PRETORIA, South Africa, July 18 (UPI) — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates announced his foundation will invest $5 billion in Africa over the next five years.
Gates, during a speech Sunday at the University of Pretoria one day before former President Nelson Mandela‘s birth anniversary, announced the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will provide additional funding for Africa. The foundation has already invested $9 billion in the continent the past 15 years.
“We’ve put a lot of this money into discovering and developing new and better vaccines and drugs to help prevent and treat the diseases of poverty,” he said. “We’ve also invested in global partnerships that work closely with countries across the continent to get these solutions to the people who need them most. We’ve been fortunate to work with amazing partners and, together, we have seen some incredible progress.”
The foundation has helped improve healthcare in Africa, including reducing AIDS/HIV, malaria, polio, pneumonia, diarrhea and malnourishment, he said.
“The entire continent of Africa has been polio-free for two years, which puts us within reach of wiping polio from the face of the earth . . . forever,” he said in his speech. “The newest vaccines that protect children from two of the most devastating diseases – pneumonia and severe diarrhea – are reaching children across Africa at the same time they’re available for children in wealthier countries.
“Countries that invest in strong, community-based primary healthcare systems – like Malawi, Ethiopia, and Rwanda – are making great progress reducing child mortality.
Sub-Saharan Africa has also been dealing with an HIV/AIDS epidemic. An estimated 25.8 million people with HIV live in countries in the region, accounting for nearly 70 percent of the global total, according to Avert.org.
“In a few days, I’ll be speaking at the International AIDS conference in Durban,” he said. “When the global AIDS community last met there in 2000, only a few thousand Africans were receiving antiretroviral drugs. Today, more than 12 million Africans are on treatment – more than a quarter of them living here in South Africa.”
He also noted, “malaria infections and deaths are down significantly thanks to better treatment and prevention tools.”
Gates says healthcare can improve Africa’s situation economically and in education.
“If young people are sick and malnourished, their bodies and their brains will never fully develop,” he said. “If they are not educated well, their minds will lie dormant. If they do not have access to economic opportunities, they will not be able to achieve their goals. But if we invest in the right things – if we make sure the basic needs of Africa’s young people are taken care of – then they will have the physical, cognitive and emotional resources they need to change the future.”
Gates remains the world’s richest man with a net worth of $75 billion, according to Forbes in March.