Microsoft founder Bill Gates today pledged to invest $5 billion over the next five years for Africa’s development as he called on leaders in the continent to do everything in their power to realise global peace icon Nelson Mandela’s dream of a bright future for the youth. The billionaire philanthropist’s pledge of $5 billion is in addition to the $9 billion that he has already invested in Africa.
He has explained how Mandela and a visit to Soweto inspired him to form the foundation he and his wife Melinda now head.
“The theme of this year’s Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture is ‘living together’. This is fitting, because in many ways, ‘living together’ was also the theme of Nelson Mandela’s life,” Gates said as he recalled how he first met Mandela in 1994, when the leader was spearheading South Africa’s first democratic elections after being released form 27 years in prison as a political prisoner.
“He (Mandela) called to ask me to help fund South Africa’s election. I was running Microsoft and thinking about software most of my waking hours. But I admired Nelson Mandela very much, I knew the election was historic, and I did what I could to help,” Gates said.
“What we talked about most was the stigma around AIDS. So I remember in 2005 very clearly, when his son died of AIDS. Rather than stay silent about the cause of his son’s death, Nelson Mandela announced it publicly, because he knew that stopping the disease required breaking down the walls of fear and shame that surrounded it,” he said.
“I agree with Mandela about young people, and that is one reason I am optimistic about the future of this continent. Demographically, Africa is the world’s youngest continent and its youth can be the source of a special dynamism,” Gates said, “Our duty is to invest in young people, to put in place the basic building blocks so that they can build the future. And our duty is to do it now, because the innovations of tomorrow depend on the opportunities available to children today.”