Economic growth and imperative of human capital development

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The Co-Chair of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates Thursday last week harped on the need for Nigeria to urgently invest in human capital, stressing that Nigeria has unmatched economic potential, he also stressed that growth will come naturally when Nigeria maximizes its greatest resource, the Nigerian people.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the Nigerian government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan identifies ‘investing in our people’ as one of three ‘strategic objectives. But the execution priorities do not seem to fully reflect people’s needs, prioritizing physical capital over human capital.

Therefore, to anchor the economy over the long term, government investments in infrastructure and competitiveness must go hand in hand with investments in people, both at the federal and state levels.

Indeed, just as people without roads, ports, and factories can’t flourish; so also in the same breath; roads, ports, and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.

It stands to reason therefore, that our political leaders in the country maximize the country’s resources which are its people, as a way to help the country thrive.

Growth is not inevitable. Nigeria is said to have an unmatched economic potential, but what becomes of that potential depends on the choices we make as a people. And the most important choice we can make is to maximize our greatest resources, the Nigerian people.

If the political leadership invests in health, education, and opportunities – the human capital we are talking about today will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity. But if we do not, then it is very important to recognize that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow.

From the point of view of the quality of life, much of Nigeria still looks like a low-income country, judging from the life expectancy statistics released recent by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the middle income countries, the average life expectancy is 75 years. In lower middle income countries, it’s 68. In low income countries, it’s 62. In Nigeria, it is lower still: just 53 years.

Beside health and infrastructure issues, it must also be pointed out that the nation’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the present administration does not also reflect the needs of Nigerian people even though it identified ‘investing in our people’ as one its strategic objectives.

If current education and health trends continue or if we spend the same amount in these areas and get the same results-per capita GDP flat lines, with economic growth just barely keeping up with population growth, then our economic growth would likely remain stagnant.

However, if we commit to getting better results in health and education, or if we spend more and more effectively-per capita to GDP, then growth and development will stay on its remarkable pre-recession trajectory.

However, we want to believe that the present political leadership at the federal level is painfully aware of the issues facing the country and is prepared to face it head-on. Hence the strong economic growth and development ambitions, encapsulated in her Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, launched in 2017.

We would also like to hereby remind the federal authorities of all those lofty ambitions which we believe can only be achieved through the determined application of human skill and effort. And for that effort to be meaningful and productive, it has to come from people who are healthy, educated, and who are and also feel empowered.  And because this is the 21st century, we know that it is also important to ensure that our young people are being prepared for the economies of the future, not the past. This means that education is critical, and that technology must lie at the heart of every one of our educational offerings.

 

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