At the end of June, after visiting the Elysée Palace and meeting with French President François Hollande about France’s considerable and ongoing investment in The Global Fund to fight against AIDS (of which his foundation is a partner), Bill Gates made an appearance on one of France’s most popular nightly news shows: Le Grand Journal. He was also in Paris to open the city’s annual music festival Solidays, a three day event to support the fight against AIDS.
The largest private foundation in the world, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation enhances healthcare and reduces extreme poverty all over the world. In the US, the goal is to expand education opportunities and access to technology.
During the show, Bill Gates meets his French equivalent, Xavier Niel, founder of Free, a low-cost French internet, tv, and phone service provider. Freebox, the internet, tv and phone bundle offered for as little as 30 euros a month in France will have Americans gasping as we here in the US are used to paying 5 to 6 times that much. Niel, current co-owner of Le Monde French national newspaper, one of the most widely respected papers in the world, also began a lucrative chat service on Minitel, a forerunner of the internet, when he was only 19 years old. At around the same age, Bill Gates was busy creating a little company called Microsoft.
More recently, Niel founded a tech school in the 17th arrondissement of Paris called 42. With no teachers, no tuition (Xavier foots the bill), and peer-to-peer pedagogy, it accepts 1,000 students each year. Why start a school? He noticed a hole in the French education system and decided to fill it himself. Between highly selective universities and highly expensive private schools, Xavier saw a space for computer programming training in a less conventional environment. After 3 years of intense training, graduates are prepared to work in the fields of mobile technology, web development, networks, video game programming and IT security.
Niel confesses that Gates is an inspiration to him and to an entire generation, stating that he is a model entrepreneur: starting from nothing, creating something useful, and earning a sum of money so considerable that it becomes a moral duty to use those funds in order to fill gaps that governments are unable to cover themselves, from the AIDS epidemic to education. Spreading his philanthropic propensity to other billionaires, Gates, in partnership with Warren Buffet, founded The Giving Pledge, in which the world’s wealthiest individuals promise to give away half of their fortunes to charity either during their lifetime or in their will.
In a world with so much poverty and where the very few have so very much wealth, it is heartening to see this will to give back. Thank you Bill Gates and Xavier Niel for your generosity. Who will be the next person to join them?
Here is the clip from Le Grand Journal on June 25, 2015 with Bill Gates and Xavier Niel.
Who is a French figure that you admire for their social impact?
© Jessica’s Franglais 2015