Soros Pledges to Invest $500M in Businesses Run By and Benefitting Refugees

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September 20, 2016; Christian Science Monitor

Yesterday, billionaire philanthropist/activist George Soros announced in the Wall Street Journal that he would invest $500 million “for investments that specifically address the needs of migrants, refugees and host communities.”

I will invest in startups, established companies, social-impact initiatives and businesses founded by migrants and refugees themselves. Although my main concern is to help migrants and refugees arriving in Europe, I will be looking for good investment ideas that will benefit migrants all over the world.

Soros, who was himself displaced by war as a child, later going on to found a global business and philanthropic presence in the Open Society Foundation, wrote that the commitment was made as a response to President Obama’s “call to action” to businesspeople to play a bigger role in meeting the needs of those forced to flee their home countries.

This commitment of investment equity will complement the philanthropic contributions my foundations have made to address forced migration, a problem we have been working on globally for decades and to which we have dedicated significant financial resources.

We will seek investments in a variety of sectors, among them emerging digital technology, which seems especially promising as a way to provide solutions to the particular problems that dislocated people often face. Advances in this sector can help people gain access more efficiently to government, legal, financial and health services. Private businesses are already investing billions of dollars to develop such services for non-migrant communities.

This is why money now moves instantaneously from one mobile wallet to another, drivers find customers by using only a cellphone, and how a doctor in North America can see a patient in Africa in real-time. Customizing and extending these innovations to serve migrants will help improve the quality of life for millions around the world.

All of the investments we make will be owned by my nonprofit organization. They are intended to be successful—because I want to show how private capital can play a constructive role helping migrants—and any profits will go to fund programs at the Open Society Foundations, including programs that benefit migrants and refugees.

As longtime champions of civil society, we will be focused on ensuring that our investments lead to products and services that truly benefit migrants and host communities.

We will also work closely with organizations such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Rescue Committee to establish principles to guide our investments. Our goal is to harness, for public good, the innovations that only the private sector can provide.

I hope my commitment will inspire other investors to pursue the same mission.

—Ruth McCambridge