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Bill Gates launches plan to help Africa’s poor

Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, has launched a campaign to help extremely poor families in sub-Saharan Africa by giving them chickens.
Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, smiles during a press conference in Doha . / AFP PHOTO / KARIM JAAFAR

Bill Gates, Microsoft founder and co-chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, smiles during a press conference in Doha . / AFP PHOTO / KARIM JAAFAR

Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, has launched a campaign to help extremely poor families in sub-Saharan Africa by giving them chickens.

The billionaire and philanthropist says raising and selling the birds can be efficient to tackle extreme poverty.
He has promised to donate 100,000 chickens, and the project’s page has already been shared thousands of times.

The United Nations (UN) estimates that 41 per cent of people in sub-Saharan Africa live in extreme poverty.

Mr. Gates said a farmer breeding five hens could earn more than $1,000 (£690) a year. The poverty line is about $700 (£484).

He added that the goal was to help 30 per cent of the rural families in sub-Saharan Africa raise improved breeds of vaccinated chickens, up from the current five per cent.

Giving away 100,000 chickens in an effort to alleviate poverty is a noble gesture in itself. But the plan throws up a few questions.

As the chicken population increases, where is the feed going to come from? Will more arable land have to be given over to growing chicken feed?
Also, with more chickens on the market, simple demand/supply economics suggests the average price of a chicken would fall.
There’s also the issue of dumping.

The United States, the European Union and Brazil are accused of selling chickens into African markets at prices way below what local farmers can afford to sell them for.

But all this doesn’t mean that Mr. Gates’ plan shouldn’t be tried. If there’s even a small chance of success it needs to be done.

Nay-sayers and cynics may flap and cluck about such a plan, but at least when it comes to helping Africa’s poor, Bill Gates has once again proved that he isn’t chicken.

“These chickens are multiplying on an ongoing basis so there’s no investment that has a return percentage anything like being able to breed chickens,” he said at the launch of the campaign in New York.