Bill Gates: “Africa Has to Demand Our Attention”

December 20, 2018 By Joan Steiger

Just ahead of the Administration’s announcement of a new Africa strategy last week, Bill Gates joined in a conversation with Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. to share his insights on a host of growing global challenges and the vital need for continued U.S. leadership around the world— particularly in Africa.

With pandemics, violent extremism and climate change posing threats to many countries in Africa, economic growth, financial stability, and national security are all at risk. In fact, a recent Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation report estimates that by 2050, 86% of the extremely poor people in the world will live in Africa with 40% concentrated in just two countries: Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And to Bill Gates, that is a major problem.

“Africa has to demand our attention,” said Gates. “That’s where extreme poverty is still top. That’s where stability is difficult to achieve. We’ve got to go after things like these neglected diseases, malaria. We’ve got to help them with infrastructure. In terms of our humanity of helping the poorest, Africa is where we will be most tested.”

Gates encouraged Congress to maintain funding for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) despite the Administration’s proposal to cut funding for our nation’s diplomats, development workers and overseas programs by more than 30%.

“In the U.S. engagement in Africa and around the world, there are many reasons why we should maintain [our foreign assistance]—just a pure security point of view alone would justify this level of expenditure,” said Gates. He advised that when “the U.S. is only thinking about its interests in a very narrow way” we are “not being the leader that says we are going to help these countries so that they can take care of themselves.”

Through the work of his foundation, Gates will continue to focus on the African continent, specifically through investments in health and education, which he calls “the blueprints for investing successfully” in Africa’s future. He expects these investments to boost economies across sub-Saharan Africa by almost 90% by 2050.

One goal of the Administration’s new Africa strategy: to help countries become more self-reliant, taking “control of their own economic destinies and their own security needs,” as stated by National Security Advisor John Bolton. And underpinning the strategy is the belief that the “lasting stability, prosperity, independence and security on the African continent” are directly tied to U.S. interests.

The U.S. is in a unique position to step up and help African countries face the challenges at hand, by maintaining a fully funded International Affairs Budget but by also channeling more resources to foreign assistance programs—a move that’s in the interest of the U.S. and African countries alike. In the eyes of Bill Gates, supporting these countries, forging strong alliances, and investing in their futures are “overwhelmingly smart things to do.”

Watch the full conversation with Bill Gates here: