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2016 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture

This is an extract from the lecture by Bill Gates at Pretoria University.

If there is one thing I’m sure of, it is this: Africa can achieve the future it aspires to.That future depends on the people of Africa working together, across economic and social strata and across national borders, to lay a foundation so that Africa’s young people have the opportunities they deserve.

Recently, I met with some students at Addis Ababa University. I started by asking them the casual questions college students tend to get asked in America: “What do you want to do after you graduate?” “What fields are you thinking about going into?”

They looked at me like I was crazy to be asking questions like that. They knew exactly what they were going to do. Their parents had sacrificed for 20 years so they could go to school. They weren’t weighing their options. They had come to university to get specific training, and they were eager to get on with it so that they could help Ethiopia become a prosperous country.

They saw themselves as members of a community with needs, and they were going to dedicate themselves to serving that community by meeting those needs. I see that sense of purpose whenever I come to Africa, and especially whenever I talk to young Africans. I think this is unique. I meet with students all over the world, and they aren’t all so committed to giving back.

But students here believe in themselves, and they believe in their countries and the future of the continent.

The priority now is to make sure they have the opportunity to turn those beliefs into action. Because young people with this sense of purpose can make the difference between stagnation and more and faster progress.

Nelson Mandela said, “Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.”

But our duty is not merely to arouse; our duty is to invest in young people, to put in place the basic building blocks so that they can build the future. And our duty is to do it now, because the innovations of tomorrow depend on the opportunities available to children today.
It’s clear to everyone how big and complicated the challenges are. But it’s just as clear that people with bravery, energy, intellect, passion, and stamina can face big, complicated challenges and overcome them. There is so much more work to be done to create a future in which we can all live together. But there are also so many people who are eager to get to work.

Let’s do everything within our power right now to help them build the future that Nelson Mandela dreamed of – and the future that we will achieve together.

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