Elon Musk, the world’s richest man with a net worth of $311 billion, said he will sell his Tesla stock to end world hunger if the United Nations can provide evidence showing it could solve the crisis and how the money will be spent.
The founder and chief executive of electric carmaker Tesla and SpaceX was responding to David Beasley, the director of the UN's World Food Programme, who said in a CNN interview on October 26 that only a small percentage of Mr Musk’s wealth could help solve world hunger.
Mr Beasley specifically called for action from Mr Musk and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the two men who lead the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Billionaires need to “step up now, on a one-time basis”, Mr Beasley said. “$6bn to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don’t reach them. It’s not complicated."
There was a dramatic worsening of world hunger in 2020, the United Nations said in July – much of it likely related to the fallout of Covid-19. Around a tenth of the global population – up to 811 million people – were undernourished last year, according to a multi-agency report. The number suggests it will take a tremendous effort for the world to honour its pledge to end hunger by 2030.
If the WFP, using transparent and open accounting, “can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it”, Mr Musk wrote in a Twitter post on October 31.
“But it must be open source accounting, so the public sees precisely how the money is spent,” he said.
In response to Mr Musk's tweet, the Mr Beasley tweeted on the same day that $6bn would not solve world hunger. This is a one-time donation to save 42 million lives during this unprecedented hunger crisis, he said.
“We need $6bn plus NOW on top of our existing funding requirements due to the perfect storm from the compounding impact of Covid, conflict and climate shocks,” Mr Beasley tweeted.
However, Mr Musk asked Mr Beasley to publish the WFP’s current and proposed spending in detail “so people can see exactly where money goes”.
Many US billionaires have donated generously to help halt the spread of Covid-19 and lessen its effects. MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Mr Bezos, gave away $5.8bn in grants to 500 groups across the US last year, Forbes said.
Billionaire Warren Buffett donated $4.1bn worth of Berkshire Hathaway shares to charity in June. “Society has a use for my money; I don’t,” Mr Buffett said at the time.
He is, along with Bill and Melinda Gates, a co-founder of the Giving Pledge, a campaign that encourages billionaire philanthropy.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has worked on initiatives such as fighting infectious diseases and encouraging vaccinations for children. The foundation committed $1.75bn over two years for pandemic relief.
Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg donated $330m in Covid-19-related funding, while Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pledged at least $100m, Forbes said.
Billionaire philanthropist George Soros committed more than $130m through his foundation to combat the effects of the coronavirus in April last year.
Similarly, talk show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey pledged $12m through the Oprah Winfrey Charitable Foundation in support of Covid-19 relief efforts for underserved communities in May last year.