philanthropy

Moscow: the sign says it all

Philanthropy in Russia was killed off in Soviet times, but is making a comeback as the new rich begin to take some responsibility for the welfare of the nation.

However, Russia-based donors hand out paltry sums to charitable causes compared to their counterparts the US, UK and China, according to a report released by Coutts this week. 

By Chi-Chi Okonjo and Uzodinma Iweala of Ventures Africa

Many African countries are experiencing growth greater than 5 per cent and, if trends continue as expected, African markets look set to expand by $1tn to more than $2.6tn between now and 2020. But, in spite of the improving economic outlook, growth has not yet improved the lot of many of Africa’s poorest. It is argued by some that even stronger growth rates are required to make real inroads into extreme poverty.

For a lucky few, however, Africa’s rise has made them fabulously wealthy. Now they’re giving back, and in vast sums. 

Impact investing is a way of doing good while not giving your money away for good. The FT’s Paul J Davies talks to fundraisers and entrepreneurs about bringing socially conscious investing to the wealthy of Asia.

The earthquake that hit China’s southwestern province of Sichuan on Saturday has exposed a crisis of public confidence in the state-backed Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), the country’s biggest charitable organisation.

Right after the quake, the RCSC said on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, that it had sent a team to “inspect” the quake-hit region. Tens of thousands of Chinese microbloggers fired comments back. The message from most of them: “Get lost”. 

How hard is it for a multi-billionaire to donate half of his fortune to charity? Most of us will never know.

But if more rich people took this step, the world could become a “fairer” place, according to Victor Pinchuk (pictured). The billionaire businessman this week became the first Ukrainian to join the Giving Pledge launched by US billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett – and promise to give away at least half his money. 

“How to spend it?” is the question which bothers many a billionaire (one suspects), but an increasing number are opting to give it away instead. South Africa’s richest black man, Patrice Motsepe, has joined the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in opting to give away a good deal of his money to the cause of philanthropy. 

¿Hablas inglés? If the answer is no, help is at hand: Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, has just signed an agreement to translate the Khan Academy’s online classes into Spanish.

Through his Carlos Slim Foundation, the largest of its kind in Latin America, the Mexican telecoms tycoon has pledged to support the now-famous online academy founded by Salman Khan and popularised on Youtube. 

China’s national audit office shone an unflattering light this week on the finances of local governments. Its report about their heavy debts, which total more than a quarter of Chinese GDP, has received extensive coverage from Western media, including, of course, the FT.

In China, however, another report from the audit office this week has garnered as much, if not more, attention. 

India’s business leaders have perhaps unfairly earned a reputation for being slow to display their philanthropy.

That may now be changing. Azim Premji, chairman of IT company Wipro and the third richest man of India, has handed over an 8.7 per cent stake in the company worth rupees 9.6bn ($213m) to his Azim Premji charitable foundation.  

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett have passed the China test, or at least endured it. On Wednesday they held a dinner to talk philanthropy with Chinese billionaires – and, in spite of unwillingness to participate in a shake-down, around 50 attendees turned up and some made “very generous” donations.

Suitably encouraged, the do-gooding duo has repeated its next stop – India. The number of dollar millionaires there grew by 50 per cent last year, according to one new wealth report, while Forbes’s  the top 100 Indians are as almost rich as the top 400 Chinese. So will Gates and Buffett have it easy? 

An Indian vegatable seller arranges vegatables as she speaks on a cellular phone at a roadside vegatable market in AllahabadIn India, some 600m people own mobile phones but just 60m have access to broadband internet. Hewlett-Packard is aiming to bridge that gap with apps that can access the web from any cell phone using voice and text messaging.

Meanwhile, a service called Txteagle employs mobile phone users in developing countries to perform “micro-tasks”, like translation or transcriptions, via text message in return for cash or airtime. 

Forget Bob Geldof and his private equity fund – Africa has a new cheerleader, with even more financial clout. Bob Diamond, the new head of Barclays, is calling the continent an “incredible” opportunity.

Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, Diamond (left in the picture) cited high growth rates and rapid expansion of consumer spending as driving Barclay’s presence in about a dozen African countries. 

Former US President Bill Clinton speaks during the annual Clinton Global InitiativeNatural disasters have dominated headlines this year, and so it wasn’t a surprise that the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative kicked off today in New York with a series of pledges to help millions of people in Haiti, Pakistan and the US’s Gulf Coast.

“In the previous decade, insurance payments [for natural disasters] were three times what they had been in any previous decade,” Bill Clinton, the former US president, said, warning that the number of disasters “will accelerate with the changing of the climate”. 

Asia’s emerging wealthy elite don’t have a wide reputation for giving to charity, but new data shows they have not been getting the credit they deserve.

India this week become the first BRIC country to be ranked a major donor by Save the Children, reflecting widening philanthropy in the world’s fastest growing economy after China. It is now on a par with donors like Italy, Germany, Romania and South Korea. 

Indian policymakers increasingly worry about the emergence of two Indias: an increasingly affluent elite – with strong links to the global economy and a rapacious hunger for ever more conspicuous consumption – and a massive impoverished under-class, whose health, education and nutritional levels are on par with the darkest corners of sub-Saharan Africa.