Saudi billionare Prince Alwaleed pledges to give $32bn to charity

The funds are to be channeled into charities that promote health, disease eradication and relief, poverty alleviation and women's rights

Saudi Arabian billionaire, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, founder and chairman of Kingdom Holding Company (KHC), has pledged to give $32bn to charity in the coming years.

The amount is equivalent to his entire wealth, according to statements made by Alwaleed during a press conference in Riyadh, with funds to be channeled into charities that promote health, disease eradication and relief, poverty alleviation and women's rights.

Alwaleed, who owns stakes in international firms such as Citigroup and Twitter, as well as Saudi budget airline Flynas, said the money would be distributed through his foundation Alwaleed Philanthropies. The gesture was aimed at helping build a “better world of tolerance, acceptance, equality and opportunity for all," he said.

“Philanthropy is a personal responsibility, which I embarked upon more than three decades ago and is an intrinsic part of my Islamic faith. With this pledge, I am honouring my lifelong commitment to what matters most – helping to build a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world for generations to come."

The move follows pledges by some of the world’s richest people to donate their wealth to philanthropy through an initiative known as The Giving Pledge. The campaign, championed by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet, boasts signatories including Mark Zuckerberg, David Rockefeller, Michael R. Bloomberg and – most recently – Dubai-based education entrepreneur Sunny Varkey.

Alwaleed said a board of trustees has been formed to oversee the funding, and will aim to find solutions to pressing humanitarian challenges. They will also ensure the money continues to be used appropriately after the businessman's death.

The royal has so far donated $3.5bn to Alwaleed Philanthropies, which operates globally and was formerly known as the Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation. Over the years, it has formed partnerships with a number of global institutions, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Carter Center and Weill Cornell Medical College, to strengthen healthcare and control the spread of epidemics.

KHC recently announced that French government-controlled investment bank CDC and a group of companies will invest at least $150m in it, with Alwaleed retaining a full ownership stake. KHC and CDC also said they would set up a fund to invest in small and medium-sized Saudi companies.

Kingdom Holding plans to sell shares to the public in a “significant” number of assets between 2016 and 2018, Bloomberg News reported in February. Through the holding company, Prince Alwaleed owns stakes in international firms such as Twitter Inc, and Four Seasons hotels. KHC also controls half of London’s Savoy hotel and is behind a project to build the world’s tallest skyscraper in Jeddah. According to Bloomberg data, the Prince is the 22nd richest man in the world.    

Photo credit: Kingdom Holding