Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, has said he is looking forward to when he would be giving out half of his wealth to humanitarian work especially in the health sector.
Mr Dangote, who is the chairman of the Dangote Foundation, said on Wednesday that “he was looking forward to when he would be giving half of his wealth to charity like Bill and Melinda Gates.”
Mr Dangote, who has had his foundation in Nigeria since 1994, said he was ‘unaware’ of the magnitude of humanitarian assistance needed in the country “until he met with Mr Gates.”
Mr Dangote was on one of the panel section with Mr Gates during the Goalkeepers event in New York.
The billionaire philanthropists both spoke on malnutrition in Africa with emphasis on Nigeria where they both render health interventions.
He said also said his meeting with Mr Gates “made him a different person as it gave him new ways of appreciating humanity.”
“I never realised we had this massive challenge in the health sector. Really, it is mind-boggling.”
He said his eyes were not opened to the massive health challenges until his foundation collaborated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Mr Dangote said many Nigerian children are malnourished because they do not get the right vitamins and supplements needed in their meal for survival.
He said malnutrition in the country needs to be addressed seriously “as this is having a toll on the society”.
To solve part of the problem, Mr Dangote said they have been in talks with governments in Nigeria to make policies that would enhance food production and processing by manufacturers.
This he explained can be done by fortifying most of the processed food with essential vitamins.
He said they are in talks with the government to make it mandatory for companies to fortify all rice products consumed in the country “because that is one of the staple food consumed in Nigeria.”
“The main food we eat in Nigeria is rice; they eat rice in the morning, afternoon and night. Right now, Dangote is in the process of rice milling and we are setting up so that we apply these nutritious vitamins to the over one million tonnes we will be producing.”
Nigeria has one of the highest burdens of malnourished children in the world.
Nigeria is also the country with the second-highest burden of stunted children in the world with a national prevalence rate of 32 per cent of children under five.
Most of the high burden states are in the North-west and North-east.
According to UNICEF, an estimated two million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but only two out of every 10 affected are currently accessing treatment.
Also, many women of childbearing age suffer from acute malnutrition.
Malnutrition is also said to be the direct or underlying cause of 45 per cent of all deaths of under-five children in the country.
Speaking in a similar vein, Mr Gates said a lot needs to be done to address food insecurity and malnutrition.
He said some of the challenges are also as a result of climate change as many regions are becoming arid.
He said this is having a negative effect on food production and as such technological interventions are needed to mitigate the problems.