Author: Bill Gates
During my recent visit to Nigeria, I was captivated by the vibrant energy and boundless potential exuded by Africa’s rising generation. With Nigeria boasting one of the world’s largest youth populations and 19 of the youngest 20 countries by median age situated in Africa, the continent holds immense promise for solving significant challenges. To unlock this potential, investing in the health and opportunities for Africa’s young people becomes crucial, especially given the various global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, security crises, and climate change’s effects, which have stalled progress in critical sectors like health and agriculture.
Drawing from my conversations with African partners and experts, I have learned three key lessons that underscore the path to prosperity:
- Prioritize Essential Issues: Certain problems must take precedence as a foundation for progress. Health remains paramount, as it underpins all other opportunities. We must ensure that women can safely navigate pregnancy and childbirth, and that healthcare facilities are adequately equipped to provide essential care. Access to nutritious food and the tools to adapt to climate change are also vital for African farmers.
- Focus on Effective Interventions: Effective and impactful solutions need not always be expensive. Nigerian innovators showcased the potential of low-cost interventions, such as intravenous iron infusions for pregnant women to combat anaemia. Additionally, investing in agricultural research and development can yield incredible returns by reducing malnutrition, helping farmers adapt to climate change, and cutting food costs.
- Reach Everyone: Innovations must be accessible to all, bridging the health outcome disparities between urban and rural areas, rich and poor, and men and women. Thoughtful distribution strategies play a critical role in maximizing the impact of these interventions.
I firmly believe that Africa’s young people will not merely benefit from these efforts but will actively lead them. Witnessing Nigeria’s youth passionately embrace innovative science and technology to drive progress across the continent filled me with confidence. With high-impact interventions at the forefront of priorities, we can expect Africa’s youthful population to be the driving force behind transformative change. The persistence of the people in tackling persistent challenges reinforces my optimism for Africa’s bright future.
Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.