Bill Gates, co-chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has announced that the foundation will invest $30 million in a new artificial intelligence platform in Africa.
Gates made the announcement, yesterday, at the Grand Challenges annual meeting, hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and its partners, in Senegal.
Attending the meeting were more than 1,400 scientists, policymakers, and donors.
Grand Challenges, the foundation’s flagship innovation programme, was launched in 2003 and focuses attention and funding on major global health and development issues affecting the world’s poorest people, using open calls for proposals to crowdsource potential solutions.
At this year’s gathering in Dakar, several new efforts to assist Africa-led innovation were unveiled, including an investment in an AI platform.
The platform will provide technical and operational assistance to African scientists and innovators, so they can turn potential ideas into scalable health and development solutions.
According to Gates, it is a step towards ensuring that the advantages of artificial intelligence are relevant, inexpensive, and accessible to everyone – particularly those in low- and middle-income countries – and that key technologies are produced safely, ethically, and fairly.
The foundation will continue to collaborate closely with technical partners and governments to expand the platform and seek possibilities to collaborate on AI for health and development.
According to the foundation, the investments announced at the meeting come with an urgent call for countries to increase funding to make health and development innovation research and development (R&D) easier and faster, and to make the next generation of scientific and technological breakthroughs relevant and accessible to all.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said while overall health R&D funding is increasing, just two percent of such funding is dedicated towards diseases affecting the world’s poorest people.
In 2020, the foundation said, that the annual funding gap for product development targeting poverty-related and neglected diseases was estimated at $2.6 billion.
At the meeting in Dakar, Gates called for the world to spend at least $3 billion more on global health and development R&D each year in order to close critical funding gaps for neglected diseases.
“New health technologies have the potential to save millions of lives, but R&D funding is going in the wrong direction,” he said. “Donors need to step up their commitments to ensure health innovations reach those who need them more quickly, so more lives can be saved.”
Moussa Balde, Senegal’s Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation, added: “Over the past two decades, global investments in a pipeline of innovative solutions helped reduce childhood deaths under five by half.
“But lifesaving innovations still take too long to reach those who need them and are not always designed with equity from the start.
“Grand Challenges Senegal continues to invest in the country’s brightest scientists and innovators, and we are pleased to be part of this global network of Grand Challenges partners investing in locally led solutions to ensure innovations, including in health, education, and agriculture, benefit everyone equally.”