Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote and tech billionaire Bill Gates on Thursday announced plans for a $100-million scheme to cut malnutrition in the continent’s most populous nation, Nigeria. Dangote said the partnership between his Dangote Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would address the problem, which affects some 11 million children in northern Nigeria.
The announcement was made in Abuja, a day after both men signed a deal to ramp up immunisation programmes in the northern states of Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano, where Dangote is from. US philanthropist Gates, who also met President Muhammadu Buhari, told reporters Nigeria’s key resource was its young population. Some 44 percent of the 170 million population are aged under 14.
The Microsoft founder said their prospects would be “greatly damaged if we don’t solve malnutrition”. The new scheme will fund programmes to 2020 and beyond, using local groups in the northwest and northeast, which has for the last seven years been ravaged by Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency.
Dangote and Gates have previously worked together on polio eradication programmes, which resulted in the country being taken off the global list of endemic countries last year. Nigeria is Africa’s leading economy and number one oil exporter, but poverty remains acute for all but a fraction.
Average life expectancy is 52 — five years fewer than the overall rate for sub-Saharan Africa — with high rates of infant mortality and for children under five. Some 31 percent of children under five were deemed under-weight in 2013, the 12th lowest in the world.