Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has pledged a new investment of 5 Billion Dollars over the course of the next 5 years in supporting the cause for Africa’s development. Gates announced that this would be in addition to the 9 Billion Dollars already invested in Africa by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with a major eye on healthcare systems and youth development.
Gates made the announcement during his speech on the eve of Mandela Day, an importantday in the calendar of Africans that celebratesthe global icon’s birth anniversary, at the2016 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at the University of Pretoria. The lecture is organised by the Nelson Mandela Foundation as one of its flagship programs to honour Mandelaand to raise topical issues affecting South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world, encouraging both local and international exchange and contributions by people who have made significant contributions to the betterment of the world through their field of expertise.
Gates’s speech on the 14th edition of the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture was centred around the theme of ‘Living Together’, one which Gates thought of as extremely appropriate since that is what Mandela had tried to achieve in his lifetime and continues to inspire peopleto do even afterwards. Gates met Mandela in 1994 and the meeting had inspired him to form the philanthropic organisation that his wife and he now spearhead. But it was not until the Microsoft founder’s visit to the sprawling Black township of Soweto near Johannesburg that he came to realise the actual conditions of the people living without food, health care, or electricity.
One of the highlights of Gates’s speech was the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa, which has come a long way since the last time South Africa hosted the global conference 16 years ago whenonly a few Africans could afford to be on medication and even those few were victims of the social stigma surrounding the infection.South Africa now says half of its infected population of 6.8 million people is being treated.
Gates points out Mandela’s public announcement of AIDS being the cause of his son’s death in 2005 was a remarkable act of courage, forhe knew that “stopping the disease required breaking down the walls of fear and shame that surrounded it”.
Another focus of Gates’s speech was the development of youth force. He said Africa is the world’s youngest continent in terms of demographics. “By 2050, 40% of the world’s children will live on this continent,” he added.“Our duty is to invest in young people, to put in place the basic building blocks so that they can build the future. And our duty is to do it nowbecause the innovations of tomorrow depend on the opportunities available to children today,” he said.