Our foundation is focused on helping with several of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): reducing extreme poverty, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. We work closely with UN agencies, governments and other organizations on these challenges.
Each year, governments report their MDG progress, and it’s amazing how these report cards have galvanized people to say, "Okay, we don’t measure up. What are other countries doing better? How can we make progress on this?" There’s greater awareness of all the work that’s still to be done.
Because a lot of that work is in Sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria is crucial to achieving the MDGs. It is home to about one-quarter of the region’s population. And with funds available from debt relief and its oil assets, Nigeria has an opportunity to be a leader in achieving the goals.
I’ve had a chance to visit Nigeria several times. My visits have focused on child health and especially their polio eradication campaign. We saw last year that the number of new polio cases was reduced by more than 80 percent. They’re making real progress. I’m excited about what they’ve been able to achieve. Nigeria is helping demonstrate that development progress can be achieved under even the most difficult conditions.
One of the most inspiring people I’ve met in Nigeria is Amina Az-Zubair. She is the senior advisor to Nigeria’s president on the MDGs, and she’s worked for many years in senior positions in education and other areas of development. She’s a fascinating person. Having grown up in the Isle of Man and Nigeria, she brings a special blend of business, government and NGO experience to her vitally important work.
And the work Amina has done is quite amazing. She has a deep understanding of how to get things done in Nigeria and Africa in general. More broadly, she has a great understanding of how to put together long-term plans, how to develop skills sets and systems to achieve real progress. Amina’s unwavering focus and her optimism have made her a force to be reckoned with and a voice for people who often have none.