Bill Gates vows to defeat hunger & diseases in Ethiopia: Could entrenched political interests allow him? — PART II BY KEFFYALEW GEBREMEDHIN

April 17th, 2012 Print Print Email Email

Bill Gates puts his money where his mouth is

For a billionaire who has chosen a life of full time philanthropy, there could be no better indication of Bill Gates’ interests and honorable intensions than voluntarily staking his reputation in Ethiopia — the planet’s poorest country with the vast majority of its population teetering between half existence and death.

From our vantage point, what this means is that, comparatively real change in the lives of the people, i.e., improvements in human conditions, are easier to notice, to measure, whether the measures Mr. Gates, in collaboration with the Meles regime and others, has put in place are effective and successful.

It is with this awareness that Mr. Gates is now devoting his time and money to catalyze interests in and resources to science-based projects to prevail over diseases and hunger in Ethiopia, which he seems to value as investments in transferable experiences to other developing countries, as discussed in the first part of this article.

In other words, the return Gates the billionaire philanthropist seeks, it seems to me, is personal satisfaction, not money, to which, thanks to Microsoft and its businesses, he has an endless stream. For him, it is the laurels of success coming from being a trailblazer in a science-based and result-oriented philanthropy and finally the glory before history that comes with enabling millions of hungry and sick people around the world to feed themselves and lead healthy life.

In 2011 and 2012, the Gates Foundation has committed, according to the information available on its webpage, $110,799,557 to help the quest for better vaccines and simple treatments and better seeds and inputs to ensure that the results would prevent death by hunger and diseases in developing countries, the figure of which has for a long time been morbidly shocking.

As a matter of principle, none of Gates’ monies go directly to governments. At least, that is one relief for Ethiopians. Even then, he has not managed to close all the loopholes, since for a while now it should be pointed out that there have been persistent allegations especially in the health sector. We repeatedly hear of aid money stealthily being deployed for political campaigns to strengthen the ruling party’s political and propaganda machineries, such as Walta Information Centre (WIC) and Fana Broadcasting (FBC), which have even supplanted the state owned national media.

Otherwise,Ethiopia is amongst beneficiaries of Gates contributions through the research works now underway with the above-mentioned financial envelope during 2011-2014/15 outcomes. These monies would focus on activities in six different areas:

• Agricultural development $88,431,116

• Global health $6,499,991

• Mother & child health $512,571

• Emergency response $4,797,425

• Water & sanitation $9,523,142

• Financial services $1,035,312

Of this global allocation, $26,105,415 is strictly directed to Ethiopia related activities, as commitment to the operations of ATA ($25,070,103). The additional $1,035,312 is disbursed through the UNDP as seed money to promote financial inclusion of Ethiopia’s rural population, as beneficiaries of electronic distribution of financial services.

The ATA allocation covers the period to 2015 and is made available through; (a) IFPRI $4,700,698; (b) Synergos Institute $8,599,506 and (c) UNDP $11,769,899.

It is my understanding that the costs of the ATA staff in Addis Abeba, those deployed from the Gates Foundation, are included in these provisions. Additional staffs that ATA would require are included in the above envelope. Government “is expected” to be responsible for “recurring operating expenses”, according to information on ATA’s webpage.

Moreover, it should be borne in mind that the ATA is not any more a purely Gates Foundation operation. He has managed to involve traditional donors. While officially ATA is working for the Ethiopian government, it would be operating in partnership with the following entities, behind which are several powerful governments, which are footing the bills. These entities are:

The purpose behind these allocations would make sense in terms of magnitude, when seen as only one aspect of the work and is also different in the sense they focus on critical activities. If, for instance, take a look at the foundation’s allocations to emergency response, above.

It is not just throwing some food aid and medical assistance and staying away until the next cycle revisits. The contributions are made toward building capacities in the affected communities. In fact, of $4,797,425 under this category breaks down into:

• Allocation of $1,007,235 to WHO for ten months since October 2011 for its work on reduction of morbidity and mortality among the 13 million people affected by the severe drought in the Horn of Africa;

• $1,600,000 for International Medical Corps for use during 2011 to provide emergency health and nutrition services for host populations in Somalia and Ethiopia;

• Allocation of $1,390, 190 to Oxfam during 2011 to provide immediate relief to vulnerable communities affected by drought in Ethiopia while also building their resilience so that they can cope more effectively with the effects of future crisis; and,

• $800,000 is allocated to Save the Children during 2011 to provide emergency response to the influx of Somali refugees in Ethiopia.

Of the overall global allocation for 2011-2015, $26,105,415 is strictly directed to Ethiopia-related activities, as commitment to operations of ATA ($25,070,103). The additional $1,035,312 is disbursed through the UNDP, as seed money to promote financial inclusion of Ethiopia’s rural population to render them beneficiaries of electronic distribution of financial services.

The ATA allocation covers the period to 2015 and is made available through; (a) IFPRI ($4,700,698); (b) Synergos Institute ($8,599,506) and (c) UNDP ($11,769,899).

It is my understanding that the costs of ATA staff in Addis Abeba, those deployed from the Gates Foundation, are included in these provisions. Additional staffs that ATA would require are also included in the above envelope. Government “is expected” to be responsible for “recurring operating expenses”, according to information on ATA’s webpage.

Moreover, it should be borne in mind that the ATA is not any more a purely Gates Foundation undertaking. He has managed to involve traditional donors, not only with political support to the program, but also making financial contributions. While officially ATA is working for the Ethiopian government, it would be operating in partnership with the following entities, behind which are several powerful governments that also would want accountability for the resources they chip in and objectives of the program.

ATA’s partners, domestic and international, are shown below:

• Ministry of Agriculture,
• Agricultural Growth Program (AGP) as government arm for FYGTP,

• Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research,

• Feed the Future (FtF),

• IFPRI,

• Nike Foundation,

• Rockefeller Foundation,

• Synergos Institute — a global nonprofit supporting sustainable and systems-changing collaboration to address poverty, equity and social justice activities,

• USAID,

• The United Nations through the UNDP, and

• World Bank.

It is important to recall in this connection that, after USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah came out from his meeting with the prime minister on 5 April, he announced his discussion “focused on Feed the Future program and other development partnerships.”

In that regard, he pointed out that the FtF program was initiated two years ago and is aimed at enhancing the productivity of the agriculture sector in developing countries. . FtF’s activities focus,according to a USAID report, on three core components: agricultural growth-enabled food security, linking the vulnerable to markets, and fostering a regulatory environment and private sector conducive to economic growth. This says a great deal on what is taking place at the moment with ATA, as both engine and the front guy.

To realize those objectives, the US government has a budget of $878,083 for 2011 to 2015. Their calculation is that this would compliment the Gates’ contributions, supplemented by other governments and donors.

We already know that, with regard to the health sector, Dr. Shah has also announced $60 million in aid to help build and renovate 65 health centres in the coming five years.

ATA’s governance

The Agricultural Transformation Council (ATC), chaired by the Prime Minister, is ATA’s governing body and its members are: (a) ministers of agriculture, finance and economic development, water and energy; (b) heads of the regional bureaus of Amhara, Oromia, SNNP and Tigray; and, (c) director of the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture. In his capacity as CEO of ATA, Ato Khalid Bomba would act as secretary to the council. Its functions are to:

• Provide leadership in identifying and designing solutions to the basic barriers of agricultural ;

• Give policy directions and leadership to ensure effective coordination among various agricultural development actors; and

• Approve plans and evaluating performance of the Agency, as deemed necessary.

By necessity, these functions of the Council, for which ATA is now facilitator and translator, would dwarf the federal ministry of agriculture established by Emperor Menilik in 1907. I would say not much would be lost, since in these past years it has not concentrated on carrying out its mandated activities.

Since 2008, the ministry has been disgrace to the nation, having been reduced to dealer in agricultural lands. It has been fully engaged in perpetrating land grab, as an activity carried out under the guidance of the prime minister and the minister of agriculture, assisted by a state minister designated for the purpose.

Therefore, while the ministry is supposed to have a number of important activities in the different sub-sectors of agricultural development, its choice in recent years to become executioner of the will of foreign investors in commercial agriculture, especially in displacing and dislocating Ethiopian citizens is horrendously tragic.

(To be continued)

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