The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recently released its annual Goalkeepers Report aimed at analyzing data relating to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and insights on the future of poverty. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a nonprofit with the goals of fighting poverty, disease and inequalities around the world. Bill and Melinda Gates formed it in 1994. As philanthropists, they made it their Foundation’s mission to use their resources to fulfill the U.N.’s SDGs which also aligns with the work of their Foundation.
The SDGs are 17 economic, social or environmental goals that the U.N. implemented to protect the planet, achieve prosperity and end poverty. The 2022 Goalkeepers Report is ambitious and complex, in that the expectations of enduring a pandemic and multiple wars were non-existent while setting the SDGs. However, the report stated that the magnitude of these events may have had ill effects on the data but a positive one on the actual reality of working towards those goals. The report also stated that there are two things no data point can prove: crisis and innovation.
Major Takeaways and Analyses from the 2022 Goalkeepers Report
Going back to the effects of the pandemic and conflicts such as the Ukraine-Russia war, it is not unusual for these events to negatively affect the data. The pandemic left 114 million people unemployed in 2020, meaning 114 million people lost stable livelihoods. Not only the pandemic left people without jobs, but it also caused severe disruptions in the supply chain due to border closures, a lack of workforce and financial instability. Panic buying and deficiency in stocks were major consequences of the inadequate supply chain, making goods less and less accessible.
Another disruption that hit the supply chain was the Russia-Ukraine War. Many African nations heavily depended on wheat imports from Ukraine. With the emergence of war stopping the shipments, the price of wheat-based products surged to the highest level its been in 40 years. Even though prices have relatively stabilized, the small shock showed how modern famine could present itself and how little the world is prepared for it.
After turbulent times for the world economy, Goalkeepers Report data shows promise not necessarily in the numbers themselves, but in the intangible potential for human ingenuity. Gates commented in the report that “No projection can ever account for the possibility of game-changing innovation” on the data projections on the SDGs for the next 10 years.
Financial Autonomy for Women
A significant step in reducing poverty is firstly making sure all people have access to money. Gender equality is essential in making sure both men and women have the same opportunities and means of accessing their money. Making financial platforms available and secure for women, especially in low-income countries, is necessary for achieving financial autonomy for both genders.
Data shows there has been an upwards trend in the last 5 years in the number of women owning a financial account and mobile money account. Mobile money account ownership of women in low-income countries increase from approximately 12% in 2017 to 24% in 2021. What this dataset indicates is more than the concrete number of women owning bank accounts, but the subject of women taking ownership of their livelihoods.
Tieing this to the initial message of the report, even though data is just data, the human aspect behind it is what makes the future more hopeful and brighter. Another take on the future of poverty from the report is the need for a replanning of the strategy behind food and humanitarian aid.
Strategy for Humanitarian Aid
Gates highlights that “The goal should not simply be giving more food aid. It should be to ensure no aid is needed in the first place.” Numbers on the report show the money spent on food aid keeps getting more and more every year, hitting a high of $57 billion in 2020. Whereas funding for agricultural research which will help developing countries create food security in the long run barely increase in the last 10 years, with only $9 billion in 2020. Comparing the money spent on a temporary solution such as food aid to agricultural research, numbers seem promising yet the truth behind it is that our strategy needs improving.
Taking into account the severe climate stress the agriculture industry will endure in Sub-Saharan Africa, “32 million more people in Africa are projected to be hungry in 2030” the report states. Solving world hunger is key to reducing poverty in the future, as more food on the market means cheaper and more accessible it is for the more disadvantaged. It is a very achievable challenge, as long as people change the strategy in their approach to food crises and look beyond the data.
As Gates states, “That challenge (solving food hunger) can’t be solved with donations. It requires innovation.” This is exactly what the Gatekeepers 2022 report suggests and promotes. A look beyond data and a vision larger than just numbers are what will define the future of poverty.
– Selin Oztuncman