Blair, Buffett offer new hope in war against poverty and hunger
By Sara Wyant
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DES MOINES, Iowa, Oct. 17, 2013 - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and farmer turned philanthropist Howard G. Buffett have long been focused on helping people in Africa. But now they plan to partner on a new initiative, aimed at attracting entrepreneurs who can address hunger and poverty in four target countries: Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Malawi.
Speaking to a packed ballroom during the World Food Prize events here, the two men announced that Blair's Africa Governance Initiative and the Buffett Foundation will award $150,000 to each of four “40 Chances” Fellows.
The program theme is based on a newly-released Buffett book, “40 Chances,” a title which represents the number of growing seasons that a farmer can probably expect during his or her lifetime, as well as the time frame most working people have to make a difference in the world, according to Buffett.
Blair, who served as Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007, said that one thing he found shocking about my own time in office is “how much I learned. There's so much innovation happening around the world.
"One of the things we find with some presidents is we say to them 'Look, I don't know whether this can help or not, but why not try it in a limited way and let's see what we can learn from it?'
"The fact is someone, somewhere in the world is getting it right,” Blair noted.
“Someone will say, 'Our problems are very much different'….they have local characteristics, but the basic processes are the same."
Both Blair and Buffett emphasized the importance of focusing and prioritizing investments in Africa rather than trying to accomplish a lengthy list of projects over several decades.
“We think if we're focused, it allows us to set higher goals and zero in on them,” Buffett noted.
The World Food Prize Foundation will form a selection committee to choose the four best candidates for the “40 Chances” program. Fellows can apply starting today through May 31, 2014. Winners will be announced at the 2014 World Food Prize events. More information is at http://www.40chances.com/
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