There is optimism for a sustainable future, where poverty is eradicated, disease eliminated and everyone has access to nutritious food and the opportunities presented by education. This message of hope was delivered by Bill Gates and Melinda Gates, Co-Chairs, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USA. They were speaking at the 45th World Economic Forum Meeting in Davos-Klosters.
Hans Rosling, Professor of International Health, Karolinska Institute, Sweden, confirmed that the main reason for optimism is the evidence of the past. “We have made tremendous progress in this world,” he said. Rosling pointed out that it is possible to make the world a better place. “The long-term trends are going in the right direction. The conflicts and the epidemics we can solve.”
Bill and Melinda Gates believe that the lives of people in poor countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. Important breakthroughs will be driven by innovation and technology, ranging from new vaccines with universal coverage, better agricultural yields due to better seeds, better nutrition, cheaper smartphones and new ways to deliver these benefits to more people.
“At any increase in the level of GDP, life is better,” Bill Gates said. “We get economic growth, but the fundamental basics have improved as well. The wonderful thing about the fundamentals improving is that it will continue for the next 15 years.”
Poverty has been halved because of innovation, he said. “Countries are following others that have done it right. Economic miracles start with agriculture, education and then they can participate in the world economy.” He pointed to China, which is now a middle-income country, as an example.
Bill Gates predicted that “in the next 15 years, we will have the tools to reduce [the incidence] of malaria and AIDS by 95% to 100%”. Melinda Gates said that vaccines are “a miracle cure”. Today, eight out of 10 children are getting vaccines. “Biotechnology and innovation are absolutely saving lives,” she said.
The Gates believe that with innovation in agriculture, within 15 years Africa will be able to feed itself, with access to the latest seeds adapted to African regions. Melinda Gates noted that with training in how to plant, crop rotation, and no till farming, Africans will be able to feed their families and trade intra-country.
Cheap smartphones are a game-changer. “In the next 15 years mobile phone coverage will go up, the price will come down, gender equity will improve and online software will be flourishing,” Bill Gates predicted. This will revolutionize everything: agriculture, access to digital payments, low transaction costs, women’s empowerment and education.
“If you want to pick one thing in an economy, education is a master switch of economic improvement,” Bill Gates concluded.