Gates Foundation tasks FG on digital infrastructure investment

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The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has called for more investment in digital infrastructure by the Federal Government.

Mr. Rodger Voorhies, the President, Global Growth and Opportunity Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation stated this in his presentation at a meeting of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum in Abuja.

Voorhies said: “Nigeria has made some progress in this regard, but more investment is needed because the current systems – digital payments and ID – exist in silos.

“Nigeria should make DPI a growth opportunity by connecting these systems and improving on them.

“In this way, it can expand the geographic reach of digital payments infrastructure, streamline digital IDs, and see greater socio-economic gains.

“A robust DPI would also enable Nigeria to deliver essential services and create economic opportunity across many sectors – including finance, health, agriculture, social protection, public financial management, and more.
“This type of digital infrastructure should also be underpinned by the proper regulations to safeguard privacy and encourage vital data-sharing, which are essential for long-term gains.”

He said that the foundation was working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and other key stakeholders on financial inclusion in Nigeria.

He said that digital financial inclusion could benefit billions of people by spurring inclusive growth that adds $3.7 trillion to the GDP of emerging economies within a decade.

“For Nigeria, it is estimated financial inclusion could help boost GDP by 12 per cent in this way,” he said.

Voorhies added that there were also strong evidence that digital financial services accelerated the welfare of women and their contribution to the economy.

“Progress in financial inclusion is uneven across the country. In some geo-political zones about 17 per cent of the adult population are financially excluded while in another zone that figure is 68 per cent .

“States and geo-political zones with large urban centers and with high levels of infrastructure tend to have higher rates of inclusion.

“The foundation has extensive experience in supporting governments accelerate financial inclusion,” he said.

He expressed commitment to support efforts by the federal government to achieve large scale food fortification in the country.

He said the foundation’s focus in Nigeria were in healthcare, financial inclusion for the poor, agriculture, women’s economic empowerment, and recently enabling digital capabilities.

“At the Gates Foundation, we stand behind the efforts and commitment of Nigeria towards large scale food fortification.

“We seek to leverage the power of fortification as one of the most cost- effective interventions for a basic supply of micronutrients to the population, particularly preschool children, women of reproductive age and those who are at greatest risk of nutrient deficiency.

“The Nigerian government continues to lead an evidence-based agenda, and we are excited that after 20 years, the next Nigerian Food Consumption and Micronutrient Status survey is expected to be soon released.

“This will provide critical data on dietary intake, malnutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies among sub-groups in the population, which will help inform Government policies,” Voorhies said.

He added that millers played a key role in addressing global malnutrition yet face multiple challenges across the world, including in Nigeria.

Voorhies commended how Nigeria demonstrate an early commitment to that through increased interest from millers to participate in the Micronutrient Fortification Index, a self-regulatory platform that can inspire other millers to join the fortification efforts.

He said that the successes in Nigeria had led to a wider coalition called Millers for Nutrition which now spanned across eight countries across Africa and Asia.

“This has provided a platform for millers to be encouraged, championed, and enabled to fortify. We continue to support this initiative.

“As an important member of the National Council on Nutrition, the NGF can leverage its voice to prioritize fortification as a key nutrition intervention in Nigeria.

“The NGF is also well-placed to ensure that fortified food is made available to Nigerian citizens across the different states through the incorporation of fortified foods into social programs that supply food products.

“The incorporation of fortified rice into school feeding programs is a good example that can be expanded for increased impact,” Voorhies said.

He said that the foundation agriculture investment footprints in Nigeria had progressively matured, covering different facets concerned with seeds systems development, and varietal improvements.

He said that was done working jointly with some Nigerian institutions including National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike (NCRI), Institute of Agricultural Research, Zaria (IAR), and other international research institutes, to drive innovation in developing new varieties.

He said that the foundation looked forward to further collaboration in agricultural policy formulation, and implementation of creative climate adaptation approaches.

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