Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, today set out why he is optimistic for Africa's future, stating that "the rise of this continent will depend on whether leaders – here in Ethiopia and all across Africa – are open to learning from each other, and from their own people."
Addressing students at Addis Ababa University, where he was presented with an honorary degree, Gates said: "Africa is now in an incredible position to shape its own destiny for the better for one very simple and powerful reason: the countries of Africa are learning from each other."
In his remarks, Gates acknowledged the development gains made through foreign governments, international aid, and non-profits, such as the foundation, but asserted that "the real fuel for development will be the resources of African nations themselves – whether that's in the form of government funding, private-sector investment, or just plain human creativity at all levels of society."
"This is where the idea of 'African countries learning from each other' becomes so important. If you want to spend your national budgets as effectively as possible, there is now a clear path for doing exactly that – and Africans themselves are defining that path, for others to follow if they choose," he said.
During his visit to Ethiopia, Gates emphasized the importance of health and agriculture, commending the government of Ethiopia for its Health Extension Program and the establishment of its Agricultural Transformation Agency. "If you get health and agricultural development right, the gains are exceptional, and they reverberate through the rest of your economy for decades to come," he added.
He also praised other nations, such as Liberia, Malawi, and Tanzania, for the great progress made in cutting child mortality rates, but acknowledged that there is still a long way to go before Africa reaches its full potential. "There is no path to lasting growth within Africa that is not widespread growth. It's not possible. If Africa seeks prosperity, it must provide for the health and nutrition of all – including the poorest."
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works with partners in Africa to make smart investments so that together we can achieve real and lasting impact for those with the greatest challenges. The foundation's investments range from cutting edge research in health and agriculture in the world's most high-tech laboratories, to innovative approaches to delivering basic public goods and services to families and communities. The foundation's efforts cover nearly all of its key program areas such as agriculture, family planning, financial services for the poor, HIV, malaria, polio, and vaccines delivery.