Bill Gates delivers opening remarks to the National Economic Council

“The most important choice you can make is to maximize your greatest resource, the Nigerian people.”

ABUJA — March 22, 2018 — In remarks to the National Economic Council meeting at Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, urged the Nigerian government, private sector and civil society partners to prioritize supporting Nigeria’s poorest people to allow the country to meet its ambitious growth and development agenda.

Gates’ remarks to the National Economic Council were made as part of his visit to Nigeria to see first-hand the progress the country is making on primary healthcare provision, polio eradication, nutrition and financial inclusion.

In his speech, Gates laid out the economic case for ensuring that every Nigerian has the health, education and opportunities to thrive. He cited data from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which found that if current education and health trends continue, Nigeria’s growth will slow down – but if the country invests in health and education now, growth will resume its remarkable pre-recession trajectory.

He identified health, nutrition, agriculture and financial inclusion as priority areas to stimulate growth. Citing the country’s worrying health indicators on malnutrition, which hamper productivity and GDP, Gates outlined how a strong primary healthcare system could fight malnutrition and address 90% of people’s healthcare needs. He referenced the foundation’s partnership with the Dangote Foundation and Nigerian State Governors to strengthen routine immunization as a first step towards improving the country’s primary healthcare system. Gates had visited the Bodinga LGA health clinic in Sokoto the previous day and spoke of how the visit inspired him.

Gates added that Nigeria should increase its investment in agriculture and reform public policies to make the sector more productive, improve the lives of smallholder farmers and reduce the country’s reliance on imports. He emphasized that giving Nigerians access to basic banking services offers the same economic opportunity as the entire oil industry.

He reiterated his optimism about Nigeria’s future, referencing the country’s determination and successes in fighting polio, and cited recent agricultural policy reform as an example of what the country can achieve when it meets challenges head on.

He concluded that government leadership, combined with partnerships with Nigeria’s private sector, other foundations, and the international community will be vital in achieving the country’s goals. His full speech can be read here: https://www.gatesfoundation.org/Media-Center/Speeches/2018/03/Nigeria-Human-Capital-Event

Following the opening remarks, Gates, Alhaji Dangote and the National Economic Council participated in a closed-door session where they discussed the country’s economic growth and development in greater detail.

During Gates’ visit to Nigeria, he was joined by Alhaji Dangote in meetings with the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee, the Governors of Borno, Yobe, Sokoto, Bauchi and Kaduna states, and the Presidential Task Force on Polio.

The pair also met with various Ministers to discuss what can be done to accelerate Nigeria’s progress, and how the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation can continue to partner in health, agriculture and financial inclusion to support Nigeria’s goals.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:

Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

About Bill Gates:

Bill Gates is co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Along with co-chair Melinda Gates, he shapes and approves grant-making strategies, advocates for the foundation’s issues, and helps set the overall direction of the organization.

Bill and Melinda Gates work together to expand opportunity to the world’s most disadvantaged people by collaborating with grantees and partners. They also participate in national and international events, and travel extensively to focus attention on the issues the foundation champions.

Gates began his major philanthropic efforts in 1994, when he created the William H. Gates Foundation, which focused on global health. Three years later, he and Melinda created the Gates Library Foundation, which worked to bring public access computers with Internet connections to libraries in the United States.

Its name changed to the Gates Learning Foundation in 1999 to reflect its focus on ensuring that low-income minority students are prepared for college and have the means to attend. In 2000, to increase efficiency and communication, the two groups merged into the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In 1975, Gates left Harvard University in his junior year to focus on Microsoft, the company he founded with his childhood friend Paul Allen. As chief software architect and chairman, Gates led the company to become the worldwide leader in business and personal software, services, and solutions. In July 2008, Gates transitioned into a new role as chairman of Microsoft and advisor on some key development projects. He is a member of the board of directors of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

Gates grew up in Seattle with his two sisters. His father, William H. Gates Sr., is a co-chair of the foundation and a retired attorney. His late mother, Mary Gates, was a schoolteacher, University of Washington regent, and chairwoman of United Way International. The Gateses have three children.

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