Melinda Gates has launched a high-level international commission to spark new thinking on how developing countries can best harness new technologies to reduce poverty. The wife of Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates spoke at the launch of the commission in Nairobi on Thursday.
The 11-member commission aims to promote use of technology to fight poverty across Africa and provide opportunities for the poor. Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the newly launched commission would create opportunities for everyone.
“Let us unleash the opportunity here of all the amazing entrepreneurs, because they are the ones. The markets then will scale these great ideas and so we want to make sure that part of this world we are thinking about everybody, not just the people in the capital cities,” she said. The commission will be co-chaired by Mrs. Gates, former Indonesian finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Zimbabwean philanthropist Strive Masiywa.
The team with the help of researchers will deliberate new ideas like robotics, 3D printing, nanotechnology and blockchain to reduce poverty. They will also push for policy recommendations to help government navigate the ever changing technology. According to the United Nations, half of the world poorest people live in Africa, and by 2030 about 400 million people in Africa will be poor.
The United Nations estimates 10 million people in Africa every year enter the job market. Experts note the continent needs more economic growth and employment to bring poverty down.
Strive Masiyiwa, who is founder of Econet Group, a telecommunications company, says Africa will have to create a better environment to benefit from the opportunities presented by technology. “If we create the right incentives, we can begin to create African venture capitalists who support entrepreneurs on the ground, but they will require incentives, the entrepreneurs themselves need support we need to open our markets constantly deregulate. Deregulation must be a continuous process,” says Masiyiwa.
The everyday use of technology has spread in Africa, marked by an increase in mobile money marking and greater use of the internet. But some experts question whether this progress has enhanced economic growth and improved people’s lives.