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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Bill Gates Receives Honorary Degree From Ethiopian University

Microsoft founder Bill Gates received a honorary degree this week from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia. He is no stranger to honorary degrees. In 2007 he got an honorary doctorate from Harvard, where he had dropped out as an undergraduate 3 decades earlier. But he seems especially touched by this  degree bestowed on him. Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said it is the Microsoft founder's 1st honorary degree from an African university. In his speech, Gates spoke about his conviction that Africa is positioned to shape its own destiny for the better. Read excerpts below and full text of speech here.

Prime Minister Hailemariam; distinguished guests; faculty and students of Addis Ababa University.
I am deeply grateful for this honorary degree. I never got my real degree. I dropped out to start Microsoft, and never went back. So getting a diploma I can put on the wall and show my father is a relief. It is a special honour to receive an honorary degree from Addis Ababa University.

This is one of the leading institutions of higher learning in Africa, a continent whose future has been a central interest of my career ever since my wife and I began our foundation nearly 15 years ago. The first time Melinda and I came to Africa, 20 years ago, we were on vacation. We visited Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. We were awed by the natural beauty. But we were no less awed by the poverty we witnessed. Children were dying from illnesses we'd never even heard of. This struck us as deeply wrong – and totally unnecessary.

The foundation we started took as its motto "All Lives Have Equal Value" – because it was so obvious to us that the world was clearly not treating all lives as having equal value. If it were, kids wouldn't be dying by the millions from diseases that are preventable and treatable. In short, coming to Africa inspired us to start our foundation. Of course, the Africa I'm visiting today is not the Africa we saw back then. You know the stats: Income per-person in sub-Saharan Africa is up by two-thirds. Seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are on this continent.

I could go on. But I didn't come here to give a speech about economic statistical phenomena – because those figures don't get at the real reason why I'm optimistic about Africa. The real reason why I'm optimistic about Africa is that this continent is now in an incredible position to shape its own destiny for the better.

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