Microsoft founder, Bill Gates tells the Nigerian government to match investments in infrastructure with human capital development.
Gates gave the charge at the expanded National Economic Council (NEC) meeting which took place at Aso Villa on Thursday, March 22, 2018.
Chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the NEC meeting had in attendance representatives of the Senate President, Speaker House of Representatives, state governors, ministers and members of the economic team.
Gates advised the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to match investments in infrastructure with human capital development.
The Microsoft founder said over $1.6 billion has been invested in Nigeria’s key areas of agriculture, primary healthcare, immunization, polio eradication programmes, nutrition, family planning amongst others through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The philanthropist urged the federal government to make policy decisions focused on improving the human capital the country has adding that his foundation would only play a supportive role in the achievement of those set goals.
He faulted the execution priorities of federal government’s Economic and Recovery Growth Plan (EGRP).
“The most important choice you make is to maximize your greatest resource, the Nigerian people,” Gates began.
“Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive. If you invest the health, education and opportunities – the ‘human capital’ we are talking about – then they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity. If you don’t, however, then it is very important to recognize that there will be sharp limit on how much the country can grow.
“I urge you to apply this thinking to all your investments in your people. The Nigeria government’s Economic and Recovery Growth Plan identifies ‘investing in our 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,” he added.
Narrating his experience at a health clinic in Bodinga, Sokoto state, Gates said although Nigerian primary healthcare centers were not adequately funded, it also does not get the most out of the current funding.
The businessman described Nigeria as “one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth” adding that "one in three Nigerian children are chronically malnourished."
According to Gates, Nigeria has the fourth worst maternal mortality rate in the world, only ahead of Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, and Chad.
“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,” Gates announced.
In his speech, Osinbajo said the Buhari administration is implementing programmes aimed at improving human capital development.
The vice president noted that the school feeding programme of the federal government has increased the enrolment of pupils in schools.
He added that the N-Power initiative of the Buhari administration has engaged of 200,000 young Nigerians in sectors like agriculture and health amongst others.
Addressing journalists after the NEC meeting, Aliko Dangote, said the private sector would be contributing one percent of its profit to healthcare.
He pledged his support to federal government’s programmes targeted at human capital development which he says has affected his business.