The Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and co-founder of Microsoft, Mr. Bill Gates, addressed the special session of the National Economic Council, NEC, on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at the Presidential villa, Aso Rock, Abuja.
The expanded council session, which was chaired by Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had state governors, relevant ministers and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, amongst others, in attendance.
The special session, also had in attendance, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, Chairman of the Dangote Foundation, and Dangote Group, at whose behest Mr. Bill Gates was in Nigeria, to attend the wedding ceremony of Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s daughter.
Below is the full text of Mr. Bill Gates’ speech at the NEC Session.
BILL GATES FULL SPEECH
Your Excellency Muhamadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Senator Bukola Saraki, Senate President; Honorable Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of the House; Your Excellencies, executive governors of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Royal fathers; Distinguished ladies and gentlemen. And as you say in Nigeria, all other protocols observed. Thank you for welcoming me to Nigeria.
I’ve been coming here regularly since 2006, and I’ve always felt welcome. Nigerians usually greet me warmly. The first time I met the Sultan of Sokoto, I was honored that he greeted me with the gift of a white horse.
At some point during every visit, though, some brave person eventually asks me—very politely—”Why are you actually here?” It’s an understandable question. Most American technology guys don’t wander around Nigeria learning about its health system. But I think I have a good answer.
When we started Microsoft 40 years ago, we wanted to build a successful business, but we also wanted to make people’s lives better. We believed computers could revolutionize the way people lived and worked. But back then only big companies could afford them. We wanted to give everybody access.
As I got older, traveled more, and learned more about the world, I realized that billions of people had a problem that computers couldn’t solve. They lacked the basics of a good life: food, shelter, health, education, and opportunity.
And so I started my second career with my wife Melinda. With the money I’d been lucky enough to earn at Microsoft, we started working toward a different goal: a healthy and productive life for everyone.
That’s why I come to Nigeria, and that’s why Melinda and I will continue coming for as long as we are able. Our foundation’s biggest office in Africa is here. We have committed over $1.6 billion in Nigeria so far, and we plan to increase our commitment. We have strong relationships with the federal government, state governments, businesses, NGOs, and civil society organizations. We are eager to support you as you work to make Nigeria a global economic powerhouse that provides opportunity for all its citizens—as you strive to fulfill this country’s immense promise.
I’m blown away by how much Nigeria has changed in the past decade.
Consider the technology sector. That energy I talked about during the early days of Microsoft, our passion and our eagerness to take risks…. That’s the same energy that powers technology hubs across Nigeria like Co-Creation and Enspire.
The novelist Chimamanda Adichie, who my wife especially admires, captured the country’s spirit when she said her fellow Nigerians have “big dreams and big ambitions.”
This line graph of Nigeria’s per capita GDP shows where those dreams and ambitions can lead. With the exception of the recent recession, the slope goes straight up. As a result of this growth, Nigeria is now the biggest economy on the continent. You are rapidly approaching upper middle income status, like Brazil, China, and Mexico.
But growth is not inevitable. Nigeria has unmatched economic potential, but what becomes of that potential depends on the choices you make as Nigeria’s leaders.
The most important choice you can make is to maximize your greatest resource, the Nigerian people. Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive.
If you invest in their health, education, and opportunities—the “human capital” we are talking about today—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 a sharp limit on how much the country can grow.
You see this risk in the data. From the point of view of the quality of life, much of Nigeria still looks like a low-income country.
Let me give a few examples.
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.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.
I do not enjoy speaking to you this bluntly when you have been gracious enough to invite me here. But I am applying an important lesson I learned from Alhaji Aliko Dangote. Recently, Aliko and I were having a conversation with several governors about their states’ official immunization rates. Aliko’s way of stressing the importance of accurate data was to tell us, “I didn’t get rich by pretending to sell bags of cement I didn’t have.” I took from that that while it may be easier to be polite, it’s more important to face facts so that you can make progress.
On immunization, you are already living that lesson: last year Nigeria revised its immunization coverage numbers downward to reflect more accurate sources, and I applaud you for those lower numbers. They may look worse, but they are more real, which is the first step toward saving and improving more lives.
I urge you to apply this thinking to all your investments in your people. The Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies “investing in our people” as one of three “strategic objectives.” But the “execution priorities” don’t fully reflect people’s needs, prioritizing physical capital over human capital.
To anchor the economy over the long term, investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people. 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.
In preparation for my visit, I asked a research institute at the University of Washington to model Nigeria’s economic growth under three scenarios related to health and education, the core of how economists define human capital.
Here you can see Nigeria’s per capita GDP growth from 2000 until today. If current education and health trends continue—if you spend the same amount in these areas and get the same results—per capita GDP flatlines, with economic growth just barely keeping up with population growth.
If things get worse, it will decline. Unfortunately, this scenario is a very real possibility unless you intervene at both the federal and state levels. Because even in the worst-case scenario, your national income level is about to make you ineligible for certain kinds of development assistance and loans that you’ve been relying on to fund your health system and other priorities. Without more and better spent domestic money, investment in your people will decline by default as donor money shrinks—a lose-lose scenario for everyone.
However, if you commit to getting better results in health and education—if you spend more and more effectively—per capita GDP will stay on its remarkable pre-recession trajectory.
This is the scenario we all want: Nigeria thrives because every Nigerian is able to thrive.
And the data makes it clear that this scenario is entirely within your reach.
What do I mean by investing in your people? I mean prioritizing health and education, the factors included in the model I just showed you. I also mean continuing to open up opportunities in the agriculture and microenterprise sectors, as the government has proposed in the ERGP. I mean creating the conditions where Nigerians can reach their goals while adding value to the economy—the win-win scenario.
Our foundation doesn’t invest directly in education here, but the World Bank World Development Report that just came out makes it clear that education leads to improvements in employment, productivity, and wages.
Today, though, more than half of rural Nigerian children can’t read and write.
The conclusion is inescapable: Nigeria’s economy tomorrow depends on improving its schools today.
The same is true of health, our foundation’s primary focus area.
In 1978, Dr. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, who later became the Nigerian minister of health, helped establish primary health care as the global standard. We now know that a strong primary care system takes care of 90 percent of people’s health needs.
Tragically, 40 years after Dr. Ransome-Kuti helped other countries set a course for the future, the Nigerian primary health care system is broken.
The evidence for this can be found in the epidemic of chronic malnutrition, or stunting. As the name suggests, chronic malnutrition is not a disease children catch. It is a condition that develops over time because they are deprived of a diverse diet and the services a strong primary health care system provides.
The consequences of stunting are devastating. Though stunted children are defined as shorter than average, we’re not particularly concerned about their height. What we’re concerned about is their brains, or what Akin Adesina calls “gray matter infrastructure.”
This is a picture of the brain of a single normally developing infant. And next to it is a picture of the brain of a single chronically malnourished infant. Every brain and every child are different, but you can clearly see the difference in the number of neural connections in these two brains. And once this kind of damage is done, it’s very hard to repair.
In Nigeria, one in three children is chronically malnourished and could therefore be at risk. This is a tragedy for each one of these children; it is also a huge blow to the economy. 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 most 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.
Nigeria’s government revenue as a percentage of its GDP is by far the lowest in the world, at 6 percent. That makes investing in your people difficult. The next lowest country, Bangladesh, collects 10 percent of its GDP. If you got yourself up to second-to-last in the world, you would have an extra $18 billion to budget. Obviously, you’re aiming higher than that, but it gives you some idea about the scale we’re talking about.
We want to support you in your work to mobilize more resources to invest in your country. That’s why our foundation is working with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to help states track internally generated revenue.
Ultimately, raising revenue to invest in growth will require delivering on the government’s commitments to the Nigerian people, and convincing them that they will get a return on their taxes.
Right now, Nigeria’s fiscal situation is at what you might call a low equilibrium. In return for low levels of service, people pay low levels of tax. We hope to help you reach a higher equilibrium rooted in effective and transparent investments in people. This equilibrium would trigger a virtuous cycle.
More government revenue would lead to more money to spend on health and education. Better health and education, and investment in sectors like agriculture, would lead to more productive farms and factories. More productive farms would lead to more prosperous farmers who could expand their farms or invest in other businesses, especially if they had access to credit and other financial tools. These thriving farms, factories, and new businesses would lead to more government revenue. And the cycle would start again.
Triggering that cycle will require bolder action—action you have the power to take as leaders, governors, and ministers focused on Nigeria’s future.
Nigerians are known around the world for their big dreams and big ambitions.
Together with the Dangote Foundation, we will be here to help you achieve your dreams and ambitions. You have the support of the international community. The Nigerian private sector will continue to invest. We are eager to help, but we know we can’t lead. You must lead.
I believe in the grand vision of Nigeria’s future. I believe in it because I’ve seen it. It’s represented by this line—the line that depends on healthy, educated people and the surge of economic activity they will unleash.
And that means that the future depends on all of you—and your leadership in the years to come.
Saturday, March 17, 2018 was a remarkable day in the annals of the Port Harcourt Maximum Security Prison, when prominent Rivers state philanthropist and youth mentor, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, in the company of the Dumo Lulu-Briggs Youth Foundation, DYF 23 and other senior associates, visited the penitentiary facility, as part of an outreach programme of the Foundation across Rivers State.
The significance of the visit, which is in line with one of the core mandates of DYF 23, of repositioning the youths for a better tomorrow, was further underscored by the historical fact that the Port Harcourt Prison was built in 1918 and this year would mark the centenary anniversary of the facility as it clocks 100 years in 2018.
Historically, the Port Harcourt Maximum Security Prison, Iocated at the Dockyard area, off Aggrey and bordering the popular settlement known as Bundu waterside, in Port Harcourt, was originally built in 1918, four years after the amalgamation of Nigeria by sir Fredrick Lord Lugard in 1914, to accommodate 800 inmates, but current statistics indicate that it now holds around 5,000 persons in its custody with about 3,700 of the inmates, awaiting trial for over five years, thus it was a visit that evoked deep, sober reflection as Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs and his visitors stood before and later interacted with a mixed population of predominantly able bodied young and talented people, whose talents and prospects have been temporarily truncated and perhaps permanently stunted and eroded for the rest of their lives.
Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, who was deeply touched and emotionally overwhelmed by what he witnessed as the conditions under which the prisoners and especially mothers and children were living, said that the visit was indeed “a saddening and emotionally draining experience for me and for all of us who made that eye opening visit”.
Speaking further Chief Dumo said: “Like you well know, life often throws different challenges at us and we respond to those challenges differently. Sometimes, we respond very poorly and then we get ourselves in those situations like these people we met in our prisons.
“As human beings we are all allowed to make mistakes, except that sometimes, there are some of those mistakes that can destroy us. And so what we should feel for people who are in the prisons and under this sort of condition, is some level of compassion; to try and put yourself in their shoes and find out what they are going through and see how you can humanize them,” he appealed.
Expressing his sadness over the conditions of the prison and situation of the inmates, the Rivers born legal luminary and humanitarian said, “I was also made to understand that there were some who were still there in the prison who I learnt have been granted bail but they are not able to fulfill those bail conditions. So you can see that there are some people who are still sleeping in these places when they ought not to be there.
“There were also some who are awaiting trials and their matters are at different stages, but because they have issues getting lawyers to come out and defend them they have remained in prison. That is a failure of society because anybody who is awaiting trial should have a counsel to themselves and except of course you have been convicted, you shouldn’t be in prison.
“So we have all sort of issues there and we even met with some mothers who were there with their babies, and all of them, living in that condition. We must feel compassion for those little kids who are there because their mothers are there. We needed to give them a sense of feeling, a sense of hope that they know there is a wider world out there and it’s prepared to receive them and they will not be judged when the come out,” he said with a heavy voice.
He then inspired hope and joy in the inmates by reminding them that there was a life full of opportunities outside the prison walls, even as he reminded them of great men and women who became famous after they had come out from prison.
“And of course like you know we have had persons who have transited from Prisons into the larger society and have become great men and women and have ruled nations. Nelson Mandela is an amazing example. Some of the best writers wrote their books while they were in prison. So its a harrowing experience but its something that the rest of society must show an attachment. We must feel that empathy that there are people who are here and we need to see how we can help touch their lives….Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning”, he added even as he assured them of the inevitability of their morning, with strong conviction.
Reflecting on the deep feelings invoked by the revealing experience which the prison visit had left in him and on the efforts he would make through the DYF23 to provide some succour for the inmates, Dumo Lulu-Briggs said: “Life is about those in prison as well as about everybody else, so as much as possible I feel very humbled that I was given the opportunity by inmates to share their experiences with them.
“I spoke with them and we were able to have a decent meal for all of the inmates numbering 4,135. A decent meal is like Xmas meal for prisoners. We were able to bring loaves of bread and Noodles and food stuffs and other things to give to them. We were able to make committments to the female “freedomers” as they call themselves,” said an emotional, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs who, receiving a set of twin baby girls born by one of the inmates, stated in a heavy voice laden with deep compassion, “I have been around the world, I have seen things, but nothing amazed me more than seeing mothers incarcerated for such long years”.
He further confirmed that, “We were also very concerned about the women and female wards of course, and when they told us that their tanks were leaking, we made provision for those leakages to be addressed, and then for their floors to be tiled and for their living conditions to be made more decent.
“We made serious committments and I’m very very excited and I thank God for giving us that opportunity, and that’s what this foundation is all about. I thank God for the opportunity and the privilege to reach out to those of us who live in the shadows of life,” he enthused.
Addressing the members of the DYF23 and the youths of Rivers state, against the backdrop of the prison visit, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs noted that, “The Dumo Lulu-Briggs Youth Foundation is about mentorship, its about preparing the youths for a better tomorrow. Now they are beginning to understand the challenges that the society faces, challenges that they as leaders when they emerge, will have to confront.
“So this is a life enhancing experience for all of them. I am glad that this is like being in the eye of the crucible for them and they are going through all of those things that they will meet when they are saddled with higher responsibilities. Young people will have to prepare theirselves for that tomorrow that is theirs, and that tomorrow must come, he said, adding, “So DYF23, I’m sure this is a wonderful, amazing experience for you. Your President had to speak to almost all of the inmates and then we saw how they were excited when they were praying, how there was so much hope – how hope filled the entire prison, it rented the air; they were calling Christ and you can feel the spirituality that this experience has brought out in them. So they are no different from us,” he observed.
Admonishing the larger society to exhibit some understanding for the prisoners plight, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs pleaded thus: “You can make them feel like human beings because they are here for a period. They are here to be corrected of the ills that they may have committed. Therefore, when they come back into the larger society, they should come back and meet a caring society and they should begin to feel that those of us who are outside understand that there are some people who are inside, who have lost their freedoms for different infractions. If we don’t care especially for those of us who live in the shadows of life then we haven’t started,” he enjoined the outside world.
He then hailed the officials of the Port Harcourt Maximum security Prison for their commitment to their task over the years. “I want to also commend the prison officials for the effort they are making to ensure that the inmates are taken care of, especially given the challenging human and material conditions and circumstances they have to encounter, endure and operate under. God Bless you,” he prayed for them.
Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs concluded his remarks by urging that, “There is a fundamental difference between being a human being and being human and I want society not to begin to look down at them, not to stigmatise them but to understand that they have been there for one reason or the other, but as soon as they get their opportunity to be out again they will become one of us. They will be fully integrated and must be given every opportunity that each an every one of us have always enjoyed.
“We shall endeavour to make more regular visits to such facilities to pray with them, eat and sing with them, felicitate with the mothers and access the progress of the children and also ensure that some of the commitments we have made to address their existential situation have been implemented with the aim of exploring other avenues through which we can continue to bring hope and be of assistance to our fellow brothers and sisters who have found themselves at the wrong end of life at this time,” he pledged.
“Hope is indeed the Engine that keeps one going on,” he concluded with great enthusiasm.
Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs then promised to provide legal aid to all who had need for it, for free; and also to help reintegrate them back into the society when they eventually breathe the air of freedom.
In her own remarks, Miss Gift Ijinda, President, Dumo Lulu-Briggs Youths Foundation (DYF23), who could not hold back her emotions, lamented the depressing state of facilities which the female inmates endured, even as she expressed sadness at the sight of some inmates whose talents have been wasted and who had stayed so long in prison and had even become mothers inside the walls of confinement.
“Just like what we saw in the Prison when we went to the women’s ward, I felt so bad seeing my fellow women in that condition. One had twins in her hands. She was pregnant before she came into the Prison. I felt so bad that I see talents there wasting in that prison. So there’s enough reason for these ones to come out from prisons; and I believe that this is another lesson to us the youths that are not there, because seeing them in that condition I felt so bad,” she intoned sadly.
Speaking further, the DYF23 President said, “I shed tears to see a fellow woman, like the one that said she has stayed for 20years. How pretty that lady is. Just imagine her 20 years ago and she is still looking beautiful. She’s just there wasting away. I think it’s a great lesson to the youths to live an upright life and not to do things that will bring us into these kind of conditions. Their condition there is too bad. Last time we came in here, I and some of my Excos, we met with some of them, a girl of 18years being in the prison, is not a good lifestyle,” she admonished.
Miss Ijinda who hinted that the visit by the foundation to the prisons, was in line with its objective of repositioning young people for a brighter tomorrow, and further stressed the preparedness of the foundation in leading the path for not just assisting and showing love to the inmates but also providing every necessary assistance in their reabsorption back to the society, also took time out to shower encomiums on the grand patron of the DYF23, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs.
Miss Ijinda said, “Well, as the President of this noble foundation, the Dumo Lulu-Briggs Youth Foundation, I’m so glad to work with a man, who is a great man that has passion for the youths. I thank God for a great man like this that has passion for the youths. I know that our coming here will be good to them because so many of them are quite optimistic that with this our coming, I believe that our grand patron will do something and some of them will come out and be with us again. Thank you very much,” she said in appreciation to the man popularly addressed as DLB.
Lending his statesmanly and sagelike voice to the emotions of the day, a one time Deputy Speaker of the Rivers state House of Assembly and now chairman of the Grand Rivers Alliance, GRA, Rt. Hon. Iyk Oji who accompanied DYF23 and Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs to the Port Harcourt Maximum Security Prison said, “I believe and I’m persuaded that Chief Barrister Dumo Lulu-Briggs is at the service of God through the conferment of survivial benefits to other members of the human race; but most importantly, we are here because some people have made wrong choices. So they are here based on the consequences of choices they have made, and everyday we are faced with choices. I pray that what we have seen coming as it is, will help us to make better choices in future,” he reflected soberly.
Some of the high points of the visit included a very lively interactive session at the female section of the Prioson where the head of the “female freedomers” (as they are called), who has been a prisoner for over 20, years, thanked Chief Dumo Lulu-Brigfs for the visit saying that his father, Olu-Benson Lulu-Briggs, has done alot for the prison and its inmates over the years.
Other highlights were the presentation of the set of twins to Chief Dumo and the Prayers and the robust praise worship with the inmates during which special prayers were made for the foundation and its grand patron.
The visit was succesfully conclude with donations for the renovation and equipping of the cells and to various groups within the prison community including the mother of the twin baby girls for their upkeep. Food items and relief materials were also given to the inmates.
Receiving the donations, the Controller, Port Harcourt Maximum Security Prison, expressed immense appreciation to the foundation and its grand patron, Chief Dumo Lulu-Briggs, promising that the funds would be used judiciously for the good of the inmates and the prison community at large.
Additional reports and photos from DYF23 Media team.