Wednesday, June 19, 2024
BusinessBill Gates to invest in financial services in Ethiopia

Bill Gates to invest in financial services in Ethiopia

Supports innovative poultry farm

Bill Gates, billionaire philanthropist, co-founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, on Thursday announced his intention to expand Gates Foundation’s investment portfolio in Ethiopia to financial services, more specifically mobile banking services to the rural farming community.

On the media roundtable that was held in Addis Ababa, at Sheraton Hotel, Gates said that innovative financial services such as mobile banking, which are making inroads in improving access to financial services in the rural communities, are going to be the third largest investment area for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the coming years.

To this effect, Gates said that he has held a lengthy discussion with Ethiopian authorities, including Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn on Thursday where he was told that mobile banking and the financial services sector are areas of intervention that will pay high dividend in Ethiopia.

Bill Gates, who was in Africa for the HIV AIDS conference in South Africa, decided to drop here where his foundation makes one of the biggest investments in the Africa continent. According to him, he was able to hold a five-hour discussion with Ethiopian authorities where he was briefed on the GTP II plan and progress in health and agriculture sectors.

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“We have made substantial investment in financial services in other countries,” Bill Gates said; including the investment in Kenya where the popular M-pessa mobile banking system is said to be improving access to financial facilities to the rural areas. The significant reduction in transaction cost associated with traditional banking system increases the cost of using financial services among rural communities, Bill Gate argues, and in the coming years this will be a major focus area for his foundation.

“The Ethiopia government has an ambitious plan for the mobile networks” and it’s potential for facilitating financial services, Gates said. According to him, one of the areas that the government wants to tap into the mobile banking technology is the country’s payment system. “They want to make all government payments effective,” he said; and to that effect Bill Gates announced that his financial services team will make the trip to Addis Ababa to talk to the government on how the foundation can best intervene in the area.

Meanwhile, Bill Gates also indicated that his foundation has extended its support to the first private entrepreneur in Ethiopia, EthioChicken, an innovative private company that specializes in providing improved chicken breeds to local small-holder poultry farmers in two regions: the Tigray and Southern Regional Sates.

The whole thing started five years ago when two America entrepreneurs were linked up with the government to partner and make a local chicken breeding center efficient. EthioChicken specializes in supplying one-day old chickens to local organized youth groups and smallholder farmers who are engaged in poultry farming.  

According to David Ellis, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of EthioChicken, currently, the chicken breeding centre has expanded its operations to two additional farms in Wolkita and Wolita Sodo and one feed mill in Burau.

“Generally, we work with a network of youth organized by the government and we supply a better breed of chicken to these youth at a price set by the regional governments,” Ellis told The Reporter. According to the ECO, the EthioChicken works closely with the agricultural extension program, contributing to the rural welfare by supporting income generation capacity of farmers. “In fact, it is not just a better breed of chicken that we supply to smaller holder farmers but the whole package of chicken feed, vaccines and chicken breeds,” he said.

Bill Gate’s grant would go to improving productivity and scale of operations in EthioChicken, according to Ellis. Last year, chicken farm supplied 3.7 million chickens to smaller holder farmers and women in the rural community.

Furthermore, Bill Gates also told the press that a lot of the agricultural investment that is made by his foundation is about improving seed and livestock to augment yield in developing countries. However, improvement of seed and animal breeds has turned out to be a controversial subject in the developing world due to the role of Genetic Modification in these areas.

Although Bill Gates, said that to date there is no cases of reported damage from GMO products in the world, a number of countries in Africa, Ethiopia included, are resistant to embrace GMO to their agricultural sector and markets. Although the bulk of improvements in seed and livestock are made via scientific methods and the foundation do support research in agriculture, most of these researches don’t necessarily involve GMO processes. “Anyway, it is up to the country to take what they need,” he said.

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