That's the conclusion of billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates. In his annual Gates Foundation letter he explains (and justifies) why three myths about world poverty are untrue - and why they block progress for the poor:
Now I consider Windows Vista a crime against humanity, but can't fault Mr. and Mrs. Gates for their commitment to making the world a better place with their own money. Bear in mind that Bill Gates doesn't seem to have any vested interest in these matters - he's richer than Croesus, he doesn't seem to care about political power, he doesn't have people to pay off; if he makes these claims, it's most likely to be because he believes them. And he's not dumb or politically naive by any stretch of the imagination. Bill Gates - and it pains me to say this after trying to use Word 6.0 - has more authority in this area than pretty much any government, business or NGO.
- POOR COUNTRIES ARE DOOMED TO STAY POOR
- FOREIGN AID IS A BIG WASTE
- SAVING LIVES LEADS TO OVERPOPULATION
Just to give an example of his claims:
Income per person has in fact risen in sub-Saharan Africa over that time, and quite a bit in a few countries. After plummeting during the debt crisis of the 1980s, it has climbed by two thirds since 1998, to nearly $2,200 from just over $1,300. Today, more and more countries are turning toward strong sustained development, and more will follow. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies of the past half-decade are in Africa.Sure, capitalism has its faults. But the implications of these figures are pretty hard to dispute. You can claim that if we had centrally-planned ethical socialism in the Western world, life in Africa would be better, but given the above data the onus is on you to show that your claims are true. Life in Africa is getting much better; if you're going to change the world, how will you prove that your changes won't reverse this progress?
Africa has also made big strides in health and education. Since 1960, the life span for women in sub-Saharan Africa has gone up from 41 to 57 years, despite the HIV epidemic. Without HIV it would be 61 years. The percentage of children in school has gone from the low 40s to over 75 percent since 1970. Fewer people are hungry, and more people have good nutrition. If getting enough to eat, going to school, and living longer are measures of a good life, then life is definitely getting better there.