A year ago, the German government joined forces with the world's biggest private foundation, run by the wife of a certain computer billionaire, and both sides say the collaboration has already been successful.
The German government and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation are deepening their existing ccooperation. One year after Germany's Development Minister Dirk Niebel and Microsoft founder Bill Gates signed a "Memorandum of Understanding," Niebel met with Gates' wife Melinda for talks in Berlin.
Women should decide themselves when they want to have babies, says Gates
Last year, the German minister said the Gates foundation was an ideal partner for Germany as it tried to improve efficiency in development cooperation. One year on, the two sides have collaborated on water, sanitation, and health care projects, and plan to work together on a new family planning project.
"I'm looking forward to intensifying and expanding our existing positive collaboration with the Gates foundation in the area of health care," said Niebel. "Family planning is a key element when trying to reduce mother and child mortality in developing countries."
20 million for family planning
The public-private-partnership between Germany and the Gates foundation means that 20 million euros ($26 million) will be made available for family planning initiatives in West African countries - with 10 million euros coming from the foundation, and 10 million coming from Germany.
"There's a desperate need," said Niebel. The money will go to projects in eight West African countries whose goal is to help women decide how many children they want and when they want to have them.
"Family planning is one of the best investments in a country's development that donor countries like Germany can make," said Melinda Gates. "I am very proud of our good partnership, and today's announcement shows the generosity of the German population."
Under 0.7 percent
Access to modern contraceptives can reduce infant and maternal mortality
After the US, Germany is the second biggest donor in development cooperation worldwide. According to recent figures published by the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), Germany contributed some $14.5 million in 2011 - 5.9 percent more than the year before.
The sum amounts to only 0.4 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product - the international goal is to raise this share to some 0.7 percent of GDP. Germany plans to reach this goal by 2015 at the latest. According to the OECD, only five countries exceed 0.7 percent already: Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands.
Focus on mothers
Germany has set itself clear priorities by investing in initiatives that improve family planning and maternal health, stresses Niebel. Bilateral contributions are now almost 100 million euros - almost twice as much as in 2008, but the ministry estimates that more than 200 million women still don't have access to modern contraceptives.
The Gates foundation has also been pushing for better access to family planning. These initiatives prove extraordinarily effective, said Melinda Gates. Many mothers in developing countries have too many children too soon and cannot look after their development and education properly as a consequence.
That's why mothers need access to modern contraception, Gates added. Such initiatives are also thought to help reduce child and maternal mortality.
The Gates foundation was founded in 1999 and has a capital stock of more than 35 billion euros. The foundation's efforts are acknowledged worldwide. Melinda and Bill Gates are on the Forbes list of the world's richest people.
Author: Kay-Alexander Scholz / nh
Editor: Ben Knight