Co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, said his number one wish for Nigeria is that the quality and funding of the primary health care system will be better than it is at the moment.
Gates disclosed this in a telephone conference with reporters from Nigeria, Stockholm, Uganda and others, while speaking about 2019 Goalkeepers Report, Nigeria, the role of geography on inequality and many more.
“If I had one wish for Nigeria, it would be that the quality and funding of the primary health care system would achieve the level of some other countries that are lower-income but have done a better job with the primary health care system. So, it definitely is doable.
“In Nigeria for a lot of the work we do there we’re partnered with Aliko Dangote, who helps us understand who the good partners are and exactly how we can reach out to groups like the traditional leaders and get them involved in these efforts as well”.
Gates said that Nigeria has done well in terms of managing polio with a record of almost three years now without a polio case.
He added that the priority is now on the primary health care system.
“Well, Nigeria is a super-important country and one that the foundation has an office there. We did a lot of work in Nigeria on polio and we learned a lot doing that. Nigeria has gone almost three years now without having a polio case.
“The biggest priority we have, although making absolutely sure we’re done with polio remains a big priority, now we’re able to focus even more on the primary health care system”.
Speaking on funds as a major challenge, Gates further said that Nigeria raises small amount of money domestically compared with other countries.
He noted that it becomes a huge challenge when its time to fund infrastructure, health, education etc.
“Also, one challenge that Nigeria has is that the amount of money that the government raises domestically is quite small compared to other countries. A lot of countries at that level will be raising closer to 15 per cent of GDP and Nigeria is one of the lowest in the world down at about six per cent. And so, it is a huge challenge that when you want to fund infrastructure, health, education, all those things, that over time the tax collection, the domestic resources are going to have to go up quite a bit.
“That’s a long-term effort and I think partly by making sure the current resources are spent well like on primary health care, you gain the credibility that the citizens will say, okay, we want more of these things. If we don’t raise the quality, you can get into a trap where they don’t feel like paying the taxes actually has that much impact, and so they’re not supportive of that”.
Gates, who said he holds video conferences with at least six northern governors regularly, added there are best practices in the south that the north can learn from that as well.
“So, we’re working hard… we do videoconferences with state governors. If we can make the six states into exemplars, then these practices can be extended to all 18 of the northern states. There are best practices down in the south as well that we can learn from that as well. And so, you know, building on what we were able to achieve with polio and the relationships we’ve built there and our commitment, starting with primary health care, we think that Nigeria can tackle its inequality”.