Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates says 2021 has been the most unusual and difficult year of his life.
“2021 has been a year of big transitions for me but it has not changed why I love the work I do,” Mr Gates, who is the world’s fourth-richest person in the world with a net worth of $135 billion, according to Forbes, said in a blog post on Tuesday.
The billionaire philanthropist and Melinda French Gates divorced on May 3 after 27 years of marriage. The Gates began dating in 1987 and wed on January 1, 1994, in Hawaii. The couple have three children. They also made public their separate plans to donate their wealth.
"Melinda and I continue to run our foundation together and have found a good new working rhythm, but I cannot deny that it has been a year of great personal sadness for me. Adapting to change is never easy, no matter what it is," Mr Gates said.
Mr Gates, 66, picked four themes that were top of his mind this year.
“As it  comes to a close, I wanted to sit down and write about four things that are top of mind heading into 2022: the latest progress toward ending the Covid-19 pandemic, why decreased trust in institutions might be the biggest obstacle standing in our way, what the climate conversation can teach us about making progress and how the rapid digitisation brought on by the pandemic will shape our future,” he wrote in the blog post.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continues to take up the bulk of his time, Mr Gates said.
“The foundation is my top philanthropic priority, even as my giving in other areas has grown over the years – primarily in mitigation of climate change and tackling Alzheimer’s disease,” Mr Gates said in his updated Giving Pledge, which is a commitment by the world’s wealthiest people and families to give away most of their wealth, on December 1.
Mr Gates and Ms French Gates founded the foundation in 2000. Since then, it has become one of the most influential non-profit organisations in the world that spends $5bn annually on fighting poverty, disease and inequality around the world.
The foundation says it has spent $54.8bn since its inception. Last year, it pledged about $250 million to help fight the Covid-19 pandemic, with some of the funds channelled to the distribution of life-saving doses of Covid-19 vaccines to parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
“Although Covid-19 has been a huge focus, the foundation continues to make progress in other areas,” Mr Gates said in the blog post.
“Our US programme is working with partners to help students and teachers [to] navigate the strange new world of pandemic-era education, and my colleagues working on gender equality are fighting for a more equitable global recovery.”
Meanwhile, the foundation’s global health and development teams have found ways to protect advancements on diseases such as polio, tuberculosis and HIV, and make progress in reducing childhood mortality, Mr Gates said.
Referring to his “empty nester” status with his three children married, off to college and school respectively, Mr Gates said “the house is a lot quieter without a bunch of teenagers hanging around all the time”.
“I miss having them at home, even if it is easier to focus on reading a book or getting work done these days.”
The pandemic dominated everyone’s lives since day one in 2021, he said.
“We have all had to adapt to a new normal, although what that looks like is different for every person. For me, the result has been a year spent mostly online, I had stretches of time without any face-to-face social interaction,” Mr Gates said.
“It has been a strange and disorienting experience. My personal world has never felt smaller than it did over the last 12 months.”
Climate and energy issues became a bigger part of Mr Gates’s focus over the past year. He released his book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster and also launched the Breakthrough Energy Catalyst programme to support the financing, production and purchase of new clean energy technology, according to the blog post.
The initiative, which is a coalition of philanthropists, companies and governments, will initially focus on investments in long-duration energy storage, sustainable aviation fuels, direct air capture and green hydrogen, according to an earlier blog post.
“I also found time to work on some non-foundation and non-climate related areas, like Alzheimer’s research and expanding free educational resources for teachers,” Mr Gates said in the blog post.