Bill Gates to African Leaders: Invest more in girl-child education, health

Bill and Melinda Gates
Bill and Melinda Gates

Bill and Melinda Gates have called on African leaders to invest in quality girl-child education and health in order to achieve the sustainable development target.

The couple, in their 2019 annual Goalkeepers Report released on Tuesday said, for Sub-Saharan countries, particularly Nigeria, to make progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the government need to focus on tackling gender inequities in the countries.

Gender inequality has been noted as one of the bedrocks on which poverty thrives

The Goalkeepers Report is published annually by the Gates Foundation. It tracks progress on the United Nations SDG targets aimed at reducing poverty and improving health around the world by 2030.

The couple harped on the need for African leaders to invest and develop human capital as “the best way for a country to unlock productivity and innovation, cut poverty create opportunities and generate prosperity.”

This, they said, can only be achieved if the countries invest in tackling gender inequalities in education, healthcare , financial inclusion, among others.

“We plotted health and education because they are the key component of what economists call human capital, which we highlighted in last year’s Goalkeepers report as the best way for a country to unlock productivity and innovation, cut poverty, create opportunities and generate prosperity.

“Investments in human capital today help people increase their incomes tomorrow. But without human capital- that is for those who are unhealthy and uneducated – it is virtually impossible to escape poverty,” they said.

Report

Although Nigeria is said to have recorded some progress, there is still an alarming population who have been left behind.

This is be enhanced by geographical barriers as some places are doing overwhelming better than some regions in the country, the report said.

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According to the report, “where a child is born is more predictive of their future than any other factor.”

“A child’s birthplace is the biggest predictor of its future health and no matter where you are born, your life is harder if you are born a girl,” it said. “If you are born in a poor country or district, it will even be harder. Gaps between countries, districts and boys and girls prove that the world’s investments in development aren’t reaching everyone.”

The report said, though health and education is improving everywhere in the world, “there is still much to be desired because the figures of child mortality and out of school children in Nigeria are still very startling”.

Statistics

Globally, Nigeria has one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates.

According to the UNICEF, one in 34 babies born in Nigeria die before their first birthday. The report shows that most of the deaths occur in areas with less development.

According to the report, inequalities exist within the country.

In Nigeria, the data shows that world class achievement juxtaposed sharply with serious deprivation.

Read also: Invest more in healthcare, Congolese president urges colleagues

A girl child in Nigeria is likely to have average two years less education than her male counterpart and they also do more unpaid labour than their male counterparts.

“Big progress and big gaps also hold true inside countries. For the first time ever, we have human capital data at the local government levels. The inequality between some LGAs in Nigeria is massive.

“For example, the average person in Ado-Ekiti in Ekiti State has more than 12 years education, whereas the average person in ‘Garki’ in Jigawa has five. When we model this chart into the future, you see that the Chad, Budauns and Garkis of this world are not catching up fast enough,” the report said.

Investments in human capital

Mr Gates, in a teleconference with jurnalists ahead of the Goalkeepers’ conference in New York, said spending on health and education should be targeted toward children in Nigeria and other countries “where gender inequality gap is greatest”.

Mr Gates said “gender inequality cuts across every single country on earth”.

“Almost half of a billion people live in communities without access to health and education. Where you are born and what gender you are has a major effect on global inequality.”

He said the gender statistics “are still not strong and as clear as they should be”.

However, he added “that girls are subjected to more violence, less opportunities and less education are things that should make countries prioritise reducing the gender gaps”.

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