Bill Gates, the Co-Chairman of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and correctly the world’s 2nd richest person in a joint meeting with the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN), Alhaji Aliko Dangote, State Governors and the Ministers of the Federation called on the FGN to focus its budget more on education and health development.
The theme of the joint meeting which took place on Thursday in the Presidential villa, Aso rock Abuja, was: “The role of human capital investment in supporting pro-poor and economic growth agenda.”
According to Gates, a country like Nigeria which is still battling with poverty and underdevelopment can only make headway by focusing on human capital development rather than infrastructural development. For him an educationally developed and healthy populace will be fit to manage, build infrastructure and bring about economy sustenance.
“The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies investing in the people as one of the three strategic objectives. But the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritizing physical capital over human capital. People without roads, ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy,” Gates said.
In his view, the FGN can only achieve long term economy growth when investment in infrastructure goes hand-in-hand with investments in the people themselves since it is the people who are to manage the infrastructure.
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Mr. Gates cited that the available statistics suggests that Nigeria is a low-income country.
He was optimistic that the country would get better if the government expresses readiness to invest in health, education and opportunities. In the other hand he said, “If you don’t however, then it is very important to recognize that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow.”
Gates speaking further on the effect of the poor economy on Nigerians said;
“Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world ahead of only Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and Chad. One in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished.
“In upper middle-income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle-income countries, it’s 68: in low-income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still, just 53 years”.
Bill Gates acknowledged Nigeria to be a country with unmatched economic potential which is realizable when Nigeria leaders make the right choices. He also applauded the effort the country made in the fight against polio.
Mr. Gates assured the government of Nigeria his foundation’s readiness to support it to make “Nigeria a powerhouse that provides opportunities for all its citizens.” He also revealed that his foundation has invested over $1bn in Nigeria’s health care system.
The Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who chaired the meeting assured stakeholders that the present administration was determined to set the records straight. He also assured his guests that the administration is better prepared to take on the enumerated issues.
“We are determined to put Nigeria’s money to work for Nigerians, doing the most with the least. And we have stayed true to that vision, even as oil prices went into a freefall, we ramped up investment in infrastructure as well as our social spending,” he said.
The chairman of the Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote in his opening remarks welcomed the idea of Mr. Gates stating that investments in education and health sectors were detrimental to the nation’s global economic competence. He stated, “Together, these are the inputs that will make Nigeria richer.”