Heroes of Philanthropy 2019: Azim Premji is Asia’s biggest giver. Forbes India released its 13th annual Heroes of Philanthropy list, which honors 30 individuals across the Asia-Pacific region for their philanthropy. The list focuses on individuals who go beyond just donating money and are personally committed to achieving a long-term vision for society. Azim Premji became Asia’s most generous philanthropist in 2019 by donating US$7.6 billion worth of Wipro shares to his eponymous foundation, raising his total lifetime giving to US$21 billion. The list also includes Jack Ma, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, and Atul Nishar, among others
Chinese tycoons have a duty to follow Jack Ma into philanthropy, says Asian philanthropist. In this Nikkei Asian Review piece, Chairman of Wahum Group Holdings James Chen shares his journey in catalytic philanthropy to advance eye care solutions in China. Chen calls on China’s business elite to understand the role they can play in growing the economy and addressing social problems via philanthropy. This is especially important as China’s wealthy now outnumber their American counterparts, according to research by Credit Suisse. Mr. Chen underscores that Chinese tech leaders are well-positioned to do more as they have both the skills and capital to drive solutions to the country’s most pressing social issues.
Bangladesh’s dynamic duo battle global health inequity. In his latest Gates Notes, philanthropist Bill Gates profiles Dr. Samir Saha and Senjuti Saha, a father-daughter team working to reduce child mortality in Bangladesh. Senjuti, a microbiologist, works with her father at the Child Health Research Foundation, an organization he helped found. They are using data, state-of-the-art diagnostics, and vaccines to battle infectious diseases and close the gap in healthcare delivery between low-income and high-income countries. Gates gives insight into the impact of their work and the importance of this type of research for Bangladesh and other countries that lack many of the resources needed to diagnose and treat illnesses.
Chinese companies get to grips with tougher ESG disclosures. Financial Times reports that authorities in China are urging companies to say more about their environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks, in keeping with President Xi Jinping’s call for the development of “green finance” to attract more foreign investment. Hong Kong’s latest move will require all exchange-listed companies to disclose the board’s consideration of ESG risks, as well as materiality assessments. The stock exchanges of Shanghai and Shenzhen are expected to follow Hong Kong’s lead this year. At the same time, issuers of bonds are also coming under increased scrutiny as foreign investors remain wary of China’s “green bonds.” In the third quarter of 2019, only 40% of green bonds from Chinese issuers were in line with international norms on the use of proceeds, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative, a London-based nonprofit organization.
Takeda and MIT School of Engineering join to advance research in artificial intelligence and health. The MIT-Takeda Program will support MIT faculty, students, researchers, and staff who are working at the intersection of AI and human health. The program will offer them access to pharmaceutical infrastructure and expertise from Takeda Pharmaceuticals, one of Asia’s largest pharmaceutical companies. It will be housed within the Abdul Latif Jameel Clinic for Machine Learning in Health (J-Clinic), leveraging the combined expertise of both programs, and it will aim to “fuel the development and application of artificial intelligence (AI) capability to benefit human health and drug development.”
With 3 big exits, 2019 was marquee year for Pierre Omidyar in India, says MD Roopa Kudva. Impact investor Omidyar Network profitably exited three portfolio companies in India this past year. These exits show that social investments can yield high portfolio returns, as managing director Roopa Kudva notes, “The exits we did last year highlight our ability to not just create a social impact, but also make money.” The fund, started by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, has been investing in India for 10 years now and has deployed US$300 million to date. It intends to invest a further US$350 million over the next five years. While 75% of Omidyar’s investments are in the form of equity, the remaining is given as grants to fund research and social initiatives, such as Teach for India.
Asia-Pacific’s first-ever multi-country listed gender bond series gains new support from the United Nations. Impact Investment Exchange (IIX)’s award-winning Women’s Livelihood Bond Series (WLB Series) has gained new support from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), and The Rockefeller Foundation. Private investors in the WLB Series will benefit from first-loss capital provided by The Rockefeller Foundation and a 50% loan portfolio guarantee provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Rockefeller Foundation’s managing director notes that this is a prime example of catalytic capital, “where risk-tolerant, impact-prioritizing funding is leveraged to unlock private sector capital.” Through this form of innovative finance, the WLB Series aims to create sustainable livelihoods for over 2 million women across Asia.
IN OTHER NEWS…
Questions raised over charity’s handling of donations after death of Chinese student Wu Huayan. BBC reports on corruption allegations against China Charities Aid Foundation for Children (CCAFC) following Wu Huayan’s death. Charity 9958, a project under the CCAFC, collected US$144,000 in online donations for Ms. Wu’s heart surgery. Official records seem to suggest that just about US$2,900 was paid towards her hospital bills, and according to the BBC article, the surgery never took place. The charity responded saying that it was holding onto the money on her family’s request and that Ms. Wu had not met the criteria needed to undergo the surgery—official media reported that she weighed less than 30kg when she died. As different allegations surface over the issue, BBC gives insight into how past scandals related to the misuse of donations have had negative repercussions for the charitable sector.