Al Hammond

Davos, Bednets, and Movie Stars

Inspired by this Time Europe article.

Many commentators have noted how movie stars turned heads at the World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, in their efforts to drum up support for dealing with poverty. They also shifted attention away from?and may have undercut?perhaps the most promising attempt to reduce poverty and improve quality of life, namely efforts by large and small companies to find sustainable business solutions to the conditions that plague the poor. While Sharon Stone was galvanizing a packed house with her pledge to give $10,000 for bednets in Africa?she raised more than $1 million on the spot?a much smaller audience heard the Chairman of Unilever, the CEO of the 2nd largest bank in India, the CEO of Visa, and Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer talk about what their companies are already doing?business activities on a far larger scale?that will improve opportunities for or bring benefits to tens of millions of low income

And the gifts that Stone and others pledged for bednets? They may well poison the market for existing small African businesses that are selling a new type of bednet that offers long-lasting protection at affordable prices. Charity is great, but it is rarely sustained?just as fashions in foreign aid change. And if these well-meaning efforts wipe out the business solution, then where will people get the protection from malaria that bednets can provide?

For an interesting look at the star effect at Davos, I suggest this interesting Time Europe article.