Gates Foundation and Agence Francaise de Développement Launch New Strategic Partnership to Help Advance Gender Equality and Human Development Across Africa and South Asia

published on 23 June 2023
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Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), Remy Rioux, CEO of the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the launch of a new strategic partnership funding projects supporting gender equality and human development across Africa and South Asia today at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The partnership draws on up to $240 million in funding, including a $20 million grant from BMGF, matched by a $20 million grant from AFD in addition to up to $200 million of concessional lending. This partnership will support projects that focus on mother and child’s health, sexual and reproductive health, social protection, water and sanitation, nutrition, and climate resilience. 

Advancing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Worldwide, approximately 73 low and middle-income countries have high exposure and acute vulnerability to droughts, floods, increased variability and reductions in growing seasons. African economies are losing between $7bn and $15bn per year due to more frequent and intense extreme weather events, growing food insecurity, and environmental degradation. Similar situations are faced by communities across South Asia, as was the case during the devastating floods in Pakistan in 2022. Women are more vulnerable to the impacts of those combined crises: they represent a high percentage of poor communities that are highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihood and are 14 times more likely to die in a disaster than men, making it essential to increase impactful partnerships that improve development outcomes across the region. 

Through the new partnership, BMGF will support AFD’s investments in projects aligning with the national priorities of countries where they are implemented, helping build capacity among partners while generating measurable, sustainable impact.

Our long-standing partnership with AFD and the French government on health and development is rooted in ensuring that more people, especially women and girls, can realize their full potential,” said Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “The launch of this Gender and Human Development partnership is an exciting step forward that will help ensure those that need it most have more power over their health, money and futures.” 

 “France is fully committed to promoting human development, global health and particularly women and girls’ health in vulnerable countries across the planet. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supports decisive projects for health systems’ strengthening and tackling hunger as well as poverty. I am delighted that this strategic partnership will deepen even more the cooperation between France and the Foundation, amplifying our action in favour of our common priorities through common projects” said Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, Minister of State for Development, Francophonie and International partnerships, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

"I am pleased to see how our partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has deepened over the past 6 years and that now, in the context of exacerbated crises, we are committing to scale up our common activities, through joint programming and a wide range of financial instruments, with an initial focus on gender equality, health systems and sanitation services in Africa and South Asia. The upcoming years will be crucial to boost SDG investments and develop impactful projects, and we are both determined to do so, together and at scale" said Remy Rioux, CEO of the Agence Française de Développement.

For 15 years, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has worked with the French government to amplify the positive impact of development assistance and scientific expertise in low-income countries by supporting research and the translation of scientific discoveries into sustainable solutions, particularly as part of global alliances, including Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and the World Health Organization. France and the Gates Foundation are also key partners in:

An innovative development financing mechanism

The partnership seeks to explore new financing modalities, blending traditional grant funds with loans to support public finances and strengthen national institutions. By identifying opportunities for co-programming and building on their shared experience, AFD as France’s bilateral development bank in charge of implementing France’s New 2021 Programming Act on solidarity-based development and the fight against global inequalities, and BMGF, which annual grant commitments tripled over the past 10 years can help leverage the specific advantages and methods of each partner and use smart blending mechanisms to provide an adapted and joint response to development needs. This will be accomplished through a jointly administered funding mechanism that invests in projects aligned with national priorities, maximizing their impact and enhancing the capacity of partner organizations.

This new partnership will notably support:

  • Countries in implementation and scale-up of gender intentional Post-Partum Family Planning (PPFP)-RMNCH-Nutrition projects, aligned with existing national action plans for integrated client-centered services.
  • Reimagining and strengthening gender intentional reproductive, maternal and child health and nutrition services through existing Social Protection Programs (SPP). This could also include promoting access to and use of nutrition commodities.
  • Health system strengthening interventions with a focus on women and youth.
  • health and social protection interventions as part of a climate adaptation agenda (surveillance of diseases in a one health approach, adaptive social protection…); young women’s leadership development.
  • Gender-sensitive water and sanitation initiatives.
  • The Gates Foundation’s women’s economic empowerment framework (Capital, Data, Digital Tools, Care) to address women’s vulnerabilities, break down structural barriers, empower women and increase self-determination while expanding leadership opportunities for women. 

A first candidate for the new partnership: Senegal

Technical teams from both institutions have worked together on a pipeline of joint projects, and will launch a first project together in Senegal in the coming weeks. This project builds on a previous project led by AFD, and aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights for adolescents and young people in Senegal through an integrated family planning, MNCH and nutrition approach, aligned with the government’s strategy and plan to scale up integrated services for women and girls.