Education is key to beating South Africa’s high inequality says multi-billionaire and founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, as he pledged to invest $5 billion into Africa in the next five years.
Speaking at the Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in Pretoria on Sunday, Gates acknowledged French economist Thomas Piketty’s findings on the country having the highest inequality rate in the world.
“In general, African countries tend to have higher rates of inequality than countries on other continents… Until progress belongs to all people, everywhere, the real promise of living together will remain elusive,” says Gates.
Gates acknowledged Africa as being the youngest continent in the world, which makes him optimistic about its future.
He pointed out that in the next 35 years, 2 billion babies will be born in Africa. He also added that by 2050, 40 per cent of the world’s children will live in Africa.
“When you have more people of working age, and fewer dependents for them to take care of, you can generate phenomenal economic growth. Rapid economic growth in East Asia in the 1970s and 1980s was partly driven by the large number of young people moving into their work force,” says Gates.
A sore point for both Gates and his wife, Melinda, in Africa is health. Over the last 15 years, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested more than $9 billion in Africa with the bulk of the money going into discovering and developing vaccines and drugs for treating diseases related to poverty.
The couple has also invested in global partnerships that work closely with countries across the continent on health solutions.
“It was clear to us that investing in health was at the top of the list. When people aren’t healthy, they can’t turn their attention to other priorities. But when health improves, life improves by every measure,” says Gates.
“If there is one thing I’m sure of, it is this: Africa can achieve the future it aspires to.”