Negli ultimi cinque anni, Bill e Melinda Gates hanno consegnato più fondi e idee all'Africa della maggior parte dei paesi europei. Hanno scoperto presto che il problema della filantropia in Africa era la ricerca di partner affidabili "sul campo" con cui collaborare perché non fosse un semplice elargire di fondi da Seattle. I Gates hanno visto da subito grandi potenziali nelle nuove tecnologie misurabili ma in questo post inserito nella rubrica ‘Baobab’ del The Economist, Gates sostiene che l'attenzione della Fondazione dovrebbe concentrarsi piuttosto su salute e agricoltura. In particolare la medicina, è il vero motore dello sviluppo: Gates riferisce in questo post che dal 1980 i vaccini hanno ridotto i casi di poliomelite in Africa del 99%, di difterite e morbillo del 93%. Nonostante ciò, Bill Gates sostiene che “i saggi investimenti dei governi” sulla salute e l'agricoltura sono stati in gran parte stati progettati e finanziati dai donatori.
Pur riconoscendogli tutto il merito della sua generosità senza pari di portafoglio e di spirito, la rubrica africana del The Economist ‘Baobab’ potrebbero sostenere che, dato il tempo limitato (circa 10 anni) che l'Africa può sfruttare grazie al dividendo demografico attualmente in corso i filantropi dovrebbero saper cogliere questo momento storico propizio del continente per creare con idee più fantasiose e un nuovo modo di pensare, opportunità di lavoro, di urbanizzazione e di sviluppo di nuovi media. Qui sotto il testo originale firmato da Bill Gates.
In 1993, Melinda and I took our first trip to Africa. I was working with Microsoft at the time, and I was convinced that the power of technology could change the world. But during our visit, I saw that many of the world’s life-saving, life-enhancing discoveries were not available in Africa. That was deeply upsetting to me. It didn’t fit my belief that innovation is for everyone. I became convinced that if science and technology were better applied to the challenges of Africa, the tremendous potential of the continent would be unleashed, and people could be healthier and fulfill their promise.
Since our first visit, many African countries have made striking advances, driven by wise government investments in health and education and agriculture. Incomes have risen. Poverty has fallen. Trade and investment have doubled. Childhood deaths are down. Africa is on the rise. When a country has the skill and self-confidence to take action against its biggest problems, it makes outsiders eager to be a part of it. That is why Melinda and I are so optimistic about our work on the continent. We see the promise.
The principal focus of our foundation is on health. We believe that if children are healthy, they can learn, become educated, start businesses, improve their farms, and help their families prosper. In the area of vaccines—the biggest financial commitment of our foundation—there have been some striking successes. From 1980 to 2008, vaccines drove diphtheria cases down 93 percent, tetanus cases down 85 percent, and measles cases down 93 percent.
But if we don’t keep moving forward, we quickly fall behind. In the last few years, we didn’t do so well vaccinating for measles, and that led to outbreaks in 28 countries. This doesn’t have to happen. Last year, Melinda went to Malawi and was inspired to see that frontline, well-trained health care workers helped the country reach at least 85 percent of all infants with standard vaccines. All countries should try to match that.
An immediate test is polio. Polio cases have dropped 99 percent. We are on the threshold of eradicating the disease. But the last few years have given us a humbling lesson in how difficult it is to eradicate a disease. The answer is a strong, society-wide partnership of people and their leaders to strengthen vaccine coverage. We can end polio. We are so close.
We have been especially impressed with Africa’s progress on malaria. Ten countries have dropped cases and deaths by 50 percent. The effort has been a model of government-citizen action. I hope we can see this same kind of partnership in other crucial challenges, such as AIDS, vaccines, and agriculture.
In AIDS, treatment has expanded to 5 million people. That’s an impressive accomplishment. But there are 33 million people living with HIV. Treating every one of them would cost four times the money currently provided. The maths is harsh, but inescapable: we cannot defeat AIDS unless we dramatically cut the number of new cases through prevention.
To do that, we have to make new preventive tools widely available as soon as possible, especially male circumcision, microbicide gels, and an anti-HIV drug that blocks infection. The people of Africa and their leaders should demand these preventive tools now.
Finally, I believe that agriculture—our foundation’s second-biggest commitment after health—offers one of the greatest opportunities in Africa. If African farmers can use improved seeds and better practices to grow more crops and get them to market, then millions of families can earn themselves a better living and a better life.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, led by a former United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, is working to develop and distribute new seeds that have higher yields and stronger resistance to pests, drought, and disease. If citizens and their governments ensure that African farmers can use these new seeds and have all the advantages of recent advances, the farmland of Africa can become the answer to hunger and poverty—and a trigger for wide economic growth.