THE Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, owned by the world’s second richest man and his wife, has listed lack of proper data and poor education and health systems as the major factors stagnating economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa.
This was contained in the Foundation’s 2019 Annual letter, termed ‘gatesnotes’ which was released on February 12, 2019.
The report noted that the increase in the number of births in the poorest parts of sub- Saharan Africa, could, in the long run, be either an asset or a source of instability, depending on whether or not the right investments are explored to unlock the potentials in Africa.
Bill and Melinda Gates said that as the world keeps getting older, with the global median age on the rise, as people in every part of the world are living longer, with more children surviving to adulthood, and women having fewer kids than ever before, Africa still stays the same.
“If sub-Saharan Africa commits to investing in its young people, the region could double its share of the global labour force by 2050, unlocking a better life for hundreds of millions of people.
“If all girls received 12 years of high-quality education, women’s lifetime earnings would increase by as much as $30 trillion, which is bigger than the entire U.S. economy.”
Melinda, one of the world’s most influential women, believes that Africa’s future depends on young people’s access to high-quality health and education services. She described health and education as the twin engines of economic growth.
The couple also believes that within the year, there will be a breakthrough in the area of science to discover a potential link between preterm labour and six genes—including one that regulates how the body uses a mineral called selenium will help reduce prematurity and child mortality among pregnant women, especially black women around the world.
“Understanding what causes prematurity is hugely important. Fifteen million babies are born prematurely every year, making it the leading cause of death in children under age five. Preterm birth affects mothers in every part of the world—although some groups experience it at a higher rate, and premature babies in low-income countries are much more likely to die than ones in richer countries,” the Gates wrote.
The philanthropists also made a case for climate change. “You have probably read about some of the progress on electricity, as renewables get cheaper. But electricity accounts for only a quarter of all the greenhouse gases emitted around the world.
“Manufacturing isn’t far behind, at 21 per cent. As the urban population continues to grow in the coming decades, the world’s building stock is expected to double by 2060—the equivalent of adding another New York City monthly between now and then. That’s a lot of cement and steel. We need to find a way to make it all without worsening climate change.
“Solar panels are great, but we should be hearing about trucks, cement, and cow farts too.”
The Gates also expressed displeasure about limited data available on women and girls related issues, especially in developing countries as it affects accountability and effective planning.
“The problem isn’t only that some women are missing from the record altogether. It’s also that the data we do have—data that policymakers depend on—is bad. You might even call it sexist. We like to think of data as being objective, but the answers we get are often shaped by the questions we ask. When those questions are biased, the data is too.
“Data leads to better decisions and better policies. It helps us create goals and measure progress. It enables advocacy and accountability.
“That’s why when it comes to understanding the lives of women and girls, the world can’t accept ‘I don’t know’ as an answer”.
It is estimated that more than 2 billion people around the world lack access to a decent toilet, their wastes often end up in the environment, untreated, killing nearly 800 children every day. To this, the Gates said the provision of toilet facilities would go a great length in improving lives—especially for women and girls.
“We have met women who have suffered kidney damage from holding in urine all night to avoid a risky trip to dangerous public facilities. We’ve met others whose only place to defecate is in an open field, so they restrict their food intake all day and wait for the cover of darkness to relieve themselves in relative privacy.
“There’s also some qualitative evidence that suggests that girls are more likely to miss school during their periods when their school doesn’t have a decent toilet.”
The philanthropists also said that it is important for women in developing countries to have more access to mobile phones and other higher technology gadgets
“Mobile technology creates new opportunities to fight inequity and lift themselves up,” they wrote.