Bill Gates, Aliko Dangote, and Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim among other African billionaires revealed that the future growth of Africa is closely linked with how well the continent can embrace family planning. Speaking at the Africa Center in New York during the week, the three billionaires agreed that a significant portion of Africa’s problems could be better managed if Africans applied birth control measures.
Mo Ibrahim raised the idea of family planning helping Africa at a fireside discussion called The Future Africa Forum. His notion is planted in the fact that job and food scarcity get out of hand when populations explode, and this is a fearful prospect considering the UN’s prediction that Africa’s population will reach 2.4 billion people by 2050. Gates added that 50% of all infants born around the world would be born in Africa before the century closes.
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A UK billionaire born in Sudan, Ibrahim wondered why Africans shirk from discussing family planning in the face of growing populations and rising unemployment. Gates noted that people often misunderstand discussions surrounding birth control, saying research shows that academic and population growths for any country are closely linked with population decline.
“If you mess up health and education, you get more people. But if you get it right, eventually your population goes down,” Gates stated. “Africa today has the biggest gap in what people want in family planning, and what’s available to them. Melinda [Gates] is trying to close that gap, because then everything gets easier—education, food, stability, jobs.”
Ibrahim expanded on Gates’ views by noting that extremism and social violence only happen when the rate of population growth dwarfs available jobs. According to him, “If you have two kids, you can educate them. But if you have seven to eight kids and no jobs, you have Boko Haram.”
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Since rural Africans are largely agrarian, they want more children to help out on the farm. But trained doctors are few in rural areas, resulting in high rates of infant mortality where couples give birth to five or eight children.
Apart from the discussion on family planning, the billionaires also considered how manufacturing finished products and investment in agriculture could create jobs. They also examined how zero tolerance for corruption by the younger generation could lift Africa out of economic rot.
Dangote through his foundation donated $20 million to complete the Africa Center in Harlem, New York; and Gates through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave $5 million, and Ibrahim through his family foundation donated $7 million to the center.
Dangote is the richest man in Africa, and Gates is the second richest person in the world.