In September, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced he is investing $3 billion to ‘cure, prevent or manage all diseases’ by 2100. Is this new force in global health funding – dubbed ‘philanthrocapitalism’ – an unmitigated boon for the world’s poor? Jocalyn Clark and Linsey McGoey raised a series of concerns in The Lancet in November.
First, they found that philanthrocapitalists often lack accountability. Zuckerberg, for example, is channelling his funds through a private company, which is not bound by charitable rules, could invest in for-profit ventures, does not guard against him advancing personal causes, and is not obliged to disclose publicly where the money goes.
Second, donors can avoid tax on the funds. This robs the public purse and fuels a worrying trend where the responsibilities of government are offloaded onto private foundations, allowing states to back out of aid commitments.
Finally, the authors worry about non-elected philanthrocapitalists influencing decision-making over global health and development policy, and call for much more robust independent scrutiny.