By Daniel Otunge

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will invest more than $7 billion over the next four years to support African countries and institutions working to develop and implement innovative approaches to confront climate change, poverty, hunger, disease and gender inequality.

Bill Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, made the announcement during a town hall meeting at the University of Nairobi where he addressed the press and held conversations on a range of issues with over 10,000 students and other participants from across Africa and the World in his first trip to Africa since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Gates used the opportunity to reaffirm the foundation’s long-term commitment to Africa and work directly with countries to support breakthrough solutions in health, agriculture, gender equality, and other critical areas.

This new commitment to support African countries is in addition to existing Gates Foundation funding to multilateral organizations, including Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

“These resources have helped strengthen health systems and increase access to health care in African countries, contributing to dramatic reductions in the rate of child deaths from diseases such as diarrheal diseases, pneumonia, malaria and measles,” he said during the physical and virtual townhall meeting at the University.

This commitment comes as the world is grappling with overlapping global crises that are worsening hunger, malnutrition, and poverty for millions. Even before the war in Ukraine disrupted the global food system, African countries were facing severe climate shocks, including droughts, locusts, and flooding. Today, 278 million people across Africa suffer from chronic hunger, with more than 37 million people facing acute hunger in the Horn of Africa alone.

Gates at the town hall meeting in Nairobi University

While in Kenya, Gates also visited primary health care centers, leading medical and agricultural research institutes, such as the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), and smallholder farms in Makueni County “to listen to and learn from Kenyan and regional partners about what programs and approaches are making an impact, what obstacles remain, and how the foundation can better support future progress.”

Speaking to the students at the University of Nairobi—and thousands more across Africa who tuned in virtually—he said, Africa’s young people have the talent and opportunity to accelerate progress and help solve the world’s most pressing problems, such as climate change and malnutrition.

“The big global challenges we face are persistent. But we have to remember, so are the people solving them. Our foundation will continue to support solutions in health, agriculture, and other critical areas—and the systems to get them out of the labs and to the people who need them,” Gates said.

He called on global leaders to step up their commitments to finding solutions and strengthening systems in African countries, despite global challenges such as the war in Ukraine. This includes investing in people and innovations that can save millions of lives and create opportunities for the world’s most vulnerable.

Since the foundation’s inception, it has supported partnerships with African governments and communities, which have driven the success of numerous health, agricultural, equality, and antipoverty initiatives. In the last two years, the foundation has funded partners working to provide immediate action and long-term support to smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

For example, the foundation has over the years invested in successful projects, such as the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) under the auspices of the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) and the Africa Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) to produce innovative seed varieties that are drought tolerant and insect resistant.

The town hall meeting was also attended by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Nairobi, Prof Stephen Kiama. While welcoming Gates to the University, Prof. Kiama thanked the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for supporting various projects at the university, including the Center for Epidemiological Modelling and Analyses.