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Nigeria Important, I’m Hopeful About Country -Bill Gates

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Bill Gates, the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
(BMGF), says Nigeria is important and he is hopeful about the country
but urged the government to make good use of the nation’s wealth which
will encourage Nigerians to pay taxes.

Gates said Nigeria must gain more confidence from its citizens if its
internally generated revenue would increase.

The billionaire said this during a teleconference with selected
journalists, where the goalkeepers report was unveiled.

He said: “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 percent
of GDP and Nigeria is one of the lowest in the world down at about six
percent. 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.”

The report gave data on educational disparity across different communities.

“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,” Gates added.

“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.

“Nigeria is important, I’m hopeful about Nigeria.  As you see in the
report, the disparities within Nigeria are quite stark.

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“So, we’re working hard. I mentioned 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.”

He said the wish of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, would be
quality funding if the primary health care.

“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’ve partnered 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.

“I do a regular phone call with six of the governors in the north of
Nigeria to talk about the statistics on their primary health care
system, getting the workers there, getting the vaccine supply right,
getting the mothers to show up, so that we get antenatal care to be
better, we get vaccination rates to be better.

“And it’s really the digital tools that let us, you know, every time
we meet and talk, we have a sense of, okay, what’s gone well in the
last six months, what hasn’t, and what do we need to change.”

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SaharaReporters, New York

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