Again, Nigeria has performed poorly in the recent human capital development index report of the World Bank. In the report titled:”COVID-19 and Nigeria’s human capital crisis,” the World Bank notes that any success in Nigeria’s poverty reduction programme, which seeks to reduce poverty at the rate of 10 million yearly, must hinge on developing the Human Development Index (HDI). Unfortunately, these targets are not likely to be met in spite of government’s promises. The report also says that poverty has undermined a significant number of Nigeria’s population that even “ten-year-olds’ ability to understand a simple sentence or perform basic numeracy tasks” has become something to worry about.
Although the situation predates the pandemic, it stifles Nigeria’s human capital development. About 70 per cent of children in low-and middle-income countries are in this poverty hole. Available statistics indicate that Nigeria is in steep decline in human capital development, a key element the country needs to catch up with other developing economies of the world.
According to the 2020 Human Capital Index (HCI), a child born in Nigeria during the pandemic period is likely to achieve only 36 per cent of productivity level. This is below the average for sub-Saharan Africa put at 40 per cent. Only six countries have lowered HCI scores globally.
The report concludes that the direct health effects of COVID-19 pandemic might threaten future generation of Nigerian children through its impact on education, exacerbated by frequent school closures, poor attendance rates, even after reopening. The insecurity across the country has led to the closure of some public and private schools.
The on-going strike by university teachers has led to the shutdown of public varsities for over five months. This is not the time to play politics with our human capital development, which is already in sharp decline.
It is a sad development that Nigeria is at the bottom rung of key global rankings, including the most recent report on global innovation index. As regards the poor human capital development, there is an urgent need to address the state of our public institutions. The neglect of this critical component of human capital development has affected the quality of leadership in the country.
Poor leadership remains one of Nigeria’s major developmental challenges. Henceforth, let the government give urgent attention to human capital development. In a knowledge-driven economy, Nigerian youths should be acquainted with the requisite skills, competencies, training and experience to compete favourably with their counterparts the world over.
Huge investment in human capital development will enhance the development of the country. Sadly, Nigeria has not done well in global human development index. In 2018, Nigeria ranked 152nd out of 157 countries surveyed by the World Bank in its maiden Human Capital Development Index.
In that year’s report, the Bank noted that Nigeria was in the “red zone” because its budget for education and health was too low to make the required impact. Also, in 2020 when the pandemic broke out, Nigeria recorded an abysmal 0.30 points in World Bank’s Human Capital Development Index. This represents .01 basis points compared to 0.38 points recorded in 2019. Last year, Nigeria ranked 102nd out of 104 countries surveyed on good governance, a critical component linked to human capital development. Nigeria was only better than Zimbabwe and Venezuela.
In other words, Nigeria is the third worst nation in global human capital development index. Indicators used in arriving at the ranking include: leadership and foresight, robust laws and policies and strong institutions. The rest are financial stewardship, attractive marketplace or ease of doing business, global influence and reputation, and ability of the country to help grow its future leaders. Unfortunately, successive governments in the country have not done so well in these key areas. Nigeria must invest heavily in human capital development to achieve impressive growth. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), human capital is an active factor that drives economic growth in every nation. The assessment reflects the reality of the Nigerian situation.
Nigeria’s budgetary allocation to education has not been impressive. In 2020, education got N671.07 billion or 6.7 per cent; N771.5 billion or 5.8 per cent in 2021; and N1.29 trillion or 7.9 per cent in 2022. There is no indication that it is going to improve henceforth. For Nigerian to do well in human capital development index, the government should increase its annual budgetary allocations to education and health sectors.
At the same time, entrepreneurship education should be a compulsory course in our tertiary institutions to equip the young graduates for a future that is not dependent on white-collar jobs.