Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote announced his partnership with the former world’s richest man, Bill Gates, during a ceremony in Nigeria’s second largest city, Kano, to eradicate polio in the country.
Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, are the only countries still battling the endemic polio.
The billionaire industrialist who is also chairman of Dangote Group, disclosed on Tuesday that he and “Bill Gates met in New York and agreed to partner and intervene in polio eradication.”
The two philanthropists, through their foundations – Dangote Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – would provide funding, equipment and technical support to the Kano state government to strengthen polio immunisation.
The amounts the two foundations intend to commit in the alliance were however not disclosed.
“There is no reason for any one of us not to assist in keeping our people healthy,” said Dangote, who also hails from Kano.
According to ThisDay, earlier in the year, Nigeria declared polio eradication a national emergency after previous attempts at controlling the disease through immunisation. Ms Jennifer Peters, a South African–based consultant for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, dismissed any realistic hope of attaining the global goal of 100 percent immunisation by the end of 2012 in Nigeria. “The risk of an explosive return of polio in Nigeria and West Africa is ever present and raises the chilling spectre of many deaths and huge financial outlay to regain control,” she said.
Based on a recent WHO weekly report on polio, Nigeria accounts for 104 of the 193 cases so far recorded worldwide this year, with Kano having 22 cases.
Jeff Raikes, head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said at the ceremony: “Eradicating polio will be Kano’s gift to Nigeria and Nigeria’s gift to the world.”
Bill Gates, “the planet’s most generous person,” as declared by Forbes, has also spent millions of dollars in the development of agriculture and the fight against malaria in Africa. He made the largest ever single charitable donation when he pledged $10billion to develop and distribute vaccines.
In October, Dangote, who has also made several philanthropic gestures, donated $2.7 million to flood victims in Kogi, Nigeria.