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Bill Gates predicts bright future for Africa and gives five reasons he thinks so

Microsoft founder Bill Gates says he has more than one reason to be optimistic about Africa. Overall, Gates thinks life is getting better for more people on our planet.

In his first blog of the new year, Bill Gates shared what he thinks is evidence that life is better even in Africa, “a place where many people wouldn’t expect to find it”.

“It’s one of my favorite places to go for a fresh perspective on how the world is improving,” Gates says.

Per capita income, foreign investment, agricultural productivity, mobile banking, entrepreneurship, immunization rates, and school enrollment are all heading upwards in Africa, while poverty, armed conflicts, HIV, malaria, and child mortality are all on the decline Bill Gates notes.

He shared five things that make him more optimistic than ever about Africa.

Not your everyday experience

First on the list is one of Bill and Melinda’s favorite Instagram profiles, Everyday Africa.

“It shows what the vast, culturally diverse continent of Africa is like beyond the lazy stereotypes. “Everyday” and “normal” are usually something we associate with “boring.” Not here!” Bill Gates says.

The pictures show life in Africa by capturing different moments, people, and places. From colorful markets to traditions or events, the photographers snap shots of everyday life in Africa.

Cassava-hybrids to improve lives of millions

Cassava is the third largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics, after rice and maize and a major staple food in the developing world, providing a basic diet for over half a billion people. And now, according to Bill Gates, scientists are using the most advanced hybridization techniques for the benefit of cassava farmers and those who depend on the crop.

“With the support of UK Department for International Development and our foundation, scientists are making great progress developing hybrids that are resistant to the major virus that cuts down on cassava yields (cassava mosaic virus). At the same time, these scientists are breeding strains that have more nutrients than the strains under cultivation today,” Bill Gates noted.

The old make the new better

The old saying “success has many fathers” is a bit different in Africa, where it turns out it has many grandmothers. Grandmothers are powerful authority figures across many different African cultures when it comes to a wide variety of health, pregnancy, and child-rearing issues.

Bill Gates says NGOs are now enlisting grandmothers as key agents of change for women and girls, especially in rural areas where there are not nearly enough midwives and other health professionals.

Grandmothers are involved in helping to guide pregnant women to health facilities and educating them about proper prenatal care and they’re also helping to change attitudes about female genital mutilation (FGM) and increase newborn vaccination rates.

Solar kits help families leapfrog the grid

People who live in rural areas in sub-Saharan Africa can now have access to electricity with the help of affordable solar kits sold by small entrepreneurs, backed by the U.S. government and private companies.

Using clean, reliable energy, the solar kits are lighting homes for the first time, allowing children to continue learning after dark. They are powering mobile phones and radios, connecting households to the wider world.

According to Bill Gates, this allows small businesses to operate longer, producing more family income. They also improve health, because they’re much safer than kerosene and other traditional fuels.

Entertainment shows progress in Africa

Technology and social politics are important but entertainment also has a significant role in people’s lives. And one TV show in Africa fascinated Bill Gates.

“The show is called Rhythm City, and it’s the most popular soap opera in South Africa. The show, which has characters speaking in the four main languages of South Africa (Xhosa, Zulu, English, and Afrikaans), revolves around people trying to break into the music industry. Some of the storylines are a bit out there (it is a soap opera, after all), but when you see the show it really brings home how far South Africa has come since the end of apartheid,” Gates thinks.

He says the show lets the viewer take a step into the lives of everyday South Africans who are dealing with the relationship and business issues seen everywhere in the world.

Bill Gates took his first trip to Africa with Melinda in 1993. Gates says he regrets people not seeing what hid did during his travels in Africa so, on his latest trip, in July 2016, he recorded the visit in virtual reality.

John Beckett