading savings bank in Spain – announced its contribution to a new fund set up to help immunise more children in the developing world from deadly diseases. By contributing to this fund, called the GAVI Matching Fund for Immunisation, “la Caixa” is unlocking additional funds set aside by the Gates Foundation to encourage more giving from companies. “La Caixa” joins other contributors including J.P. Morgan, Anglo America plc, and a U.K.-based charity called Absolute Return for Kids (ARK).

I can think of no finer example of private sector engagement than the GAVI Matching Fund. DFID and our foundation have pledged to match up to UK£ 50 million and US$ 50 million, respectively, in corporate contributions to GAVI, as well as contributions from the organization’s customers, employees, or members.

GAVI is a great organization that has saved the lives of nearly 6 million kids in the ten years it has existed by providing children in the poorest parts of the world with life-saving vaccines. It has done this by better organizing the global immunisation market, which now has more predictable demand and more incentives for the pharmaceutical industry to get in the business of developing vaccines against diseases most commonly seen in the developing world.

The result is that GAVI has helped to speed the introduction of new vaccines in poorer countries. Most recently, they’ve been working to make available new vaccines for pneumonia and diarrhea, which shockingly are the leading killers of kids in the developing world. 

Just this past week, GAVI announced that it will enable 34 more countries to introduce these vaccines. (It’s worth taking a look at this photo gallery of GAVI’s progress delivering rotavirus vaccines.)

Today’s economic realities make it more challenging for advocates of aid, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for comparatively rich countries like Spain to not maintain their commitments to the poorest. That said, donor nations are only part of the solution. Engaging the private sector increasingly has to be part of a comprehensive strategy to ensure that the world’s poorest are not forgotten in these tough times, and that we build on the tremendous progress we’ve seen in recent years. By joining the GAVI Matching Fund, companies can directly help save children’s lives by delivering vaccines to those who desperately need them.

Do you have a big idea for engaging the private sector? We’d love to hear it.

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