The Giving Pledge arose from the ideas and input generated in many great conversations that Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett had with other philanthropists in the US and abroad. The campaign was formally announced in June 2010, and members were recruited. The aggregate wealth of the first 40 pledgers was $125 billion in August 2010. Early pledgers included Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg. There are now 155 members from 17 countries, including the three co-founders of Airbnb.
The pledge is an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit to giving more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes, either during their lifetime or in their will. Each family or individual who chooses to pledge makes this statement publicly, explaining their decision to pledge.
At an annual event, those who take the pledge come together to share ideas and learn from each other. Throughout the year, there are opportunities for conversations that go deeper on the specific topics of interest to the group. The pledge does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organisations. It asks only that individuals give the majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes or charitable organisations.
A number of notable African businesspersons have committed to representing the ideals of the Giving Pledge. Though some are not based in Africa, they have businesses operating on the continent and are African by birth.
Elon Reeve Musk is a South African-born Canadian-American business magnate, investor, engineer and inventor. He is involved in SpaceX, Tesla Motors, SolarCity, OpenAI, Zip2 and X.com (which merged with PayPal of Confinity). As at June 2016, he had an estimated net worth of $12.7 billion (R177.9 billion), making him the 83rd wealthiest person in the world.
Musk has stated that the goals of SolarCity, Tesla Motors and SpaceX revolve around his vision to change the world and humanity. These goals include reducing global warming through sustainable energy production and consumption, and reducing the “risk of human extinction” through “making life multiplanetary” by setting up a human colony on Mars. In addition to his primary business pursuits, he has also envisioned a high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop, and has proposed a VTOL supersonic jet aircraft with electric-fan propulsion, known as the Musk electric jet.
Musk is chairperson of the Musk Foundation, which focuses its philanthropic efforts on providing solar-power energy systems in disaster areas. In 2010, the foundation collaborated with SolarCity to donate a 25kW solar-power system to the South Bay Community Alliance’s hurricane response centre in Coden, Alabama. In 2011, it donated $250 000 (R3.5 million) toward a solar project in Sōma, Japan: a city that had been devastated by a tsunami. In 2014, Musk was approached by cartoonist Matthew Inman and great-nephew of Nikola Tesla, William Terbo, to donate $8 million (R112 million) toward the construction of the Tesla Science Centre at Wardenclyffe, New York. Ultimately, Musk agreed to donate $1 million (R14 million), and additionally pledged to build a Tesla Supercharger in the museum car park. In January last year, Musk donated $10 million (R140 million) to the Future of Life Institute to run a global research programme aimed at keeping artificial intelligence beneficial to humanity.
Strive Masiyiwa and wife Tsitsi
Strive Masiyiwa is a London-based Zimbabwean businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is the founder and executive chairperson of diversified international telecoms group, Econet Wireless. He has won numerous accolades and gained international recognition for his business expertise and philanthropy, and is considered one of Africa’s most generous humanitarians.
Masiyiwa is generally recognised as one of the most prolific philanthropists to ever come out of Africa. He has used his own family fortune to build one of the largest support programmes for educating more than 40 000 orphans, and sponsors students at universities in America, the UK and China. He has also provided scholarships to more than 100 000 young Africans over the past 20 years, and funds initiatives in public health and agriculture across the African continent.
An avid environmentalist, Masiyiwa founded the environmental group, the Carbon War Room, with Sir Richard Branson and recently took over the chairmanship of AGRA, an organisation that supports Africa’s smallholder farmers. In addition, he is co-chair of Grow Africa, the investment forum that has helped mobilise over US$15 billion (R210.1 billion) in investments for African agriculture.
Patrice Motsepe and wife Precious
Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe, a South African mining magnate, is the founder and executive chairperson of African Rainbow Minerals, which has interests in gold, ferrous metals, base metals and platinum. He also sits on several company boards including as non-executive chair of Harmony Gold, the 12th largest gold mining company in the world, and as deputy chair of Sanlam.
In 2012, Motsepe was named South Africa’s richest man, topping the Sunday Times annual Rich List with an estimated fortune of R20.07 billion. In 2003, he became the owner of football club Mamelodi Sundowns.
Motsepe is also a member of the Bill Gates–led Breakthrough Energy Coalition.
Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, a qualified paediatrician, is executive chairperson for African Fashion International, which hosts the annual fashion weeks in South Africa. She was a speaker on the topic of “Women and Health in the Workplace” at the Global Summit of Women held in South Africa in 2000.
Regarding their decision to join the Giving Pledge, the Motsepes said: “This selfless and compassionate characteristic is part of the age-old African culture of giving and caring for your neighbour and other members of your community. In South Africa, it is embodied in the spirit and tradition of ubuntu/botho, in terms of which your well-being, happiness and success is dependent upon and influenced by the well-being, happiness and success of others.”
The Tanzanian businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist and former politician serves as the president and CEO of MeTL, a conglomerate founded by his father in the 1970s. He is single-handedly responsible for increasing MeTL’s revenues from $30 million to over $1.3 billion between 1999 and 2014, with its operations contributing to around 3.5% of Tanzania’s GDP.
Dewji served as Member of Parliament from 2005 to 2015 in his hometown of Singida, after which he resigned from politics. In March 2015, he was named the 21st richest person in Africa, with an estimated net worth of $1.25 billion.
In addition to his many endeavours in the business arena, Dewji has demonstrated an exemplary record of contributing to the well-being of the people of his country via the Mo Dewji Foundation. Founded in 2014, it has provided grants for healthcare, education and business development, among other things. “All the current and future projects supported by the Mo Dewji Foundation will be aligned to my philanthropic vision of facilitating the development of a poverty-free Tanzania—a future where the possibilities, opportunities and dreams of Tanzanians are limitless,” he wrote in his Giving Pledge letter.
“Having witnessed severe poverty throughout my upbringing, I have always felt a deep responsibility to give back to my community,” he added. Dewji hopes others will follow in his footsteps. “When God blesses you financially, don’t raise your standard of living; raise your standard of giving.”