On Tuesday, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced the birth of their daughter, Max, in a touching post on — where else? — Facebook. In the lengthy letter, which was written to Max, Zuckerberg and Chan also announced that they will donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares — roughly $45 billion at today's valuation — in an effort to make the world a better place for her to grow up in. To put the Chan-Zuckerberg donation in another perspective, it's larger than the entire gross domestic product (GDP) of several countries.
The couple is creating the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to carry out their work throughout the world, starting with a focus on "personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people, and building strong communities." According to Zuckerberg's letter, the $45 billion donation will be spread out over his and Chan's lives. It will be used to find innovative solutions that address inequity through technology, education, access to healthcare, and more.
Just how big is the donation? It's big enough to put the Chan-Zuckerberg family among a crop of other notable philanthropists, including Bill and Melinda Gates. At the end of 2014, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is also supported by Warren Buffet, had an endowment of more than $44 billion, making it the largest private foundation in the world.
The donation is admirable, and also pretty hefty — especially when you compare it to a country's GDP. Gross domestic product is the measure commonly used to value a country's economic activity. It takes into account the value of all the finished goods and services. According to the World Bank's most recent rankings, there are more than 100 countries around the world with a GDP lower than $45 billion. Here are just a few.
In 2014, Serbia had a GDP of approximately $43.8 billion. To compare, the U.S. had a GDP of more than $17.4 trillion at that time. The Serbian economy has struggled with instability because of the global financial crisis and turmoil with neighboring Kosovo, a disputed territory which declared its independence in 2008.
Despite being one of the wealthier nations in Africa, Libya falls short of the Chan-Zuckerberg donation, with a GDP of a little over $41 billion in 2014. Just beneath Libya is Ghana, which registered a GDP of roughly $38.6 billion in 2014. In fact, only 11 African countries have GDPs higher than $45 billion, including Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt.
Bolivia has a GDP of roughly $34.2 billion. Interestingly, though, Bolivia has had the highest growth rate out of all South American economies since the global recession. Still, Bolivia's economy doesn't quite measure up to the Chan-Zuckerberg family's donation, and it doesn't even come close to Brazil's $2.3 trillion GDP (the largest in South America).
Like many countries in the Middle East, Afghanistan has suffered from years of violent conflict. As a result, its GDP falls just shy of $21 billion. One of the Zuckerberg family's priorities with its new foundation is to foster peace and prosperity among all nations — and peace is definitely something that Afghanistan could use.
Noticeably smaller than the Chan-Zuckerberg donation, Iceland's GDP is estimated at approximately $17 billion. That's not necessarily bad for a country with fewer than a million people, but it's nothing compared to the value of the Zuckerberg family, now a party of three. Iceland does fare well in education, though, which is one of Zuckerberg's priorities. Although Iceland ranks 114th in GDP, it ranks 14th in annual education expenditures.
Not surprisingly, the economy of the Bahamas depends largely on tourism. In fact, it's one of the wealthiest countries in the Caribbean. Still, its GDP is estimated at $8.5 billion, significantly smaller than the charitable donation that Zuckerberg and Chan have committed.
Tuvalu, an isolated island nation about midway between Hawaii and Australia, has the smallest GDP measured by the World Bank. In 2013, the last time it was measured, Tuvalu's GDP was just $38 million. It has a small population to match, though. Fewer than 10,000 people live in the country, which is about one-tenth of the size of Washington, D.C.
Not many people could afford to give away more money than a country, but Zuckerberg and Chan certainly can. Zuckerberg closed his letter to his newborn daughter by saying, "We can't wait to see what you bring to this world." If baby Max brings anything close to what her mom and dad have given, then the world will definitely be better off because of it.