Bill Gates, the second richest person in the world; Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa; and Mohammed “Mo” Ibrahim, a U.K billionaire born in Sudan, spoke about ways Africa can reach its potential in the coming decades during an event at the Africa Center in Harlem in New York City on Monday.

As Africa’s population expands, the continent needs to create jobs and keep up with food demand, the billionaires said during a fireside chat at an event called The Future Africa Forum. Ibrahim said there is a controversial topic that can help Africa develop sustainable communities and cities: family planning.   

According to the United Nations, Africa’s population is expected to reach 2.4 billion people by 2050—double that of the population in 2016. Gates said it is estimated that 50% of all newborns worldwide will be born in Africa by the end of the century.

“When our economy is growing by two percent, we’re running on a treadmill,” Ibrahim said, explaining that unemployment rates are already high, especially among the youth in countries like South Africa. “Why are we Africans unwilling to talk about family planning?”

Gates says the conversation about family planning is important to get right.

“If you’re not careful, anyone who is an outsider could be misunderstood,” he said. Population control has long been a euphemism for colonists and racists, but these billionaires cited what research has long shown: that as a country develops its economy and more people get educated and move to cities, its population growth rate starts to decline.


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