President Kaberuka meets with Bill Gates and Gates Foundation executives to explore opportunities to work together

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African Development Bank Group President Donald Kaberuka met with Bill Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at his Seattle-area office on Tuesday to discuss ways to work together to improve the development of Africa.

Kaberuka also gave a talk that afternoon to a large audience of Foundation employees.

“We are all in the same boat, trying to get prosperity for the African people,” he told the larger group, recounting the two leaders’ discussion.

In their private meeting, Kaberuka and Gates discussed issues ranging from vaccine delivery to sanitation; education to financial inclusion.

At top of mind, of course, was Ebola, a health crisis that has spawned its own economic issues in the affected countries.

The spread of the virus has highlighted not only the need for improved health-care systems, but it has also underscored an issue that threads through many of the problems Africa faces: a lack of reliable statistics.

“Whether it is health, education, or the kinds of things we do at the Bank,” Kaberuka said, “we have an issue with data.”

Gathering that data is a key focus of both organisations. One area of intense interest is improved disease surveillance. Key officials from the Bank shared ideas with high-level Foundation executives on how such a system could be structured to best serve populations across the continent.

“One of the reasons I’m here to talk to the Foundation is to see how we can use these new technologies,” Kaberuka said during his address. “It’s something you do extraordinarily well.”

Geoff Lamb, the Foundation’s chief economic and policy advisor, noted that Kaberuka’s work “has been, it’s fair to say, transformational.”

Indeed many sectors in the African economy are booming, and employment is on the rise. Yet Kaberuka lamented that not all people there are seeing the improvements, and that many Africans are doing “back-breaking labour, but they earn a pittance.”

The key, he believes, is strategic partnerships and focused efforts.

“As Bill and I were discussing this morning,” he said of his private meeting with Gates, “in a world of increasingly scarce public resources, but plenty of private resources, how do we combine them to maximise both?”

It’s a question that both organizations are determined to address with an increasing sense of urgency.