By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Chairman, Aliko Dangote Foundation, and Africa’s biggest philanthropist, Aliko Dangote, has urged all operators in the private sector to commit one percent of their profits to fund the health sector challenges in Nigeria, to enable the country tackle crisis like the coronavirus pandemic successfully.
Dangote noted that such an allocation, which would be a separate payment from the corporate tax usually paid to the government would improve needed funding to boost the nation’s ailing health sector, as Nigeria continues to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This, according to him, would help ensure that the vaccine for treating the pandemic gets to the end-users in the country and across Africa, through viable partnerships and collaborations.
The renowned entrepreneur made these suggestions while responding to questions posed to him by a moderator Francine Lacqua during the virtual Bloomberg New Economic Forum (NEF), at a session titled, “Cross-Sector Mobilisation in Times of Crisis: Public Health Perspective.”
Other speakers alongside Dangote, who made their remarks at the Bloomberg NEF session hosted by the Dangote Group included, Founder and Chief Executive of Flagship Pioneering and Co-founder and Chairman of Moderna, Dr. Noubar Afeyan, and Co-founder and Chief Strategist at Partners in Health Care, Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, USA, Dr. Paul Farmer.
Responding to a question from Lacqua on if funding was one of the main barriers to actually dealing with health crisis effectively, Dangote replied, “Yes, I agree with you. It is more to do with funding. Like what we are doing in Nigeria as a foundation (Aliko Dangote Foundation), we are trying to sponsor a bill in our Congress where we want them to impose a tax. This is a separate tax, not a corporate tax, of maybe about one per cent of all our profits, in the private sector, so that they will fund health.
“And I think it is the only way; we cannot just leave government alone. Government alone cannot fund health. So we the foundations, the private sector and then the government, we have to actually work together to make sure that we fund health. You know, it is a very, very important sector and without a healthy population, there is no way you have a healthy economy. And healthy youths, who make up a large percentage of our population, can make a difference.”
In his remarks on the COVID-19 pandemic and its ravaging impact on African health and economic sectors and the role played by the private sector, Dangote noted that, “for us here in Nigeria, mostly in Africa, the COVID-19 is really an eye-opener because when you look at it, we have two impacts. One is the human impact, the other one is the economy.
‘’One, I think in Africa, most of it is actually the economic impact, because what you have done at the beginning, we shut down all our activities, we shut down the airports. So when you look at the economic impact for us, it is huge. But the human impact, we, as at today, have about 65,000 cases thereabout in Nigeria, and we have 1,165 deaths.”
“So it’s not really much compared to population, which is, you know, the population of 200 million. But because of the economic impact, a lot of people couldn’t really go out to make their livelihood. So what we did, we have this Coalition against COVID-19 of which I actually mobilised the private sector and we raise the sum of $112 million dollars. And what we did was now to go all out and set up 39 isolation centers, of which the smallest one is 100 beds and biggest ones are 200 beds. And they have ventilators which we bought; they have all the equipment.
“Then we also said, what do we do about these isolation centers? Now people were not able to afford money to eat. So what we did, we went out and we bought food for 10 million people, which is five per cent of the population; thus people at the bottom of the pyramid. And what we did, we took 10 million people and we said, this 10 million people, it means that you have minimum of 1.7 million households. And we gave them food and we distributed. So that will actually reduce the effect of the lockdown. So that’s what we did,” Dangote added.
The renowned businessman, whose Dangote Group was recently rated as the most valuable company in Nigeria, played a key role in the eradication of polio in Nigeria, which led to the certification of Nigeria and Africa as polio-free on August 25 this year. He is also the founder of the Private-sector led Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID), which has raised around N38 billion to support government efforts against the pandemics.