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According to the Wall Street Journal, Bill Clinton is on his way to joining Bill Gates as a global health powerhouse. The two men are currently traveling together in Africa and will jointly address both the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto next month and the Clinton Global Initiative in September. However, they bring very different styles to their common interest, as described by Ira Magaziner (Executive Director of the Clinton Foundation):

"The Gates Foundation is doing good work but doesn't have a direct agreement with government," he says. "He is private-sector and NGO-oriented. We're providing a small amount of money but that's not our main activity. We're not going to compete with Gates or the U.S. government at handing out money. We mostly provide technical assistance."

Richard Holbrooke of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS puts it a bit more bluntly:

"Gates doesn't work as well with governments because he doesn't have the skills or political acquaintances," says Mr. Holbrooke. "Clinton doesn't have the resources. But Clinton is the most important public figure and Gates the most important financial figure." And while differences between the two are "true," says Mr. Holbrooke, they are "of low-level importance." He adds: "What's important is there's a marriage of many organizations of which Clinton's and Gates's are the most powerful."

The Financial Times summarizes the extent of their current collaboration below:

[The Gates Foundation] has already provided some funding for operational research on improving healthcare staffing in Africa to Mr. Clinton's Foundation on HIV/AIDS, and is believed to be finalizing grants to help assist Mr. Clinton's work on forecasting and pricing of medicines in the developing world. One of the aspects of the work involves developing software to process patient information and manage demand for medicine and healthcare in the developing world.

The Clinton Foundation has demonstrated enormous leadership in addressing the problems related to poor demand forecasting for global health products, and it will be great if the Gates Foundation and other partners can now contribute to - and learn from - their efforts.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.