The bromance between Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, and Bill Gates took root even before they met officially.
A couple of years earlier, the two attended the same event in New York and a mutual friend proposed they meet.
“He [the mutual friend] knew we were both super interested in global health. So, we made sure to sit next to each other at dinner,” Gates recollected in a piece published on Gatesnotes on October 1.
Immediately they took each other’s hand it was clear they had so much in common. They had both started “successful businesses” in the late 70s.
Gates founding Microsoft with childhood friend Paul Allen in 1975, growing to become the world’s largest personal computer company. Dangote, on the other hand, founded the Dangote Group which owns and operates more than 18 subsidiaries across a range of industries.
Again, they both established foundations to improve health and education.
“More importantly, we both love to geek out over things that make some people’s eyes glaze over, like cement, fertilizer, and iodized salt,” Gates said.
That first meeting sparked the beginning of a fruitful friendship and in 2016, their foundations announced a joint, five-year $100 million commitment to reducing malnutrition in Nigeria.
Malnutrition is the greatest health inequity in the world. It is responsible for nearly half of all under five deaths in Nigeria (and around the world). Even if you survive to adulthood, your chances of dying are much higher, and your quality of life is greatly reduced.
And one of the ways their foundations are working together to fight malnutrition is through food fortification.
“Kids often become malnourished when they don’t get enough micronutrients—vitamins, and minerals—to digest their food properly. One way to correct this is by adding micronutrients to the food that families—especially those from low-income households—are purchasing every day,” Gates said.
By introducing additional micronutrients to the food people are already eating, one can improve health without changing any habits.
The two foundations are now working together to find other staple foods and condiments that could be used to deliver more micronutrients to more people in Nigeria, like fortified bouillon cubes.
Improving health in Nigeria is critical to making progress in sub-Saharan Africa. The country is home to nearly a quarter of all people living in sub-Saharan Africa, and that population is only going to grow in the future. By solving problems in Nigeria, you can have a huge impact on all of Africa.
“Aliko Dangote understands this, and that’s why he’s committed to making progress in his home country. Melinda and I are lucky to have him as a partner (and friend!) in improving health,” Gates said in the notes.