Reactions: Was Bill Gates Wrong On Niigeria?

The Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates urged the Federal Government of Nigeria to invest more in health and education.

He said the country would do better with strong investment in health and education, rather than concentrating on physical infrastructure, to the detriments of human capital development.

Gates spoke alongside the Chairman of the Dangote Foundation, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, at a special session of the National Economic Council held at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The theme of the event was “Role of human capital investment in supporting pro-poor and economic growth agenda.”

The council chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has all the 36 state governors, relevant ministers and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria as members.

Microsoft founder and philanthopist Bill Gates (R) looks on as his wife Melinda holds a toddler during their visit to a village at Patna district in India’s Bihar’s state on March 23, 2011. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates on March 23 toured the impoverished Indian state of Bihar ahead of a meeting to encourage the country’s wealthiest people to give more money to charity. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Gates said available statistics showed that the country “still looks like a low-income country.”

He also described Nigeria as “one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth.”

He claimed that one in three Nigerian children are chronically malnourished.

Nigeria, he added, 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,” he said.

He also took a look at the government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, saying it does not reflect people’s needs.

He said investment in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people, to anchor the economy over the long term.

He, however, noted that Nigeria’s approach places more priorities on physical capital over human capital development.

“The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identify investing in people as one of three strategic objectives. But the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritising physical capital over human capital,” he noted.