Gates Foundation Report Says Demographic Trends Threaten Global Progress, Calls for Increased Focus on Health and Education in Poorest Countries
Bill and Melinda Gates say investing in young people could unlock productivity and innovation
SEATTLE, Sept. 18, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today launched its second annual Goalkeepers Data Report, pointing to demographic trends that could stall unprecedented progress in reducing global poverty. While 1 billion people have lifted themselves out of poverty over the past 20 years, rapid population growth in the poorest countries, particularly in Africa, puts future progress at risk. If current trends continue, the number of extremely poor people in the world could stop its two-decade decline—and could even rise.
Despite the sobering projections, Bill and Melinda Gates express optimism that today’s growing youth populations could help drive progress. Investing in the health and education of young people in Africa could unlock productivity and innovation, leading to a “third wave” of poverty reduction, which follows the first wave in China and the second in India.
“The conclusion is clear: To continue improving the human condition, our task now is to help create opportunities in Africa’s fastest-growing, poorest countries,” Bill and Melinda Gates write in the introduction. “This means investing in young people. Specifically, it means investing in their health and education.”
Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data 2018 was co-authored and edited by Bill and Melinda Gates and produced in partnership with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Using new data projections, the report reveals that poverty within Africa is concentrating in just a handful of countries, which are among the fastest-growing in the world. By 2050, more than 40 percent of the extremely poor people in the world will live in just two countries: Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.
In the past, large youth populations have helped drive economic growth and poverty reduction. The report makes the case for leaders to invest in the power and potential of youth to continue progress. Through essays by experts and journalists, the report examines promising approaches in health and education, highlighting ways that young people could help transform the continent. According to the report, investments in health and education, or “human capital,” in sub-Saharan Africa could increase GDP in the region by more than 90 percent by 2050.
Each year, the report tracks 18 data points from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, including child and maternal deaths, stunting, access to contraceptives, HIV, malaria, extreme poverty, financial inclusion, and sanitation. IHME projections provide three potential scenarios for indicators: better and worse scenarios based upon accelerating or reducing the rate of progress, and projections based upon current trends. This year’s report examines four topics in greater depth:
- The Family Planning chapter includes an essay by Alex Ezeh, a visiting fellow with the Center for Global Development. The essay focuses on the importance of empowering women so they can exercise their fundamental right to choose the number of children they will have, when they will have them, and with whom. Ezeh notes that according to data from the United Nations, Africa’s population is projected to double in size by 2050 and could double again by 2100. If every woman in sub-Saharan Africa were empowered to have the number of children she wants, the projected population increase could be up to 30 percent smaller, from 4 billion to 2.8 billion. Most critically, this would enable more girls and women to expand their horizons, stay in school longer, have children later, earn more as adults, and invest more in their children. The chapter also explores how a novel family planning program in Kenya is providing young women with access to contraceptives.
- The HIV chapter includes modeling by Imperial College London for what Zimbabwe’s HIV epidemic might look like in 2050 and, thus, what the nation’s overall future holds. Its large number of young people have the potential to drive economic growth, but only if they remain healthy. More than half of Zimbabweans are under 25 years old and reaching the age when they are most at risk for HIV infection. If Zimbabwe scales up currently available prevention tools over the next five years, it could see new infections among 15- to 29-year-olds drop by a third within a decade. The introduction of new prevention tools by 2030, including a highly efficacious vaccine, could further reduce new cases to approximately 400 per year. Together, these interventions could avert up to 364,000 new cases of HIV among young people.
- The Education chapter includes an essay by Ashish Dhawan, chairman of the Central Square Foundation in India. Although more students in low- and lower-middle-income countries are enrolled in school today than ever before, many are not learning what they need to succeed. Unfortunately, the strategy for improving school outcomes is not as clear-cut as the strategy for improving school access. The chapter examines Vietnam’s success in achieving system-wide improvements. Though the country’s per capita GDP is only slightly higher than India’s, Vietnam’s 15-year-olds outperform students from wealthy countries like the United States and the United Kingdom on international tests.
- The Agriculture chapter includes analysis by James Thurlow, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, estimating that by doubling agricultural productivity, Ghana could cut poverty in half, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and drive economic growth. An essay by a local journalist follows the journey of a tomato from a field in rural Burkina Faso to a plate in Ghana, illustrating how many jobs it creates along the way.
Bill and Melinda Gates will produce the Goalkeepers Data Report every year through 2030, timing it to the annual gathering of world leaders in New York City for the UN General Assembly. The report is designed to highlight best practices and help hold the Gates Foundation, its partners, and leaders around the world accountable. It aims to document not just what is working, but where the world is falling short.
In conjunction with the report, Bill and Melinda Gates are once again co-hosting the Goalkeepers event in New York City during the UN General Assembly. On September 26, dynamic young leaders from government, business, technology, media, entertainment, and the nonprofit sector will discuss innovations and approaches to achieve the Global Goals. Participants include young leaders like David Sengeh, chief innovation officer for the government of Sierra Leone; Trisha Shetty, Indian lawyer, social activist, and founder of SheSays; King Kaka, Kenyan musician and activist; and Aranya Johar, Indian spoken word poet. Other speakers include Graça Machel, international advocate for women and children’s rights and co-founder of the Graça Machel Trust; Richard Curtis, writer, campaigner, and Project Everyone co-founder; and Stephen Fry, actor, writer, and presenter. Performers include British singer songwriter Ed Sheeran and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Additional speakers will be announced soon.
Co-hosted by Bill and Melinda Gates, the Goalkeepers Global Goals Awards will be presented on September 25, the evening before the Goalkeepers daytime event. In partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and UNICEF, the awards will celebrate outstanding youth-focused work around the world that is directly linked to the 17 Global Goals. The four award categories include the Progress Award, Changemaker Award, Campaign Award, and Global Goalkeeper Award.
Notes to Editors
About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Sue Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.
Goalkeepers is the foundation’s campaign to accelerate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals). By sharing stories and data behind the Global Goals through events and an annual report, we hope to inspire a new generation of leaders—Goalkeepers who raise awareness of progress, hold their leaders accountable, and drive action to achieve the Global Goals.
About the Global Goals
On September 25, 2015, at the United Nations headquarters in New York, 193 world leaders committed to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals). These are a series of ambitious objectives and targets to achieve three extraordinary things by 2030: end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change.