Bill and Melinda Gates provided their 2019 annual report and describe how they can make the world better over the next few decades.
Africa Can Be Fixed and Provide Growth for the World
Sub-Saharan Africa has the opportunity to invest in its young people. This will enable Africa to double its share of the global labor force by 2050, unlocking a better life for hundreds of millions of people. Health and education are the twin engines of economic growth.
Premature Births Can Be Prevented With DNA Tests
Fifteen million babies are born premature every year, making it the leading cause of death in children under age five.
By looking at more than 40,000 samples voluntarily submitted by 23andMe users, scientists discovered a potential link between preterm labor and six genes—including one that regulates how the body uses a mineral called selenium.
Preterm birth affects mothers in every part of the world—although some groups experience it at a higher rate and premature babies in low-income countries are much more likely to die than ones in richer countries.
Researchers won’t know until later this year how exactly the mineral affects preterm birth risk. But if the link proves substantial, selenium could one day be a cheap and easy solution to help women extend their pregnancy to full term.
World Will Have Twice as Many Buildings by 2060
Urban population will continue to grow in the coming decades and the world’s building stock is expected to double by 2060. This is like adding another New York City monthly between now and then. That’s a lot of cement and steel. We need to find a way to make it all without worsening climate change.
The Gates believe need breakthrough inventions in each area of the economy. They think we need to get to near-zero emissions on all the things that drive it—agriculture, electricity, manufacturing, transportation, and buildings. Bill calls these five areas the grand challenges in climate change.
Next Generation Toilets
Nearly eight years ago, Gates challenged engineers and scientists around the world to reinvent the toilet. More than 2 billion people around the world lack access to a decent toilet. Their waste often ends up in the environment, untreated, killing nearly 800 children every day. And exporting rich-world sanitation solutions isn’t an option, because they require sewer systems that are too expensive to build and need a lot of water.
Several next-generation companies are business-ready. Their inventions check almost all the boxes: They kill pathogens, can keep pace with the needs of fast-growing urban areas, and don’t require sewer infrastructure, external water sources, or continuous electricity to operate. The only area where they currently fall short is cost—which is why our foundation is investing in more R&D to help make them affordable for the poor.