Renowned global entrepreneur, Mr. Bill Gates recently advised Nigeria on the need to invest more in human capital development as a way of growing the economy for meaningful impact.
Speaking on the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) blueprint of the Federal Government at a special National Economic Council Meeting in Abuja recently, Mr. Gates specifically emphasised that ample access to education and healthcare remains a sine qua non for building a virile economy.
Notwithstanding however that the intervention from the businessman-philanthropist elicited mixed reactions amongst Nigerians within and outside the government; it is however pertinent to appreciate that the admonition is a clarion call for appropriate allocation of resources to enhance Human Development Index (HDI); a composite indicators of life expectancy, education and per capita income which in turn translates to how a country can successfully sustain her economic growth in the long run.
It should be instructive that Mr. Gates found the ERPG lacking in critical elements that ought to guarantee solid foundation for economic turnaround; particularly in the area of creating enabling human capital development.
According to Mr Gates, the most important choice to make in jump-starting the Nigerian economy to new heights is to maximise the greatest resource which is the Nigerian people. In his words, “Nigeria will thrive when every Nigerian is able to thrive”.
It is imperative to appreciate that Bill Gate is a major stakeholder in the Nigerian economy who has invested his hard-earned fortune in excess of $1.6 billion through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the eradication of polio as well as to enhance sustainable livelihoods in the country. There is therefore no doubt he is deeply concerned about the future of the Nigerian economy.
Nigeria’s investment in education and healthcare per GDP are far below global acceptable standards which is a stark indicator of how government investment in the twin crucial indicators of human capacity development is undeserving. While the global standard for education spending is 4.5% of GDP, Nigeria spent a paltry 0.85% in 2015 compared to countries like Ghana and Rwanda which spent 5.84% and 4.28% respectively.
The same appalling spending trajectory is prevalent in the healthcare sector where the global standard is 5 % of GDP against Nigeria’s 3.7% which is below Rwanda’s 7.5% and Egypt’s 5.6%. It should therefore not be a surprise that Nigeria has consistently ranked low in HDI which stood at 152 out of 188 countries in the 2017 global ranking.
While government should be commended for creation of employment opportunities through the SURE-P initiative, the results are however far from expectations. Indeed, unemployment has vaulted by 18.8% of GDP as of first quarter of 2018 from 16.2% in the second quarter of 2017.
This means millions of Nigerians have been thrown into the job market in the past twelve months. It is time to develop Nigerian youth to fit into the global technological stage and invest in skills needed to revolutionise the economy in particular the Small and Medium Scale Enterprise, SME,sector which is seen as veritable engine of economic growth. It would be uncanny to have infrastructure without a skilled and well educated, enlightened and healthy population.
That is why the current administration needs to reflect these crucial priorities that would set the economy on a path to sustainable development beginning with the 2018 budget. This would appropriately be followed by the Medium and long term plans,otherwise referred to as the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).