Warren Buffett's blockbuster gift of about $31 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is great news for aspiring business owners in the developing world. The foundation is looking to use Buffett's largesse to expand microlending campaigns in Africa and India. These programs make small loans to individuals so that they can buy equipment, such as a cell phone or a sewing machine, to start a business.
At a press conference announcing Buffett's donation, Melinda Gates said that she sees fostering entrepreneurship in the developing world as a means of bolstering public health, which is the Gateses' top priority. "[People] need to have some way of supporting themselves if they are going to stay healthy over time," she said.
The foundation's support for microfinance has intensified since 2005, when it gave more than $7 million to two U.S.-based groups, Accion International and Unitus. Accion, whose affiliates boast a loan repayment rate of 97 percent, and Unitus have since joined forces to set up a microfinance center in Bangalore, India. Geoff Davis, Unitus' CEO, characterized his reaction to the Buffett news as "giddy excitement."