Why the Gates’ “Big Bet” on Africa Will Pay Off for Everyone

January 28, 2015 By David Stein

In their just-released annual letter, Bill and Melinda Gates made a bet: in 15 years, Africa will be able to feed itself.

The outcome of this bet is not only important for people living in developing countries in Africa, but for us here at home.

In today’s increasingly interconnected world – where 95 percent of consumers live outside the United States – we cannot afford to forego investing toward this goal.

American businesses have already realized this.

Take DuPont, for example.

In 2013, DuPont partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Ethiopian government to boost production of the country’s most important crop – maize. Together, they opened a state-of-the-art seed processing plant, and maize storage facility, to help smallholder farmers increase their maize production and reduce post-harvest losses due to mold and vermin.

DuPont is investing over $2 million to provide 35,000 Ethiopian farmers access to drought resistant seeds – increasing their yields by as much as 50 percent – and post-harvest grain storage to reduce losses by as much as 20 percent.

What’s in it for DuPont?

Just ask the director for agriculture development at DuPont-Pioneer, DuPont’s agricultural subsidiary, Lystra Antoine. “As we increase the economic viability of communities, then what we end up having are long-term customers who can afford to purchase seeds and other inputs and reap the benefits of doing that…So as we see this, it’s a win for us,” said Antoine.

When the lives of those living in developing countries improve, our lives improve.

The next 15 years will not only require the efforts of philanthropists like Bill and Melinda Gates, but also businesses, non-profits, governments, and citizens to forge partnerships and generate innovative solutions. Some of these innovations are already working, while others are still waiting to be realized. And with strong funding for the International Affairs Budget, we “bet” they will be.