Gates: Chinese innovation can help the poorest

Updated: 2011-11-04 08:22

By Zhang Yuwei (China Daily)

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Gates: Chinese innovation can help the poorest
Bill Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp, arrives at the venue for a presentation he will make in Cannes, France, on Thursday. [Photo by Philippe Wojazer/Reuters]

SEATTLE, the United States - Despite being a developing country, China can use its expertise in health and agriculture to help the poorest countries in the world, especially those in Africa, said Bill Gates, the technology magnate and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In an exclusive interview with China Daily on Tuesday, Gates, who is also the chairman of Microsoft, said he expects to see some "very big things" from the foundation's new partnership with China's Ministry of Science and Technology.

"Obviously, China has done a fantastic job in reducing poverty," Gates said. "It is not completely done, but just for the last 30 years, if you take where China was and where it is today on almost every front, particularly in the areas that we (the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) focus on - health and agriculture - China has done very good work."

Famous for founding Microsoft, Gates is now a billionaire philanthropist who works full-time for his foundation, which tries to foster innovation in health and development. Gates said China can draw on universities, scientists, companies in the health industry and its other excellent resources to arrive at the innovations that will help reduce world hunger and poverty.

"Amazingly, all of this (expertise in health and agriculture) has not been used outside of China," he said.

During a trip to China this past year, Gates visited a series of vaccine manufacturers and found himself impressed by how quickly the industry was making progress.

Gates said it is both complex and costly to become capable of making vaccines that meet international standards. Countries such as China, Brazil and India have an advantage in that pursuit, he said, because they are providing low-cost versions of some of the vaccines that are in the greatest demand.

He said China's experience in making such vaccines will help the country design new ones that can also be sold at a low cost.

"We would expect over the next decade dozens of Chinese vaccines would be available to poorer countries," he said.

Gates said he thinks the foundation's new partnership with China will have a "substantial impact" on the health and agriculture industries in the next five years.

"In agriculture, the story in China is quite phenomenal,"he said. "Just taking the rice issue alone, I think we can have a lot of agricultural expertise from China made available in Africa. We can have a lot of African farmers adopting new varieties."

At the G20 Summit in Cannes, France, Gates delivered a report about how innovation and partnerships in health and agriculture can make the world more stable and offer help to the poorest countries and people. He said he hopes the ideas he conveyed will inspire President Hu Jintao, US President Barack Obama and other world leaders to look at a variety of issues concerning development.

Gates traveled to China for the first time in 1990, then doing business for Microsoft, and now visits the country about twice a year. He said he would like to keep making the trips at regular intervals, explaining that he is involved in many projects in China apart from his work with both the foundation and Microsoft.

"I think everyone is so excited that China has been so successful," he said. "And China has an interest now in participating in helping poorer countries - the same way the rich countries have in the past."

China's relationships with countries in Africa, though, have raised doubts in the Western world.

Gates said that is because there is a "lack of transparency". He said China can learn from mistakes that rich countries have made - the practice of giving money, for instance, in return for support.

The country, Gates said, can also become more transparent by providing certain types of aid, such as vaccines, and giving help to small farmers and other "individual people" who are in need, not just "the rich business people in the capital".

Shan Juan in Beijing contributed to this story.