Health is key to economic gains--Bill & Melinda Gates.

Author:Voorhies, Rodger
Position:Development - Interview

As one of the largest development organisations in the world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been making substantial investments across Africa for many years. New African spoke with Rodger Voorhies (pictured right), Executive Director of Global Growth & Opportunity, to get a sense of the Foundation's focus and to take stock of its impact thus far.

Since moving into your new role as Executive Director of Global Growth & Opportunity, what would you identify as the three biggest bottlenecks to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that emerging economies are facing?

One of the first bottlenecks is the right kinds of available data to understand if we are actually ticking a box or making progress; if we really are having impact on the ground. The indicators that have come out in many areas are strong; but, for example, one indicator that doesn't seem to exist is gender-disaggregated data. When we made a commitment, in 2016, of $80m to gender data, it was really because gender data wasn't available at a country level or even within some of the large global surveys.

So we've invested in the UN but also more broadly within other organisations to bring gender-disaggregated data to the surface.

The second factor is that it's hard to move from aspiration to achievement at a country level. If we want to solve agricultural productivity, close the financial inclusion gap or provide primary healthcare, the technical capacity has to be in place to consistently deliver for those outcomes.

So translating the SDGs into what I call the development stack: the right policy, the right infrastructure and technology, is key. Saying that, there are some countries where we are seeing tremendous progress in agriculture and nutrition. In Ethiopia you've seen the number of extreme poor in rural areas drop by half.

In Rwanda, agricultural transformation has lowered the number in extreme poverty by one million people. So there are many examples of hope but the question is how we make that universal continent-wide. And so I think that's the third area: how do we actually focus continent-wide on progress.

In terms of agriculture, we partner with the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to understand where countries are in their commitments to the SDGs and the Malabo Declaration.

The same is true for our global financial inclusion work. The Global Findex came out in the spring meeting and the progress on financial inclusion has been excellent...

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