The billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has delivered a stark warning on population growth in Africa, saying if left unchecked it could unravel decades of progress and fuel instability across the globe.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Mr Gates, who is the second richest man on earth with an estimated wealth of $90bn, described the projected birth rates in the poorest parts of the continent as “mind-blowing” and pressed the need for action.
Praising the prime minister, Theresa May, for her recent pledge to increase British trade and investment in Africa he said the continent was at a turning point.
Either it would reap a population dividend by creating jobs and wealth for its booming population as China and India have done, or insecurity, instability and mass migration could result.
Gates also outlined his three principal global health security concerns: antibiotic resistance, cuts to government funding to improve health in the world’s poorest countries, and the unknown pathogen likely to start the next big pandemic, referred to by the World Health Organization as ‘Disease X’.
“We are not fully prepared for the next global pandemic,” he warned.
Mr Gates spoke to the Telegraph ahead of today’s publication of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual Goalkeepers Data Report, which tracks the greatest challenges faced across the world in terms of poverty and health.
In the report Mr Gates warns birth rates are faltering in the developed world while in the poorest parts of Africa they are booming.
By 2050 the 10 poorest countries on the continent are projected to contain 65 per cent of the world’s population deemed living in extreme poverty.
“To put it bluntly decades of progress in the fight against poverty and disease may be on the verge of stalling,” he said.
Mr Gates said he believed the boom in Africa’s population had to be met with investment in young people. “Specifically, it means investing in their health and education, or what economists call’ human capital'”, he said.
The report may court controversy by calling for better access to birth control in Africa – an issue it describes as the “elephant in the room”.
Mr Gates ruled out imposing top-down birth control targets, noting the harms they had caused in India and China. But he said improving access to birth control and educating and empowering Africa’s women were vital to improving their prospects and the prospects of Africa’s economies.
During the interview the 62-year-old founder of Microsoft also admitted “tech is out of its honeymoon period”. And in the wake of the Facebook data misuse scandal he called upon governments to develop a better understanding of how to regulate tech giants.
“Yes, these companies are trying to be benign and the individuals involved are not malign, but at the end of the day it is up to governments to understand what things should be regulated,” he said.
Mr Gates defended the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose company has been hit by a number of scandals over the spread of disinformation, disruption of elections and misuse of private data.
“Even he [Zuckerberg] didn’t predict everything that would go on in terms of it being used a platform for political influence,” he said.
Mr Gates, who has helped mentor the Facebook founder, insisted regulating the internet was down to politicians rather than the tech companies themselves.
“Governments have to really get educated on these things,” he said. “Just like families decide what are the rules for your kids.”
Source – The Telegraph