Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation increases donation to US$100 million for coronavirus relief efforts. Having initially pledged US$10 million to help combat the novel coronavirus, the Foundation recently announced it is increasing its spending to US$100 million. A statement by the Foundation said that its funds will be used to “find a vaccine for the virus, limit its spread, and improve the detection and treatment of patients.” US$20 million will be immediately directed to groups including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organizations. Funding will also be allocated to public health agencies in China and other affected countries. Prominent business leaders also continue to pledge millions, including Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun who recently contributed US$1.8 million to relief efforts in his home province of Hubei—the epicenter of the outbreak.
Encouraging businesses to give back to society. CAPS’ Chief Executive Ruth Shapiro discusses the upcoming Doing Good Index 2020 in The Annapurna Express. The index examines philanthropic environments across 18 Asian economies through the lenses of regulations, tax policies, procurement and societal ecosystems related to private social investment. Shapiro states, “By compiling the DGI, we want to understand what enables the giving and receiving of money and other resources, and what holds it back.” Shapiro also highlights the importance of philanthropy, and how it goes beyond charity, “Philanthropy is more systematic. We are trying to bring about system change instead of a one-off reaction. So philanthropy is a more strategic way to help others.” Doing Good Index 2020, which covers three extra economies (Nepal, Bangladesh, and Cambodia) compared to the inaugural 2018 edition, will be released in Spring 2020.
Corporate China opens its wallet to fight coronavirus outbreak. Nikkei Asian Review reports on the rise of charitable contributions by Chinese companies amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. Around 130 listed companies have pledged ¥725 million (US$104 million) in cash or in-kind donations, according to a Nikkei Asian Review tally of official disclosures on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchange websites. Some companies are leveraging their global networks to source in-kind donations ranging from masks and protective suits to free meals and drinking water. While companies are driven by a desire to help during uncertain times, the article highlights that over 20 companies have indicated hopes that their donation will help reflect their commitment to social responsibility and raise their social profile.
KKR closes US$1.3 billion global impact fund. The leading global investment firm announced the final closing of the KKR Global Impact Fund at US$1.2 billion. The Fund is “dedicated to investment opportunities in companies whose core business models provide commercial solutions to an environmental or social challenge.” The Fund is focused on identifying investment opportunities in lower middle market companies that contribute measurable progress towards at least one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A KKR partner noted, “We are thrilled to see our investors’ shared enthusiasm for the tremendous opportunity we see ahead for KKR Global Impact and will build on this to help set the new standard across investing, value creation and measuring success in the space.”
Tech startup Village Link is improving yields for farmers in rural Myanmar. Founded in 2016, Village Link focuses on strengthening Myanmar’s agriculture sector, which is estimated to account for 38% of the country’s GDP. Since agricultural productivity in Myanmar is still relatively low, the tech startup launched an app, Htwet Tow, for farmers to connect and learn from agriculture experts. For example, farmers can upload photos of their crops for a “diagnosis” and receive advice on best practices. The app also connects farmers to distributors and buyers, and offers updates on weather changes, market prices of crops, and best crop cultivation techniques. According to the startup, the app has gained around 46,000 monthly active users as of December 2019 and recently became the first winner from Myanmar in the ASEAN AgTech category at the ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards.
Asian Development Bank (ADB) unveils venture platform to invest in impact technology startups. ADB Ventures will support and invest in startups offering impact technology solutions focused on the Sustainable Development Goals in the Asia-Pacific region. ADB Ventures Investment Fund 1—the facility’s anchor trust fund—has a target size of US$50 million. Unlike traditional venture capital funds, ADB Ventures Investment Fund 1 has a three-year US$12 million technical assistance program through two arms. ADB Ventures SEED is a grant program to de-risk technology pilots and promote expansion into emerging markets. ADB Venture Lab is a suite of corporate innovation programs, industry, and accelerators, which will support these startups and help generate technology pilot opportunities.
Food charities in Singapore get wave of help following appeal. Food banks and other volunteer-run charities are facing challenges amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Singaporean nonprofit Food From The Heart saw 90% of its volunteering sessions cancelled as companies suspended their CSR volunteer programs for employee safety reasons. Monetary donations are also declining in this uncertain climate. The nonprofit Free Food For All estimated a 50% drop in donations received, but its founder said that “asking for donations during this time is a thorny issue.” Luckily, individual volunteers are stepping up to fill this gap. One food charity saw a surge in offers to help from schools, corporations, and even the Singapore Land Authority. Singapore’s National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) has also set up a centralized platform to “give all donors and volunteers a single point of reference for the most pressing needs during this period of the COVID-19 outbreak.” Here, charities can appeal for volunteers and share their fundraising efforts.