Mining tycoon becomes first African billionaire to pledge half his wealth to charity – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – January 31, 2013)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

JOHANNESBURG — As a boy in an impoverished village in South Africa’s apartheid era, Patrice Motsepe watched his mother giving free food to the poorest customers at their small grocery store.

It was a lesson he never forgot, even when he made history by becoming South Africa’s first black billionaire. Ranked the eighth-richest man on the continent with an estimated fortune of $2.65-billion, the 51-year-old mining tycoon has become the first African billionaire to make a dramatic pledge to give away half the wealth generated by his family’s assets.

It’s a huge coup for U.S. entrepreneurs Warren Buffett and Bill Gates as they try to launch a global wave of philanthropy. They have persuaded nearly 100 billionaires to pledge the bulk of their wealth to charity, but most so far are American, and Mr. Motsepe is believed to be the first in the fast-rising African economy to participate in the program, the Giving Pledge, in which prosperous families are encourage to give away at least half their wealth.

The 51-year-old mining tycoon announced Wednesday that he has joined the Giving Pledge. Members of the campaign have courted him for months. Last August he held talks with Mr. Buffett in Omaha, and last month Mr. Gates flew to Cape Town and met Mr. Motsepe to explain the Giving Pledge. At a press conference on Wednesday, Mr. Gates joined by video link to praise Mr. Motsepe’s decision.

“South Africans are caring, compassionate and loving people,” Mr. Motsepe said in a statement. “It has always been part of our culture to assist and care for less fortunate and marginalized members of our community.”

But while most South Africans are strong believers in the traditional African philosophy of ubuntu – humanity and generosity towards others – their generosity is often expressed in small informal donations to schools or village causes.

Charitable foundations in South Africa have struggled to win support for large-scale formal philanthropy, especially from the nouveaux riches who gained their wealth after the fall of apartheid. Some black entrepreneurs, popularly known as “black diamonds,” have been criticized for donating only a small percentage of their income to charity. But there are signs that this is now beginning to change, and Mr. Motsepe’s pledge is the most visible example.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Globe and Mail website: