The late Allan Gray. Picture: DAVID THOMSON
The late Allan Gray. Picture: DAVID THOMSON

Philanthropies associated with SA’s most famous investor, the late Allan Gray, and his wife Gill, have contributed R180m to be deployed in a variety of ways to fight the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We realised this is an all-pervasive pandemic, so we decided to address the humanitarian as well as economic consequences. At one level, we wanted to avoid duplicating systems, so we have decided to donate to the Solidarity Fund and the SA Future Trust (SAFT), respectively, in addition to utilising our existing competence in education to help better understand the effect of the pandemic,” said CEO of the Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropy in Africa, Anthony Farr.

The couple founded several charities: the Allan & Gill Gray Philanthropy, the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment, and E2. 

The philanthropies are funded by the Allan & Gill Gray Foundation, which owns controlling stakes in investment managers Allan Gray and Orbis. Allan Gray died last year. 

The combined contribution of the organisations will see R50m donated to the Solidarity Fund, with a further R50m designated to help small businesses using the infrastructure created by SAFT, which was the brainchild of Nicky and Jonathan Oppenheimer. 

“We have been impressed with the calibre of individuals and the work done by the Solidarity Fund and SAFT, so we would like to support those mechanisms,” said Farr. 

In a more unusual approach, the philanthropies will contribute R20m to create a Covid-19 innovation and response fund designed to invest in start-ups and businesses that “are either highly innovative or essential” in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. 

One of these, CapeBio, founded by Allan Gray Fellowship alumni, is using enzymes to produce local test kits. “The key ingredients can be made locally, and this avoids the need to procure from international supply chains,” said Farr.

Another R10m will be made available to continue the coronavirus rapid mobile survey (Cram) that will track, on a monthly basis, a “nationally representative” sample of 10,000 people to see how income and employment, social welfare, and health, is affected by the pandemic.

“The results of the survey are made available to a range of academics with the subsequent analysis feeding back to policymakers, including premieres and the presidency,” said Farr.

A further R10m is available to support countries in SADC, including Namibia, Botswana, and eSwatini. Farr is holding R40m to deploy as things progress.