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Health, agriculture key to Africa's development

24 July 2014, 16:53

Addis Ababa - Health and agriculture development are key if African countries are to overcome poverty and grow, US software billionaire Bill Gates said, as he received an honourary degree in Ethiopia.

"By getting things right in these two areas, the gains can be exceptional," Gates said, calling health and agriculture "enabling factors for all the other things that need to be done."

Gates, the world's richest man and his wife are the co-founders of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which tackles health and poverty in Africa.

"The rise of this continent will definitely benefit from the leaders here in Ethiopia, and across Africa, opening up and learning from each other, as well as from their people," he said in speech at Addis Ababa University.

Gates received his degree from Ethiopia Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who also called agriculture and health "critical elements" for his country's plan to reach "middle income status in the next decade."

Africa is home to seven of the world's fastest growing economies, but Gates said real growth can only be measured through improvements in basic human needs, namely health and nutrition.

"By reducing the rates of malnutrition and premature mortality you can achieve the productivity levels that will lead not only to self-sufficiency, but also to middle income status," Gates said.

He singled out Ethiopia, Liberia and Tanzania for gains in cutting overall mortality rates, and said Zambia was leading the way in curbing malaria, which kills over 600,000 people globally each year.

Gates is the founder and former chief of Microsoft, and is currently the wealthiest man on the planet with a net worth of over $80 billion (59 billion euros), according to Forbes.

He dropped out of Harvard College in the US to set up his company, which remains one of the world's largest technology firms.

"I never got a real degree, I dropped out of school because I was hungry to start Microsoft and I never got a chance to go back," he said.

"To be able to add this diploma on the wall will be a great relief to my father."

Gates has previously received several honourary degrees from universities across the world.



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