In one of the largest private sector donations of its kind, the Mastercard Foundation announced it will give $1.3 billion over the next three years to vaccinate 50 million people in Africa. Fewer than 2 percent of the people there have gotten a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, far lower than many wealthy countries. Ajay Banga, Mastercard's executive chairman, joins Amna Nawaz to discuss.
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As we reported earlier, President Biden is expected to announce tomorrow that the U.S. will purchase 500 million more doses of COVID vaccines that will be donated to the world's poorest countries and the African Union.
This announcement comes as leaders in the private sector are stepping up their efforts to aid in the pandemic response.
Amna Nawaz explains.
In one of the largest private sector donations of its kind, the MasterCard Foundation announced today they will give $1.3 billion over the next three years to vaccinate 50 million people on the continent of Africa.
Fewer than 2 percent of the people who live in Africa have gotten a single dose of the vaccine yet. That's far lower than many of the wealthiest countries and well below the global average of 11 percent.
Ajay Banga is the executive chairman of MasterCard. And he joins me now.
Ajay, welcome to the "NewsHour." And thank you for making the time.
One-point three billion dollars, it's one of the largest private gifts in the entire pandemic. Why this much and why now?
Well, first of all, thank you for having me.
The — look, the fact is that this whole pandemic is something that we have all got to put our shoulder to the wheel at. It's not enough to say that governments will fix it. It's not enough to say that somebody else will do it or some other company will or some other foundation will.
And so we're all trying to do our best. And there are lots of governments and companies that are doing their best. And the foundation is an independent foundation. It was created at our IPO and runs independently. They have our name, and we are the only donor. And I'm very proud of their CEO and their chair and this decision.
So, basically, the idea is that they work in Africa, they help to do economic development in Africa, and how can you have economic development in a continent which hasn't yet got vaccinations for its citizenry?
So the objective here is to kick-start the process with a large enough donation to get 50 million people vaccinated, but also to build infrastructure and capabilities and training through the African CDC and the African Union for this to become a real operational opportunity.
Let me ask you about some of the activity you have taken in Central America, though, because this is something that's very central to the Biden administration's efforts there.
Vice President Harris is wrapping up a trip to the region. She's there on a mission to try to address the root causes, causing people to flee in the first place to address irregular migration. MasterCard has made a commitment to invest in the region.
Why? What do you see as MasterCard's role in this part of the administration's efforts?
Ajay Banga So, Amna, I think that no company grows when the communities around it are not successful and growing.
The same idea applies to the Northern Triangle. When the administration said, we want to find a way to help people stay where they are, I'm not somebody who can open a manufacturing factory or an export factory from there. But I can help in the distribution of aid digitally, and reduce some of the corruption leakage that happens through normal aid distribution.
And that's the idea of saying, we will help five million people come into the financial mainstream in the Northern Triangle and help a million SMEs get digitally enabled. That's the starting point of the commitment to the vice president's effort.
I want to get your take on where we are right now in the U.S. in terms of the economic recovery, because, last year, you said you were worried about what people call a K-shaped recovery, that the inequality gaps that persisted in the pandemic would continue to get wider.
Based on what you have seen so far, are you still worried about that?
Yes, I am.
I will say that I am very optimistic in general about the state of the U.S. economy. I believe that the package of measures that the system has put into place, from monetary and fiscal policy, as well as all the things that I see underlying in the economy, are very constructive.
But the problem is, overall, U.S. GDP will do well, but we have got to worry about those that are getting left behind. And we know that, during the pandemic, women-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses, women and minorities in jobs suffered disproportionately compared to others.
And we know that the digital divide exists right now. Just to be clear, the pandemic didn't suddenly create all this. This is — it's exposed issues in our society that have existed for a while.
And I think we need to build back better. We need to do this better. And just in the case of the digital divide, which is where the K-shaped recovery idea comes from, the digital divide will actually make it worse, right?
If you can't get access to broadband or infrastructure of that type, whether you're an SME or a student, that's not a great place to be. It's the same for the unequal spread of vaccinations across the world, between some developed markets and other developing countries. And that's one of the reasons why the MasterCard Foundation made this commitment.
So it's kind of all intertwined, the idea of, we're in it together. And if you're going to come out of it, we're going to have to come out of it together. This beast is going to need your shoulder and my shoulder at the wheel.
Well, you mentioned some of those gaps.
The White House will argue that one of the ways to close those gaps is with these big spending plans they're proposing, like the infrastructure package. And they say, as part of that, that companies like yours should pay higher taxes to help pay for them.
Do you agree with that?
Yes, well, listen, we benefited when the taxes came down. We put a lot of the money we got from those tax breaks into our philanthropy, as well as into our employees for 401(k) matches at a much higher level.
One of the facts that people don't know about us is, if you put in 6 percent into your 401(k) in our company, we match you 10, meaning you get 16. That's one of the fewest, one of the rarest examples of that kind of effort. We did that with the tax savings.
If taxes go back up, that's policy. We have got to learn how to live with it and play with it.
My real response here is, it's actually about competitiveness. So, if you need to fix the taxes at a level that you think makes sense for what the government's revenues should be, go ahead and do that. Make sure we're all competitive, because global multinationals have got an opportunity to keep growing and doing good things for the American population and the American system.
But we can't if you're uncompetitive. That's all. So make it competitive. And we have to carry our share.
I don't have a problem with a tax rate that is higher than where we are today, so long as I understand and appreciate that it's competitively introduced.
There's another key issue I want to get your take on, which is this string of high-profile cyberattacks that we have seen, these ransomware attacks, how quickly and dramatically they have brought parts of American life to an absolute standstill.
In the global banking world right now, how secure are financial services? How worried are you about MasterCard being hacked?
Well, I have been involved with cybersecurity for a while, both at the company, but also at different presidential commissions.
And I will tell you that I have been making a case that we're only as strong as our weakest link. Now, MasterCard has been one of those beneficiaries of people trying to get at us for a long time. And we have built fairly strong processes. And so have most of the financial services industry.
And now, where we are today, the financial services industry works very closely across the industry, but also with government. And so I think you will find that America's financial services industry is in relatively good shape.
But, remember, you're only as strong as your weakest link. So, think about all the supply chain that interacts with financial services, or any company, for that matter. If the supply chain is not as strong as it needs to be, you expose yourself to weakness.
So, cybersecurity is a real issue. And no single company can fight off nation-states or very large organized criminal gangs beyond a point. And so I think we're in this together, a bit like the pandemic. Cyber is also a pandemic of a different type. And we need to just put our shoulder to the wheel together across industry, across industry and government.
This is a place where the hackneyed words of public-private partnership actually mean a great deal.
Ajay Banga is the executive chairman of MasterCard.
Thank you so much for your time.
Thank you for having me.