Human capital development is considered to be one of the fundamental solutions to the challenges facing nation-building in Africa. Nigeria as a democratic nation has always considered the well being of its citizens as the primary objective of economic policy. This position is reflected in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), wherein it is clearly enunciated that, “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary duty of the government”.
The consensus among development experts is that the wealth of any nation, if not properly managed and equitably distributed, may not necessarily contribute to human development, as was the case with our country many years ago when we had growth without development.
It has been my earnest desire to share my thoughts on the need for effective Human Capital Development, which is central to economic growth and development of any nation, and the imperative of according it the priority attention it deserves by all stakeholders.
Human capital, a component of development consisting of various ingredients including knowledge, talents, skills, abilities, experience, intelligence, training among others things, possessed by a country’s human population has been dubbed the foundation upon which every other aspect of development – social, economic, technological, etc. of any nation rests.
Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen,
The quality of human population invariably constitutes an important factor in development thus, human capital development should help to increase the knowledge, skills, and capacities of people to enable them to exploit, process and manage their resources.
The 2018 report on Human Development Indices and Indicators specifies that Nigeria is in the low human development category placing us 157th of 189 countries surveyed. The report also shows that Nigeria is above the average for countries in the low human development group and below average for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Based on this, the government has taken strategic steps towards addressing the identified challenges through various activities like investment in skills, Innovation, Information Communication Technology (ICT) through policies such as the Energising Education Initiative as well as programs such as the Social Investment Programme (SIP), the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program (GEEP) and N-Power.
The Government has also prioritized vocational training and lifelong learning as central pillars of employment and has introduced new educational curriculum at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels to accommodate skills and entrepreneurship development with an emphasis on technical and vocational training to achieve sustainable enterprise development.
The Ministry of Budget and National Planning recognizes the importance of human capital development and has included among its priority project deliverables in the 2019-2023 plans to coordinate a national focus to revive labour productivity in Nigeria.
Human capital is vital to maintaining high growth and boosting competitiveness in a labour-abundant country like Nigeria. One of the biggest challenges for Nigeria is to make labour more productive. Optimizing labour productivity is essential to boost real wages and purchasing power. Sustainable wage growth would not only support deficit reduction but also help to address inequality and promote well-being.
There are many drivers of low productivity, but the two most important ones in Nigeria are low investments and weak labour efficiency. The question is, how can we better channel our assets, skills, capabilities, and endowments into productive use?
As you all know, unemployment is a major development challenge for Nigeria. Despite several economic policies introduced by the government to guide labour absorption and utilization in the country, we are yet to effectively address this challenge. The low human capital development among other socioeconomic issues contributes significantly to the unemployment rate.
Nigeria is projected to have a population of over 400 million people by 2050. The youth of today will be the workforce of tomorrow. These statistics highlight the need for the right action plan and investments in Education and Health.
No country can achieve sustained economic development without substantial investment in human capital. Nations without abundant natural resources but skilled and competent hands can be developed. Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, etc., are countries with little or no natural resources but are well developed because of their skilled population. These countries are known to be self-sufficient in the skills required for their economic and social development.
It is acknowledged that the development of a modern economy and the civilization of the 21st century have entered a development period based on human capital; and, the growth rate per capita income depends on the growth rate of human capital. The new digital world we find ourselves in calls for targeted investments in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This will equip Nigerians with the skills required to solve problems and perform efficiently as well as drive innovation and technology as new economies emerge.
Developing human capital requires creating and cultivating environments in which human beings can rapidly learn and apply new ideas, competencies, skills, behaviors, and attitudes.
Hence, planning remains central to effective human capital development and employment generation.
It would also help to:
Evaluate the level of skills and competencies currently available by sector and future needs in line with the national development plan.
Translate the skills required into educational programs to ensure the availability of the skilled and competent hands.
Link skills from the educational system to the labour market.
Ensure equilibrium in the qualitative and quantitative demand and supply of labour in the economy at all levels.
Since Nigeria’s economic development rests in part on the priority given to sustainable human capital development, the Government’s Mid-term plan provides for effective collaboration and coordination with the states to ensure that the Federal, State and Local Governments work towards the same goal.
I encourage states to leverage on this opportunity to further accelerate efforts towards deepening the human capital development efforts in Nigeria.
I have followed up on the progress being made by the Ondo State government under the leadership of His Excellency, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN. I commend the government for their achievements thus far and their continued commitment to human capital development. I encourage the Ondo state government to sustain their efforts to ensure these gains are sustained and translate into great economic opportunities and growth.
Finally, as the forum shares insights on the work the Ondo State government is doing in up-skilling young men and women in the state, I assure you that the Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to partnering with your government in its various activities and efforts at investing in human capital.
Clem Agba, Nigeria’s minister of Budget and National Planning delivered this as key note address at the margins of the recently concluded 74th UN General Assembly special session organized by the Ondo State Government held at Nigeria House, New York.