Bill Gates, the co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, on Wednesday, said science and innovation can accelerate positive change and contribute to a brighter future for Africa at a forum with students and young innovators from Nigeria and across Africa.
The conversation took place during ‘Advancing Africa: Unleashing the Power of Youth in Science and Innovation.’ The hybrid in-person and online event was co-hosted by the Lagos Business School and Co-Creation Hub (CcHub), in partnership with Africa.com and Channels Television.
Gates, who was visiting Nigeria for the first time since 2018, praised Nigeria’s youth and many Nigerian partners whom the Gates Foundation has worked with for more than a decade.
These include scientists scaling up new interventions that save mothers and babies, researchers helping smallholder farmers thrive in the face of climate change and grow more nutritious foods, and companies expanding access to digital financial tools.
“When it comes to making the world a better place talented young people are the world’s most important asset,” Gates said. “Nigeria has one of the biggest youth populations in the world, and it’s growing fast. That represents a lot of potential skills and passion to solve big problems.”
Gates also stressed that progress had not been equally distributed, highlighting poor digital access for many Nigerians and inconsistent availability of health services, education, and employment – especially for women.
In Nigeria, the gender gap in employment has increased by 25 percent in the last five years. Men are twice as likely as women to have mobile money accounts.
“I’m a huge believer in the power of science and innovation to help people lead long, healthy lives,” Gates said. “But one of the big lessons I’ve learned is that the benefits don’t automatically reach everyone. To do that, the people creating new breakthroughs, the people funding them, and the people getting them into the world all need to prioritize equity.”
Gates emphasised ways he sees Nigeria’s youth collaborating across sectors and encouraging the country’s leaders to follow through on commitments to make life in Nigeria better for everyone.