22 December 2012

Zimbabwe: 'Bill Gates Doing a Sterling Job'


Billionaire Bill Gates and wife Melinda are in Zimbabwe for a private visit. The Gates family has interests in Zimbabwe and last year, Melinda -- a world-famous philanthropist - provided a US$5 million fund through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for developmental projects in the City of Harare. STAR FM's Comfort Mbofana (CM) speaks to Harare Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda (MM) on the work the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is doing in Zimbabwe

Season's greetings sir.

Greetings and thanks for asking me to join you, I do not know where you guys get the energy from, you really kick everybody, lifting a gauge to what is arguably the most popular commercial radio station.

Wow what a powerful endorsement from the big man of this city. When did you begin work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation?

It all goes back to November 2008 that was five months after I got into the hot seat. I had a fruitful meeting in China where there was the world urban forum and I happened to be one of 4 000 mayors who were participating in a round table.

After doing my bit for Harare and Zimbabwe, a very young and attractive lady came to me and said "here is my card, I am Melanie Walker from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation," I like what you had to say about your city and your country."

I took the card and put it away. Two weeks later, I was at an EU development day's symposium in Strasbourg, France, and I spoke to an audience of about 2 000 and did my bit again for Harare and Zimbabwe.

That same attractive young girl came to me and said, "in case you lost the card I gave you in China, here's another card, my name is Melanie Walker from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation." I had the distinct feeling that I was being stalked by this young lady and I did not want to be accused of being a dirty old man chasing young ladies. So I put the card away and made a hasty exist. I made another presentation in Barcelona in January 2010 and before the people that really pay the bills, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and that's where we fanned out arrangements for her to come and visit and actually have a look at what we were doing here.

But as it turned out Melanie Walker is married to a buddy of Bill Gates, Steve Sofinski who has worked with Bill Gates for the best part of 30 years on Microsoft.

Melanie and her husband Steve have obviously over the years become friends with Bill and Melinda. She got carte blanche from Bill and Melinda to embark on what they called an African Safari, which started in Monrovia (Liberia), Accra (Ghana), Cairo (Egypt), Nairobi (Kenya), Lilongwe (Malawi), Luanda (Angola), Harare (Zimbabwe), Cape Town (South Africa) and she wound up in Antananarivo where she joined her husband and went back to Seattle where she presented a report to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates themselves and Harare came top.

With that we got US$5 million to use on regenerating high-density areas like Mbare and that's fantastic. Melanie has been coming here almost on a yearly basis.

A month ago she was here with her husband to review all the work we are doing and only two weeks ago one of the senior guys from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Ryan Ripple was with me in Dakar Senegal for the sixth Africities Summit.

He came down here to review what we are doing and there was a fair chance that we would end up with a US$20 million facility, which is going to be there to assist the people in the low end of the market to access funds to build houses for themselves.

What other projects is the foundation involved in the City outside the Matapi hostels and what exactly at Matapi are they . . . (interjected by Mayor)

What we are going to do in and around the 58 blocks of hostels in Mbare first and foremost is to establish what the numbers are and do a survey of who and who is in the hostels, how many people need to be accommodated.

We started off with a place called paTsiga that's where we are going to do a pilot project . . . In the meantime we have gone to Dzivarasekwa where we are building 486 units using the bulk of the US$5 million that we got.

That project is going great guns and is actually being used as a model for various other projects that are being undertaken and financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in Africa and other parts of the world.

The foundation is also involved in malaria and HIV research, what can you tell us about that?

Essentially there are three divisions in the foundation. First and foremost you need to know how much money has been put in there.

Bill and Melinda Gates as a couple put in an endowment of US$30 billion and their buddy Warren Buffet not to be outdone weighed in with another US$30 billion. So there is a total of US$60 billion and that is a lot of money.

There are basically three areas on which that money can be accessed. The biggest division is obviously HIV and Aids and we are a recipient of a lot of money coming out of the Global Fund.

For instance we are streets ahead of other countries in terms of HIV and Aids programmes. We are benefiting via the National Aids Council.

The second area, which is the one that affects us as the City of Harare is the Global Sustainable Development Programme.

Bill and Melinda Gates are very concerned about the relentless migration of people from rural to urban areas to such an extent that by the year 2030, 80 percent of the world's population will be living in urban areas. That concern stems simply from how the cities will cope with that influx of people. That's why they are channelling funds to make sure that cities are able to put the necessary infrastructure in place in terms of housing, water and sanitation.

It's an unanimous thing for them to do and we stand ready to benefit from that because our systems as part of all the hardships that we have endured since November 1997 are still the best and better than most countries not only in Africa, but beyond.

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