"Innovations for a Healthy Future". Federal Minister Dr Gerd Müller and Bill Gates talk with students at TU Berlin

15th October 2018 | Dialogue Event| Berlin, Germany

The proportion of young people in the world’s population today is higher than it has ever been before. 90 percent of people under the age of 25 live in developing countries and will be particularly hard hit by growing challenges such as the consequences of climate change. A dialogue event held in the Audimax of of Berlin’s Technical University (TU) on October 15, 2018 explored key issues, such as identifying possible solutions and how young people could play a role in positive change.

Dr Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Develoment, and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates welcomed guests from politics, the private sector, civil society, media, and science along with TU Berlin students to talk about "Innovations for a Healthy Future". The event was jointly organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, BMZ and TU Berlin with planning and implementation support from the GIZ’s Development Policy Forum.

In his opening address, Dr Müller identified global population growth as one of the many challenges currently facing humanity, noting that the world's population was growing by 80 million people every year. This population growth raised important questions, he added, such as how to secure the world’s future food supply, and how best to address climate change and disease. Here Minister Müller expressed optimism: "We can solve these problems. Computers, digitalisation, artificial intelligence and modern technologies are making a world without hunger possible today," adding that this was the most important development goal.

Bill Gates also offered a positive overview of the achievements of the past 25 years. He attributed the sharp decline in poverty and infant mortality to science and immunisation. And while great strides had been made in combatting diseases such as polio, Gates emphasized that immense challenges remained, especially in poorer African countries. He added that climate change was making future progress much more difficult, though innovations in medicine, agriculture, energy and the digital arena were cause for hope. Gates pointed to key areas, like innovative ways to safeguard new-borns, as the mortality rate for infants was particularly high in the first month. Vaccines for tuberculosis, HIV and malaria could also become milestones in the fight for a healthier world, Gates said.

When talking about Africa, Gates stressed the great differences that prevail on the continent. He pointed out that while Africa's countries were poor on average, over the years poverty had significantly declined while the rate of education rose. Gates urged listeners not to lose sight of the great progress that had been made in many African countries in light of the current crises. “Africa must not be written off as a crisis region”, he added.

Müller also emphasised the continent’s great potential. He predicted that digitization would bring about huge leaps in innovation, as it "made knowledge accessible to everyone around the world in real time”, and pointed to its tremendous potential for improving education. He also stressed the importance of sustainable action and informed the audience, "None of your mobile phones would work without coltan and cobalt from the Congo." African raw materials were essential for our prosperity he said, before adding that a great deal had to be done to ensure fairer conditions and make globalisation equitable.

Spectators were encouraged to submit questions both before and during the event via an online tool. The ensuing discussion focused in particular on concrete actions countries could take, along with options for individual students in Berlin. Gates called on the audience to make a difference by demanding political parties commit to supporting development policy. Müller stressed that it was essential to achieve some kind of balance between expenditure on development and on arms.

Müller also called on the public to promote change in smaller ways as well, such as by buying fair-trade coffee. As the event drew to a close, Müller and Gates were asked to suggest ways to promote innovation in countries of the Global South. Both identified sustainable transport systems and green energy as decisive foundations for development, and Müller added that innovations in this area were an indispensable to reaching the two-degree goal.

Picture above: David Ausserhofer. From left to right: Prof Dr Christian Thomsen, university president of the Technische Universität Berlin, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Dr Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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