Despite low oil prices, Gates looks to Gulf in anti-poverty campaign

Mon Dec 7, 2015 5:36am EST
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By Hadeel Al Sayegh

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Low oil prices and tight budgets in the Gulf are making it harder to raise money for a fund tackling poverty in the Muslim world, but a growing culture of philanthropy may draw in wealthy regional donors, billionaire campaigner Bill Gates said.

The Microsoft co-founder is visiting the Gulf seeking donations towards his foundation's planned $2.5 billion fund, which will work to reduce poverty and disease across 30 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The fund is a joint project with the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank, which has committed $2 billion in loans financing if the Gates Foundation raises $500 million in donations - mostly from the wealthy oil-producing Gulf states.

"Certainly the price of oil means that these countries are having to prioritize both domestic and internationally things they do," Gates told Reuters on Sunday in the United Arab Emirates, ahead of his trip to Kuwait City.

"It would be easier if oil was $100 a barrel."

Oil prices have fallen 60 percent since mid-2014, and the benchmark Brent crude was trading around $42.80 on Monday.

The Lives and Livelihoods fund will focus on reducing deaths of mothers and children through malaria and polio immunization, and strengthening primary healthcare. It will also develop power and water supplies and help small farms improve productivity.

The Gates Foundation has pledged US$100 million, and the Islamic Development Bank has put up another US$100 million, leaving a donor target of $300 million.   Continued...

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates gestures as he meets with China's Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, November 12, 2015. REUTERS/China Daily