Bill Gates: A New Approach to Capitalism in the 21st Century

Transcript of Gates speech, and a Q&A at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland

Another approach to creative capitalism is simply to help the businesses in the poor world reach markets in the rich world.

Tomorrow morning I'll announce a partnership that gives African farmers access to the premium coffee market, with the goal of doubling their income from coffee crops. This project will help African farmers produce high-quality coffee and connect them to companies that want to buy it. That will help lift them and their families out of poverty.

Finally, one of the most inventive forms of creative capitalism involves someone we all know very well. A few years ago, I was sitting in a bar here in Davos with Bono. Late at night, after a few drinks, he was on fire, talking about how we could get a percentage of each purchase from civic-minded companies to help change the world. He kept calling people, waking them up, and handing me the phone to show me the interest.

Well, it's taken time to get this going, but he was right. If you give people a chance to associate themselves with a cause they care about, while buying a great product, they will. That was how the RED Campaign was born, here in Davos.

RED products are available from companies like Gap, Motorola, and Armani. Just this week, Dell and Microsoft joined the cause. Over the last year and a half, RED has generated US$50 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and Malaria. As a result, nearly 2 million people in Africa are receiving life-saving drugs today.

There is a growing understanding around the world that when change is driven by proper incentives, you have a sustainable plan for change, because profits and recognition are renewable resources. Klaus Schwab runs a foundation that assists social entrepreneurs around the world, men and women who turn their ideas for improving lives into affordable goods or services.

President Clinton demonstrated the unique role that a non-profit can play as a deal-maker between rich world producers and poor world consumers. The magazine "Fast Company" gives awards for what they call Social Capitalism.

These are just a few examples of where the interest in these activities is growing.

This is a world-wide movement, and we all have the ability and the responsibility to accelerate it.

I'd like to ask everyone here, whether you're in business, government or the non-profit world, to take on a project of creative capitalism in the coming year, and see where you can stretch the reach of market forces to help push things forward.

Whether it's foreign aid or charitable gifts or new products, can you find a way to apply this so that the power of the marketplace helps the poor?

I hope corporations will dedicate a percentage of their top innovators' time to issues that could help people left out of the global economy. This kind of contribution is even more powerful than giving cash or offering employees' time off to volunteer. It is a focused use of what your company does best. It is a great form of creative capitalism, because it takes the brainpower and makes life better for the richest, and dedicates some of it to improving the lives of everyone else.

There are a number of pharmaceutical companies, like GlaxoSmithKline, that are already putting their top innovators to work on new approaches to help the poor. Another example is Sumitomo Chemical, who used its expertise to build a bed net factory that it donated.

Other companies are doing the same -- in food, technology, cell phones, banking. In fact, I would say that if other companies in a sector simply matched what the leader in that sector is doing, we would make a dramatic impact against the world's inequities.

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