2019 GOALKEEPERS

Let's end inequality, Bill Gates challenge to world leaders

Being born in a particular location shouldn’t be the thing that determines how long you live, he says

In Summary

•There are glaring inequalities within countries depending on which region one is born, and whether one is a boy or girl, according to the 2019 Goalkeepers report

•Gates noted such gaps can be closed through increased investments in primary health and education.

CEO of Aliko Dangote Foundation Zouera Youssefou, Aliko Dangote, and Bill Gates speak about fighting childhood malnutrition with food fortification at the Goalkeepers 2019.
CEO of Aliko Dangote Foundation Zouera Youssefou, Aliko Dangote, and Bill Gates speak about fighting childhood malnutrition with food fortification at the Goalkeepers 2019.

While life expectancy has dramatically improved over the last 100 years, there’s still a 16-year gap between people living in Europe and those in Africa, who have the lowest life expectancy.

“Our task is to close that gap,” American Philanthropist Bill Gates told the world while addressing the third annual Goalkeepers event on Wednesday in New York. 

Today, Europe has a life expectancy of 79 years, Americas 77, Asia 74 and Africa 63.

Gates also noted there were glaring inequalities within countries depending on which part one is born.

“And that’s not fair. Being born in a particular location shouldn’t be the thing that determines how long you live,” he said.

The annual event is organised by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, co-chaired by Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.

In his presentation, Gates used India and Nigeria as examples where children born in one region have great opportunities in life, which rapidly diminish if the child is born in another region.

For instance, Nigeria’s northern region suffers high levels of malnutrition and poor health care services compared to the south-west.

A child born in the south-west region is more likely to celebrate its fifth year, have an education and subsequently a better life than the one born in the north.

Although Kenya was not mentioned, the country also suffers similar disparities.

The third annual Goalkeepers event, which brought together a new generation of leaders and changemakers to accelerate progress toward the Global Goals.

While children born in Laikipia county can expect to live an average of 71.8 years, the highest in Kenya, those in Homa Bay have the lowest life expectancy of 57 years.

The national life expectancy is 66.8 years. 

The analysis was published last year by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a population health research centre at the University of Washington. 

Gates noted such gaps can be closed through increased investments in primary health and education.

“Everyone has dreams, but these basic needs like health and education give everyone a basic opportunity to achieve those dreams,” he said.

The Goalkeepers event takes place on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

It acts as a catalyst for progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, also called the Global Goals.

The event brings together leaders from around the world to end poverty and fight inequality.

This year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi graced the award ceremony where he was feted for building toilets for the poor, nearly ending a centuries-old open defecation problem.

GLOBAL LIFE EXPECTANCY IN 1800

Americas 35 years

Europe 33

Asia 28

Africa 26

LIFE EXPECTANCY 1910

Europe 46 years

Americas 44

Asia  28

Africa 26

LIFE EXPECTANCY 2019

Europe 79

Americas 77

Asia 74

Africa 63

Gates noted although life is improving everywhere across the world, equality alone is not enough.

He gave the example of 1800, a decade when life expectancy was nearly uniform across the world, with people in the Americas living an average 35 years, Europe 33, Asia 28 and Africa 26 years.

“People were very much equal but we don’t want to go back to that equality because most people in this room would be dead,” he said.

“We want to have life better in absolute terms for everyone. So that’s where we want to go, progress and equality.”

He gave the example of Ethiopia where investment in primary health coverage since 2003 has improved child survival rates.

Gates encouraged governments to take best practices from such countries and replicate them in places that are lagging behind.

“You’re goalkeepers, because you dream of this better or equal world, so we need to build it together, we need to change the odds,” he challenged the participants.