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'This is a world of volatility': Global Fund Executive Director

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Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer is joined by Executive Director of the Global Fund, Peter Sands at the 2022 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland as they discuss the future of COVID, Global Fund’s mission, and the state of the economy.

Video transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ANDY SERWER: I'm here with Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund. Peter, nice to see you.

PETER SANDS: Great to see you.

ANDY SERWER: As someone who is leading the charge fighting infectious diseases and also the former CEO of one of the world's largest banks, I'm wondering if you could tell us where we stand right now in terms of the COVID pandemic from an investor's standpoint. How should investors and CEOs think about where we are right now with COVID?

PETER SANDS: Well, with COVID, I know we all want to think it's over. We all want to put it behind us, get back to normality. And to some extent, we can. Vaccines have bought us that space.

But no one's told the virus that. COVID is not going. It's not going anywhere. And we are going to get new variants. What we don't know is whether those variants are going to be worse or milder. And there's no scientific reason why-- it's a roll of the dice.

And so we need to be quite careful now. And so if I'm an investor, what I would be thinking, this is the new reality. We have this new disease. We can manage it. But we shouldn't assume it's just going to disappear.

ANDY SERWER: And tell us about what's going on with the Global Fund. You're looking to fight TB, malaria, and AIDS, primarily?

PETER SANDS: The mission of the Global Fund is-- that's in our name. It's the Global Fund to fight HIV, TB, and malaria. In fact, over the last couple of years, we've also been the largest provider of support to low and middle-income countries on COVID for everything other than vaccines, so tests, treatment, oxygen, PPE, and so on.

We replenish on a three-year cycle. And it happens this year. President Biden is hosting our replenishment conference. And I'm targeting to raise $18 billion.

ANDY SERWER: President Biden is hosting the conference? Where is the conference going to be?

PETER SANDS: It's going to be-- we think it's going to be in New York. And it'll probably be around the UN General Assembly, so sometime in mid-September.

ANDY SERWER: On a personal level, Peter, you were the CEO of Standard Chartered. And you left that job and that career behind to go into the NGO world. Why did you do that? And what is that like?

PETER SANDS: Well, I loved being CEO of an international bank. It was exciting. It was interesting. It's very demanding.

But when I had done nine years at that role, I was of the view I wanted to do something different. Again, something that really excited me. And first thing I did, actually, is I spent a couple of years at Harvard. And I did a bunch of work, research into the economics and financing of infectious diseases, including pandemics.

I was singularly unsuccessful in getting anybody to pay any attention to pandemics. And then I did this. And the Global Fund saves over 6 million lives a year. That's a pretty good motivation for getting up in the morning and going to work.

ANDY SERWER: So I know you're keen on getting private-sector investment or help or contributions, I guess, into your work. Talk to us about that a little bit.

PETER SANDS: The Global Fund was created as a unique public-private partnership. It was 20 years ago at the height of the AIDS crisis. And the thing that makes it special is the fact that it's not just about governments. It involves civil society. It involves the private sector. It involves the very communities who are most affected by infectious diseases.

We get substantial contributions from the private sector. We, in our last replenishment, we raised about a billion dollars from the private sector. But it's not just-- and this time, I want more, significantly more. But it's not just about the money.

It's also about the capabilities. We work with the likes of Coca-Cola on last-mile distribution. They're really good at getting fizzy drinks anywhere in the world. So they can help us get medicines anywhere in the world. We work with tech companies on data analysis and data capture, which is vital for disease surveillance.

ANDY SERWER: What are some names there?

PETER SANDS: Well, we work with Google. We work with Microsoft. A bunch of different-- we work with MasterCard. So we have lots of private sector. We have more private sector partnerships than any other institution in global health.

ANDY SERWER: I know you still follow the markets and economic cycles. Right now, we're looking at a rate-tightening cycle where there's concerns about a recession coming up. What is your economic outlook, Peter?

PETER SANDS: I think my outlook at the moment is dominated by what I focus my time on, which is what does it mean for the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world? And I'm afraid to say we're in for a rough and bumpy ride. So we've just had a pandemic. We have a war in Ukraine, which has massive knock-on consequences in terms of energy and food prices in the world. We are seeing, also, increasing frequency of extreme weather events, so cyclones and things, because of the warmer seas, because of climate change.

And so I think the big shift for both policy makers and for businesses is this is a world of volatility. And in a world of volatility, you've got to be very adaptable and flexible. Now, turning back to the poorest and most vulnerable, this is a pretty tough outlook. And I think we all need to face up to the fact that the world needs to step up for these people. We need to step up because it's the right thing to do. But also, if we don't, the consequences of leaving people behind will affect all of us.

ANDY SERWER: All right. Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund. Thank you so much for your time.

PETER SANDS: Thank you.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

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