Fall 2023

The Africa I Know

– Mark Suzman

Born and raised in South Africa, the CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation shares his impressions about the continent.

In this short video, we hear from native South African and CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mark Suzman. He shares his insights about the continent, and tells us why he is optimistic about Africa's future.


The Africa I know is dynamic and innovative, creating solutions despite difficult circumstances.

For me as a South African, the defining example was the historic demise of apartheid and the election of Nelson Mandela as president of a democratic South Africa.

But in the decades since, I’ve seen countless examples of African innovation: in my career in journalism, at the United Nations, and now at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where we’re incredibly proud to support African innovators driving progress in areas from health to agricultural adaptation to gender equality.

Let me tell you about one of them.

A few months ago, in Naivasha, Kenya, I met Ochieng [oh-CHANG], a brilliant young researcher working at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization. He’s part of a team that breeds chickens that are especially good at surviving drought and disease. But they don’t just raise climate-resilient birds – they also train smallholder farmers on how to care for them.

One farmer, Joan, told me how she used these chickens to build a successful business – and now mentors other women in her community on how to do the same. Another, Martha, keeps chickens in the hopes of making enough money to help her son fulfill his dream of going to college to study computer science. 

That’s why Ochieng and his colleagues have spent years on research, breeding, and training: to unlock opportunities – and help people realize their aspirations.

That’s the Africa I know. One where progress isn’t just possible: it’s happening. And not just in Kenya – it's happening across the continent, thanks to thousands of people like Ochieng, Joan, and Martha who are committed to improving lives and livelihoods.

And that’s why, as long as our foundation exists, so will our commitment to Africa – and to the partners who believe that everyone, no matter who they are or where they live, deserves the chance to live a healthy life and reach their full potential.

Mark Suzman is CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Cover photo: Mark Suzman on a recent trip to Kenya. Courtesy the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.