When South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe announced that he would be making an important announcement, the speculation was that he would be buying himself some newspapers. He was in Davos, and at the same time, Independent News and Media's biggest shareholder Denis O'Brien met President Jacob Zuma.
The Irish group owns several papers, including The Star, Cape Times and Pretoria News, and has been seeking to unbundle its South African assets. As it turns out, Motsepe's announcement was of a different sort. The beneficiary will be the Motsepe Foundation, which was founded in 1999 by the African Rainbow Minerals chairman and his wife, Precious.
It oversees the philanthropic work done by the family, which includes education and health; the development and upliftment of women, youth, workers and the disabled; churches; the development of entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs; rural and urban upliftment; soccer including youth soccer development and music. "I decided quite some time ago to give at least half of the funds generated by our family assets to uplift poor and other disadvantaged and marginalised South Africans, but was also duty-bound and committed to ensuring that it would be done in a way that protects the interests and retains the confidence of our shareholders and investors," Motsepe said. The give-away is a part of the Giving Pledge, which encourages wealthy people to donate their fortune to charity. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett (formerly the world's wealthiest man) founded the campaign in 2010 and have both committed large chunks of their sizable wealth to charitable organisations around the world. As of November 2012, 91 billionaires – mostly Americans – have committed to the pledge.
Motsepe said, "I was also a beneficiary of various people, black and white, in South Africa and in the US who educated, trained, mentored and inspired me and whose faith and belief in me contributed to my success in my profession, business and elsewhere. The same can be said about my wife, Precious, and we are deeply indebted to them and many more. "Most of our donations have been private, but the need and challenges are great, and we hope that our Giving Pledge will encourage others in South Africa, Africa and other emerging economies to give and make the world a better place." Motsepe met Buffett in the US in August 2012, and with the Gates family in Cape Town later last year. The foundation will appoint an advisory council which will consist of "church and religious leaders, traditional, disabled, women, youth and labour leaders and other respected NGO and community upliftment leaders".
According to Forbes, Motsepe's net worth stood at $2.65 billion (£1.67bn) in November 2012. ARal, educational and scientific research. Motsepe may be South Africa's first, and only, black billionaire, but he is hardly the continent's wealthiest man. That title goes to Nigerian industrial magnate Aliko Dangote, with an estimated net worth of about R113.6 billion. On a continent that consistently ranks as the worst-off in terms of quality of life, it remains to be seen if its wealthiest citizens will join Motsepe in giving away half their fortune to the less fortunate.