Microsoft boss, Bill Gates has disclosed that in Nigeria, one in three children is chronically malnourished and could therefore be at risk.
Speaking at the National Economic Council, Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday March 22, 2018, Bill Gates noted that this is a tragedy for each one of these children; it is also a huge blow to the economy.
He said that: ‘’According to the World Bank, addressing the stunting crisis in Nigeria would add almost $30 billion to the GDP. So what will it take to solve stunting? It will take a focus on agricultural development, nutrition, and primary health care. A functioning primary health system has six features – adequate funding, good facilities located in the right places, skilled and dedicated health workers, ample stocks of essential equipment and medicines, patients who know about the system and want to use it and a mechanism for collecting the data needed to improve quality.
‘’I believe the Nigerian primary health care system is not adequately funded. But it also doesn’t get the most out of its current funding. I want to re-emphasize that last point about data. More transparency would lead to more accountability, which would strengthen governance, leadership, and management, which would improve quality across the board.
‘’I visited a health clinic in Bodinga LGA in Sokoto yesterday, and it reminded me why I do this work. I’d like to ask all of you to spend one hour at a health center in the next month. I think you’ll see how the system can be improved—and how much good it will do when it is.
‘’I know Nigeria can build up its primary care system, because I’ve seen what you accomplish when you meet health challenges head on.
‘’As many of you know, we’ve been very close partners in your fight against polio. As you can see on this graph, the hard work of hundreds of thousands of local leaders and health workers since the turn of the millennium has paid off. Nigeria has not had a case of wild polio virus in more than a year. But the graph also shows that you’ve reported zero cases before, only to learn that the disease was still circulating in tiny pockets hidden by insecurity. It would be catastrophic to let your guard down when you’re on the verge of eliminating the disease once and for all.
‘’I believe—because I have seen your work in the field as recently as yesterday—that you will do what it takes to end polio in Nigeria. We will be here, working side by side with you, until you do. Though health is our foundation’s primary area of expertise, it’s not the only thing we do, and it’s not the only thing I mean when I say Nigeria should invest in its people. Healthy people need opportunities to thrive.
‘’One of the most important of these opportunities is agriculture, the sector that nourishes Nigerians and supports half the population, especially the poorest.
‘’The agricultural sector is a pillar of the Nigerian economy. It accounts for a large proportion of your GDP, and during the oil price collapse and recession, it helped cushion the economy. But it still has a lot of potential to grow. The majority of Nigerian smallholder farmers lack access to the seeds, fertilizer, and training they need to be more productive, and they lack access to the markets they need to profit from their labor.
‘’The government has taken important steps to fill these gaps, with both more investment and a series of smart policies to encourage private sector investment. These reforms lay the foundation for a booming agricultural sector that feeds the country, helps end chronic malnutrition, and lifts up tens of millions of smallholder farmers. I urge you to build on this good work.
‘’One of the barriers that continues to prevent smallholders from thriving is their lack of access to finance. Like good roads, finance connects farmers to opportunity, yet only 4 percent of Nigerian farmers currently have a loan to grow their business.
‘’In a country where three quarters of people have mobile phones, digital financial services provide a solution to this problem. In fact, digital finance offers the potential to boost the economy from top to bottom.
‘’Right now, more than 50 million Nigerian adults are at the whim of chance and the informal economy. With access to digital financial tools, they can cope better with disasters that threaten to wipe them out, build assets and a credit history, and gradually lift themselves out of poverty.
‘’Consider the impact this would have on businesses. Of the 37 million micro, small, and medium enterprises in Nigeria, more than 99 percent are micro. Their lack of access to finance is a leading reason why these businesses can’t grow. With digital payments, savings, and credit, they will finally have the resources to plan for the future.
‘’According to the best estimates, digital financial services will create a 12.4 percent increase in Nigeria’s GDP by 2025. Meanwhile, oil accounts for about 10 percent of Nigeria’s GDP. Imagine adding another oil sector and then some to the economy, but one whose benefits spread far and wide and reach almost every single Nigerian.
‘’There is another benefit to digital financial services that will make everything I’m urging you to do much easier: it will vastly improve the government’s ability to tax and spend efficiently.
‘’Let me pause for a moment to say, I am confident that one thing you’ve been thinking as I’ve been talking is that, while you would like to spend more on health and nutrition and education and agriculture, you don’t have the money to do everything. I appreciate the fact that what you can spend is a function of what you raise.’’