American billionaire and businessman, Bill Gates, has said that his criticism of the Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery & Growth Plan was to stir leaders to wake up to their responsibility and focus on human capital development.
Mr. Gates said Nigeria needs to act to save the country’s large youth population.
During his visit to Nigeria, the co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, addressed an expanded National Economic Council meeting in Abuja where he criticised the government for “prioritising physical capital over human capital” in its economic development plans.
Present at the meeting was Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, state governors, and ministers.
Mr. Gates’ comments attracted a huge debate among Nigerians across all political divides, with many backing his call.
The federal government claimed Mr. Gates’ remarks was misunderstood by the media, and tried to counter the message by highlighting its effort to develop human capital.
But, in an interview with the CNN on Tuesday, Mr. Gates said his intention in criticising the country was not to be impolite, but to point out to Nigerian politicians the need to focus more on human capital development to save the horde of Nigerian youth population facing poverty and other social malaise.
“While it may be easier to be polite, it’s more important to face facts so that you can make progress,” Mr. Gates said.
Mr. Gates said he was “very direct” in his criticism of the federal government to stress the need for more to be done to raise the level of its investment in education and health.
“The current quality and quantity of investment in this young generation in health and education just isn’t good enough. So, I was very direct,” he told CNN.
In his Abuja speech, Mr. Gates faulted the decision to anchor the country’s long term economic growth on investments in infrastructure, pointing out that investments in people must go hand in hand.
“People without roads ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy,” he argued.