Founder of Microsoft, and Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to increase its investment in equitable solutions for the country. At the Pan-African Youth Innovation Forum which was held in Lagos, Gates emphasized that Nigerians continue to face the same challenges he highlighted five years ago, including economic instability and security threats. He further revealed that Nigeria’s state and federal governments spend only $10 per person annually on healthcare as opposed to the $33 average in sub-Saharan Africa.
His remarks highlight the urgent need for greater financial commitment to improve the healthcare system and address the basic needs of the Nigerian population. He urged the Tinubu government to make a much bigger financial commitment, focused most of all on improving primary health systems. At the forum, which was themed “Advancing Africa: Unleashing the Power of Youth in Science and Innovation,” Gates, said that Nigeria was full of talented people with a lot of potential. However, he warned that it could be hard to fulfil that potential if these people do not have access to the most basic building blocks of life.
Leaders need to make allowances and financial commitment to health.
According to the founder, Nigerian leaders need to make a much bigger financial commitment that is focused on improving primary healthcare systems in the country. It is not uncommon for the unprivileged and underprivileged to ignore going to hospital at the advent of an ailment. This is because the cost of seeking treatment in government hospitals is so high that many of these people do not earn it in a year. For instance, many people walk around with both benign and malignant tumors in several parts of their body because they cannot afford to pay for surgery or basic treatment.
It is not a strange incident for health cost to be high. In fact, the cost of healthcare in developed countries run into tens of thousands of dollars depending on the case. However, there are insurance schemes and government subsidy on this cost and citizens can access them for emergency situations or even for their general well-being. As of 2022, 77 percent of healthcare spendings in Nigeria were out-of-pocket. This is as opposed to 37 percent for the African average and 18 percent for the world average.
Gates also spoke on other sectors of Nigeria’s economy.
This means that 77 percent of the total money that was spent on healthcare were actually born by Nigerians themselves. On average, citizens of many African countries bear only 37 percent of their healthcare spending while it is much lower globally at just 18 percent. So, Gates said that making sure that clinics are well-staffed and supplied and making sure that children get vaccines that they need, this are all absolutely essential to improving health and opportunity and unlocking all of Nigeria’s potential.
Meanwhile, he also noted that he plans to speak with the government about increasing commitments to agriculture and digital financial systems. He said that the last time that he spoke with the Nigerian government (in 2018) was when he spoke about the country’s potential for growth. This time round, his focus is on Nigeria’s next generation of innovators whom he said that he had a lot of faith in. He said that he believed that these young people will persevere and improve lives throughout Nigeria and beyond.
Artificial intelligence will blossom in Africa, he revealed.
Finally, the tech giant said that in the future, artificial intelligence (AI) will be applied in ways that will bring quality health care and education to more people especially in Africa. He added AI has the potential to save and improve lives, but that will not happen if profit was the only motive. He said that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is thinking about what they could do to help AI develop in ways that improve the lives and well-being of everyone, not just the wealthiest people in a few rich countries.