Nigerian Scientist: Gates Foundation Funding ‘Population Control’ in Africa
For years, Obianuju Ekeocha has criticized U.S.-led efforts to increase birth control and abortion in African nations. She advises what the West can learn from family-centered African cultures.
In the age of YouTube, news interviews often go viral. Yet there are few videos more explosive than when Nigerian national Obianuju Ekeocha, a biomedical scientist currently living in England, sparred with a BBC anchor in a clip now viewed by tens of millions.
The two discussed hot-button topics of abortion and contraception. Early in the interview, BBC presenter Yalda Hakim stated, “The fact remains that hundreds of millions of women don’t have access and should.” Ekeocha shot back: “You’re saying should — but who are you to decide?”
For the scientist and author of Target Africa, her goal has become to expose what she views as unwanted and even perilous efforts by Western charities and governments. These groups, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation taking a lead role, have committed hundreds of millions of dollars to increase contraception, birth control and, in some cases, abortion services.
“I work as a medical scientist in the areas of hematology and blood transfusions,” said Ekeocha, who prefers “Uju” for short. “Alongside my career in science, I’ve learned about a horrible dynamic between African and Western nations. One could best describe that relationship as neocolonialism.”
With her group Culture of Life Africa exhibiting at the March for Life Conference in Washington, D.C., Ekeocha took time to explain what sparked her pro-life activism, how African leaders have often been excluded from aid discussions and how she responds to critics. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Open Letter, New Mission
When was Culture of Life Africa founded and what is its purpose?
Obianuju Ekeocha: I founded Culture of Life Africa in 2013, only a few months after the Gates Foundation stepped up their population control efforts. They call it “family planning” in the developing world, but from my view it was a bold, audacious step towards population control.
The wife of Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, joined the project in a big way in July 2012. In August, I wrote what became known as the Open Letter to Melinda Gates. It is online now in several languages.
Really, it was just me from an African perspective stating for their benefit the positions of many African people with regards to population control and the types of projects they were planning. I suggested they could use that money in education and other areas that would actually help African peoples.
That is how Culture of Life Africa was formed. As a scientist, I love statistics so we research data and the facts. We compile accurate information, then raise awareness based on the trends we see.
Venturing Far from Home
Prior to moving to the United Kingdom, what was your professional role in Nigeria?
Ekeocha: I was a medical laboratory scientist working in microbiology and parasitology. I worked at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital in Enugu. Born and raised in Nigeria, I went on to study at a prominent Nigerian university in Nsukka. I’ve had my full experience living in Africa.
That is why I felt confident enough to raise my voice, to speak up against what I felt was a forced narrative being formed within a certain group of people in the West. They are accurately described as elites, those exceptionally wealthy and well-connected. This horrible narrative was going through their ranks, and nobody was responding.
I had lived up to my adulthood and worked, and had a full understanding of the community and society I came from. From there, I felt I could pursue this and speak up against it.
Answering the Critics
Their perspective says children born into poverty are more susceptible to diseases and other poor outcomes. Thus, birth control is viewed as a solution. How do you respond?
Ekeocha: They say children should not exist if the quality of life will be low or poor. It’s better to be dead than poor? I think that’s eugenics at its finest. From the perspective of most African people across different countries, it is wrong and an unfortunate way to look at life.
Even when people are poor, I find they are some of the happiest people I know on the planet. The things we need to make us happy are faith and family. Of course, we do not want people to be poor. Many are struggling to come out of poverty.
But a large infusion of contraception into a society doesn’t really lift people out of poverty. It simply makes that community sterile. What I’ve found following these projects is they are putting so much effort into population control, contraception and even sometimes abortion. It means there is less to spend on education, real development, water and sanitation.
They are lowering fertility without coming hand in hand with any development. There is only a limited amount of such resources in the world, including foreign aid funding. So why is it with all of the money going to African peoples, they are spending a large chunk of it on something the Africans themselves are not clamoring for?
Turning the Tables
What cultural values did you grow up with in Nigeria that you see lacking in the U.S. and other Western nations?
Ekeocha: When I came to the United Kingdom 13 years ago, what shocked me the most was the loss of the value of human life — especially from the beginning. Most Western countries have a perspective that human life only begins when a baby is born.
All the efforts being put towards human rights exclude the unborn. It’s obvious. Last year, I spoke at a United Nations event in Geneva, Switzerland where most human rights agencies are based. Leaders refused to mention lives in the womb. It’s as if the U.N. and Western superpowers want to exclude the unborn from human rights.
What I learned from my own upbringing and community is that human life is precious from the beginning. We have names like Ndubisi, which translates as “human life is first.” I know we are poor and have all these inadequacies. But the first thing we hold on to is life. As long as you have life, there is hope. My family came out of poverty in one generation.
My grandfather had seven children, and they were poor — but not due to the size of their family. During the colonial era, he had no education or training. He couldn’t speak English and get into the proper employment pool. My parents have six children, almost the same as my grandfather. Yet my father got an education and rose out of poverty. The difference from father to son was education.
Our values are to protect human life and family. Faith is also very important. We cannot do without it, because we know that we are not God. There is always someone higher than us and in control of things. If you have that, then everything else is added on to it.
Mobilizing in Africa
Over the past six years, has the Gates Foundation responded to your concerns or shifted in their policies?
Ekeocha: No, the Gates Foundation and similar groups have not responded. But they do know about our projects. They have branches in Nigeria and Ghana. Through the grapevine, we hear that they lament and complain about the work we do. Perhaps it’s undermining some of their work. But they have not responded to me directly and have never tried to reach out.
We have traveled to ten African countries to raise awareness. Definitely there is always room for more. We wish that mainstream media would cover these things, but they don’t. Thank goodness, we have social media where we are putting out information. Working with many African Bishops, I find sometimes they did not get specifics quick enough or have a full picture of what’s going on. Culture of Life Africa gets information to people who should know.
Before I started this group, we were moving in the dark. I have seen a lot of difference and change in that we have managed to get the word out. Now when the Gates go to Africa and throw a few million dollars in for this or that project, several leaders like me have more than critical thoughts about it. We have evidence and confidence to speak out.
Positive changes have happened since the Trump administration. President Trump reinstated the Mexico City Policy, which was amazing. Yet other countries have responded negatively. The Canadian government has given even more to sexual and reproductive rights which includes abortion. The British government funds one of the biggest abortion organizations in the world, Marie Stopes International. Australia has funded that group as well.
We’ll keep struggling and fighting so one day the African people rise up. With a unified voice, we will have the confidence to say: We don’t want your neocolonialism on our continent.
As a globetrotter and woman of color, your voice is rare in praising the Trump administration. What are others missing that you see?
Ekeocha: I’m a scientist. My goal is for people to know the facts and truth. I love to test things and have proof based on data. My pro-life work started during the Obama administration, his second term. I know how hard it was. The U.S. did everything in such a tyrannical manner regarding sexual and reproductive health. They wouldn’t talk to me. When a lot of the African pro-life leaders went near them, they shut you down.
When the Trump administration came in, I had an open mind. Sometimes we’re not sure when people come in and say they’re pro-life. Are they politicians just trying to win points? I wanted to see for myself. And this administration has been willing to listen.
I have spoken to people within the White House who are as pro-life as anyone here at the march. They believe life begins at conception, and speak as strongly as I speak. They came in and immediately put things in place to make sure taxpayers are not funding abortion across the developing world. It has given me a lot of hope and courage.
President Trump also issued an executive policy called Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance. Most Americans don’t even know what this is. It’s one of the best kept secrets in the world! The administration has increased efforts to ensure they are protecting human life in whatever countries where they are giving health care assistance.
As to African Americans and people of color, I would urge them to shut off every voice on both sides and try to find out the facts. Get the emotions and political parties out of it. Look at the figures, numbers and what’s going on. Find out where the money is going and judge for yourself.
The Global March for Life
Some U.S. pro-life advocates are discouraged by the divided Congress. What gives you hope?
Ekeocha: America is really the mother of all pro-life movements. I have marched in so many countries. I’ve done the Walk for Life in San Francisco, the Rally for Life in Madrid, Marches for Life in Canada and the UK as well as several marches across the continent of Africa.
This feels like a pilgrimage to me. This March for Life gave birth to every other March for Life around the world. No matter where you go, everybody has their eyes on the amazing seed that Nellie Gray sowed in this place. It feels to me like I am coming to the very center and heart of the pro-life movement in the world.
Today, it’s discouraging that we see a pro-choice majority in the House. They have the highest number of pro-choice politicians ever, which they boast about enthusiastically. At least the U.S. Senate will remain majority pro-life. In many ways, this will stop the lower house from overrunning and destroying every good work that has been done.
I pray Americans will continue to vote in a pro-life President at every chance they get. It doesn’t only reflect on what happens within the country. It has a large impact around the world. Where people are so defenseless and poor, they have a better chance.