Taking the Long View: How Improving the World’s Vision Could Generate $227 billion and Help 2.5 Billion People

26 Jun 2016

Micol Lucchi, Communications Officer, Tel.: +41 79 571 83 09, Email: micol.lucchi@weforum.org

· Over $225 billion in annual global growth could be unlocked by providing eyeglasses to the 2.5 billion in the world that need – but don’t have – them

· Only 8 million pairs of glasses were distributed by NGOs and inclusive businesses; $37 million or 2 cents per affected person was spent to address the problem;

· With 50% of the global population (and 65% of East Asia’s) expected to be short-sighted by 2050, a new report signals a first step by EYElliance, a new multistakeholder coalition, to address the world’s visual divide through public-private cooperation

Tianjin, People’s Republic of China, 27 June 2016 – The provision of eyeglasses to the more than 2.5 billion of the world’s inhabitants that currently suffer from poor vision but lack access to the solution could generate huge returns in terms of educational attainment and economic growth. This is the finding of a new report, Eyeglasses for Global Development: Bridging the Visual Divide, published today by the World Economic Forum and EYElliance.

The report is the first initiative of EYElliance, a new multistakeholder venture co-founded by Dr. Jordan Kassalow, a Schwab Foundation social entrepreneur. EYElliance was convened to bring together governments, philanthropists, businesses and the eye-care community with a specific mandate to engage and collaborate to close the gap in access to eyeglasses.

According to the report, in 2015, NGOs and inclusive businesses collectively distributed nearly 8 million pairs of glasses in less-developed countries. Approximately $37 million, or 2 cents per person affected was spent by the international donor community to address the need for glasses. Without rapid remedial action, the negative economic, educational and societal impact of poor vision could escalate, with 50% of the world’s population – 65% of East Asia’s – expected to suffer from myopia by 2050.

Along with new data highlighting the scale of the world’s visual divide, and examples of validated, scalable models, the report also publishes a set of recommendations for governments and businesses that are interested in contributing to addressing this global challenge.

"We are excited to partner with Jordan Kassalow and the EYElliance to publish this important call to action," said Hilde Schwab, Co-Founder and Chairwoman of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. "This effort is an outstanding example of how leading social entrepreneurs develop evidence about what works and use that evidence to catalyze multi-stakeholder action for large scale systemic change."

Madeleine Albright, lead signatory of the report and US Secretary of State (1997-2001) states: “The need is great, but the problem is solvable. This report shows how we can harness market forces to address a major global health problem and foster significant gains in socio-economic development.”

One of many prominent signatories of the report is The Honorable Elaine Chao, the 24th US Secretary of Labor (2001-2009), the first Chinese American ever appointed to the President's cabinet in American history who noted, "Proper vision enable workers worldwide to earn a living and take care of their families. The public, private and volunteer sectors need to work together to help individuals access affordable vision correction."

The World Economic Forum’s 10th Annual Meeting of the New Champions will be held on 26-28 June in Tianjin, People’s Republic of China. Convening under the theme, The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Its Transformational Impact, more than1,700 business leaders, policy-makers and experts from over 90 countries will participate and explore more than 200 sessions over the three days of the meeting.

The leading personalities who act as the Co-Chairs of the meeting are: Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development of Canada; Taavet Hinrikus, Chief Executive Officer, TransferWise, United Kingdom; Shirley Ann Jackson, President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), USA; Travis Kalanick, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, Uber, USA; Lei Jun, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Xiaomi Inc., PRC; Matthew Prince, Chief Executive Officer, Cloudflare, USA; Feike Sijbesma, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Managing Board, Royal DSM, Netherlands; and Wang Chuanfu, Chairman, BYD Company, PRC.

Notes to Editors:

Read the EYElliance report here: http://wef.ch/eyelliance16

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All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.

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