We get value for most of the money BMGF spends in Nigeria, says Bill Gates



Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), says the Foundation gets value for the funds it spends in Nigeria.


Speaking during an exclusive interview with select journalists in Lagos, Gates said the Foundation strives to get the right people to commit to the work that is being done.


He said so far, he can confidently say about 80 percent of the funds expended are being used judiciously.


“We are lucky to have the resources, we can have credible teams. We have a malaria team that is amazing, a tuberculosis team that is amazing, teams working with various governments,” Gates said.


 “We have an office in Nigeria, and right now we have three big offices in Africa. Because of the stuff we work on, it engages people for more commitment and we’ve been able to see the project so it is kind of like the way I built Microsoft, when I’m off working on Malaria, the TB team is doing great work.


“My impact is more in terms of picking the goals and making sure we get the right people. In terms of the impact, fortunately, with our staff, the vaccines get shipped into the country — there’s no black market for vaccines where they get taken somewhere else. Tracking to make sure that the healthcare budgets, the workers are there, and the equipment are maintained.


“Overall in health, most of the money gets into what it is for. We see the results; children surviving. We feel good that the money is well spent.”



Gates, who met with the president, vice-president, governors, and traditional rulers, including the Sultan of Sokoto, said governments have more to do to deal with challenges facing the health system.


He noted that the foundation is in talks with Nigerian governors about getting rid of polio once and for all so that it can focus on other health challenges.


“The biggest single thing we have done in Nigeria is getting rid of polio and of course, we got rid of it once and now it’s come back in certain form so once again we need to get rid of it again,” Gates added.


“During the pandemic, the number went up a lot but now they are coming down. Feeling hopeful and talking to the new governors. Let’s get that behind us so we can focus on other health challenges like Malaria, measles.”


On how young innovators in the country can market their ideas globally, Gates said Nigeria can encourage the youth by training them, building data skills, and investing in new companies.


“It’s never economical to do a vaccine for just one country. It is very complicated. We do have vaccine capability in Africa,” Gates said.


“We found that group in Senegal that actually does yellow fever vaccine and we are looking at putting polio vaccine production there. So, I think for Nigeria, it is more about being part of the global ecosystem than individual entrepreneurs doing that.


“A lot of things in health can be invented or created here. But it will be more of a global thing.”


He said the youths can come up with innovative ways to solve problems peculiar to their locality if they are motivated and given the educational and health opportunities they need.


“The biggest thing for African youth is that if we give them the health and nutrition they deserve, and they have the educational opportunity, it is up to them to see these opportunities, both formal and informal —   access to the internet; ability to learn things, training and being motivated.


 “If you pick what you are good at, what you are passionate about, not everyone should be an entrepreneur but being a doctor, a teacher, or even working for a big company, there’s a lot of ways to contribute.”



On the fear that artificial intelligence (AI) could take over jobs and render many unemployed, Gates said advancement in technology should be seen as a welcome development.


 “Mostly, we should be super excited. I mean if we can speed up discovery for infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases like cancer, Alzheimer, and so many others, then that’s a great thing for humanity,” he said.


“The government being super efficient, people getting access to medical advice, and that shortage of white-collar workers means that over the next five years where all these will be dramatically improved.


 “I’m not at all disagreeing with the focus on the challenges like deep fakes, and cyber attacks. Like all technologies, it can be used by criminals so we have to make sure the defense is staying ahead of the offense.”


He added that the public can focus on the upside of such “a dramatic innovation” and how incredible things can be done better and faster.

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