Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — More than 60 development experts from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s headquarters in Seattle will be in Addis Ababa this week for a two day development conference focused on Ethiopia. The conference provides a unique opportunity for the foundation experts to engage with government, other donors and their implementing partners for greater alignment of their health and agriculture investments in Ethiopia. The foundation has also just officially opened its new expanded office in the capital city.
“Ethiopia remains a priority focus for the Gates foundation and will continue to be so largely because of the success it has had in attaining many of the development goals we also embrace,” said Dr Ayo Ajayi, Africa Director for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “Ethiopia has seen one of the largest declines in extreme poverty in the world – between 1995 and 2011, poverty fell from 63% to 37%. This progress has been due to substantial public investment by the Ethiopian government, unparalleled political commitment underpinned by strong policies and smart budget allocation in partnership with a network of donors like ourselves”.
The foundation has been supporting health and agriculture projects in Ethiopia since 2000. In line with the Government of Ethiopia, the foundation’s overarching goal is to improve agricultural productivity; increase the coverage of life-saving health and nutrition interventions; and support the improvement of agriculture and primary health care systems. The foundation recently doubled its nutrition investment to $776 million over the next 6 years and has earmarked Ethiopia and its Seqota declaration as a priority.
Much of Ethiopia’s growth strategy has been focused on agricultural development supported by heavy government investment. Over 15% of the national budget has been allocated to this compared to the 2.7% average in the rest of Africa. The Gates Foundation’s strategy is to focus resources in parts of the country where opportunity and need are greatest, and on commodities and crops that are important for smallholder farmers.
The partners’ conference coincides with the inauguration of the new foundation offices which house both the country and regional headquarters. Given that it houses the AU and other development institutions, Ethiopia has and will always play a central role in the leadership of the continent’s development and it is no coincidence that the foundation has made it the regional headquarters for its work in Africa.
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