Bill Gates is journeying down the road of philanthropy, but he does not travel alone. He has been joined recently by the prestige of former president Bill Clinton, the celebrity of Oprah Winfrey, and the enormous wealth of Warren Buffett. Warren Buffett has sweetened the philanthropy pot by a cool 37.5 billion dollars (potentially). This, when added to the millions pledged from the Gates Foundation, is easily greater than the GNP of many countries put together.
In the movie Out of Africa, the character played by Meryl Streep utters these pivotal words: “The world is round so that we don't see too far down the road.” Her statement was made parallel to the discovery in her own life of a syphilitic infection she acquired from her husband. And anyone who knows anything about STDs knows that they facilitate the transmission of the H.I.V. and AIDS virus.
In the early days (1920s) when genteel Europeans ruled East Africa there was no AIDS, H.I.V. or TB crises to fret over. The colonialists were welcomed, wealthy, and lived a life worthy of royalty. But the horizon on that road was clearly changing even during Isak Dinesen’s time. The Africa of today is still rife with political problems that began in the last centuries. That was then, this is now, and syphilis and STDs are endemic in Africa and the proliferation of highways, trucks, and job-related travel have helped, in my opinion, to make H.I.V. and AIDS the modern-day equivalent of the Black Death.
One of the main criticisms of this foray by Bill, Bill, Oprah, and now Warren into the huge continent that is Africa is that for all the billions in wealth and power that this foursome yields, they are up against a political impracticality and corruptness in Africa that makes their task as awesome as their monetary offerings. Africa is a populous country and this is not by accident. It is a natural population explosion common to Third World countries such as those of Africa.
Africa is a disaster that is not waiting to happen, but has happened — Bill Gates is aware of this when he says in an article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, "In Africa, we have the potential for some worst-case scenarios. It could completely come apart here... It could be horrific."