Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has pledged $5 billion toward improving health in Africa over the next five years.


Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates delivers the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Pretoria, South Africa, Sunday, July 17, 2016. Gates said that his foundation will invest another $5 billion in Africa over the next five years. (AP Photo)

Gates made the announcement on July 17 while delivering the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. The speech came ahead of the nation’s annual Mandela Day, when South Africans give 67 minutes of their time to helping others. In the following days, Gates also attended a conference on HIV and AIDS in South Africa.

“Bill coming for the Mandela lecture and the AIDS conference is an indication of how important both South Africa and Africa is to the foundation,” Ayo Ajayi, Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Africa Team, told the AFRO. “The Mandela lecture Bill’s thinking about the role Africa can and is already playing in its own development. We hope the lecture will stimulate more debate about philanthropy in Africa and Bill’s approach to development.”

Since its inception in 2000, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has already donated more than $9 billion to African causes, primarily those focused on health.

The additional funds will build on the foundation’s previous work in Africa, including new vaccines for pneumonia, diarrhea and Malaria, three leading causes of death among African children under the age of 9, according to UNICEF. Continued HIV and AIDS awareness and assistance will also be supported, as well as expanded and improved healthcare systems in African countries.

“Countries that invest in strong, community-based primary healthcare systems—including Malawi, Ethiopia, and Rwanda—are making great progress reducing child mortality,” Gates said in his speech.

Gates also targeted better family planning efforts, and said he would increase funding to the Ouagadougou Partnership in West Africa, founded in 2011 to help 2.2 million women gain access to contraceptives by the year 2020, as well as stimulate more advanced agriculture and better nutrition.

“Nutrition is another critical area of focus for Africa,” Gates said in the speech. “Nearly one-third of the continent’s children suffer from malnutrition that stunts their growth and robs them of their physical and cognitive potential. Millions more suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. These are impacts that last a lifetime and impact whole generations of African youth.”

Gates also spoke about how Mandela repeatedly talked about the power of youth.

“I agree with Mandela about young people, and that is one reason I am optimistic about the future of this continent,” Gates said. “Demographically, Africa is the world’s youngest continent and its youth can be the source of a special dynamism.