After over 20 years of philanthropic support to humanitarian causes across the world, Bill and Melinda Gates have reiterated that African leaders need to invest rightly in developing the human capital of their booming youthful population.
The couple in their 2019 annual newsletter released on Tuesday said Africa has the huge potential to shape the future of its communities and the world at large.
This, they said, would only be achieved if countries especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa invest more in health and education of the young ones.
In the annual letter titled “Bill and Melinda Gates our 2019 annual letter things we didn’t see coming,” they said they had lots of surprises in the course of carrying out their activities in 2018.
They said, “a benefit of surprise is that they‘re often a prod to action”.
In the newsletter, they spoke on issues ranging from new innovations using DNA, caution on climate change and world pollution. They also argued for globalisation as a means of financing health and curbing global epidemics, gender inequality and the need to empower women as means of eradication of poverty and the increasing growth of Africa’s population.
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Speaking on Africa’s booming population, Mr Gates said the world is getting older but Africa stays (nearly) same age.
Explaining what he meant, Mr Gates said in every part of the world, the global median age is on the rise, people are living longer with women having fewer kids and the global population creeping slowly towards middle age expect in Africa.
“The median age in Africa is 18 as compared to North America where it is 35,” he said.
Mr Gates said the number of African youth is expected to rise and the bulk of them will be from sub-Saharan countries.
“There are lots of reasons for this. One is that the annual number of births is going up in the poorest part of sub-Saharan Africa, even as it goes down in other parts of Africa. This can be either an asset or a source of instability.
“Melinda and I believe that the right investment will unlock the continents enormous potential. Young African will shape the future of not only their own communities but the entire world,” he said
Nigeria is one of the countries in the sub-Saharan region expected to contribute to the youth population explosion. Nigeria’s population is currently 193 million and more than half of these are young people.
Mrs Gates said to forestall an impending disaster on the continent and for the world, there is a need for the investment in human capital which is another way of saying that the future depends on young people’s access to quality health and education services.
Mrs Gates said health and education are twin engines of economic growth. He said f the sub-Saharan countries commit to investing in its young people, the region could double its share of global labour force by 2050, thus unlocking a better life for hundreds of million people.
She also advocated for girls education.
“Girl’s education especially is among the most powerful force on the planet. Educated girls are healthier. They are, wealthier. (if all girls receive 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) and their families will benefit too, “ she said.
The couple advocated for more commitments in getting data on health and development of women globally.
They said there is little data on women and girls and that is why there has been an artificial divide on issues regarding women as women issues rarely get in-depth studies.
The couple agreed that the problem is not that some women are missing from record altogether, but also that there are no data that policymakers depend on.
“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 measures progress. It enables advocacy and accountability. That is why the missing data about women and girls lives is so harmful. It gets in the way of helping them make their lives better,” they said.