This article by MARK ITSIBOR underscores the fact that Nigeria needs to take cautious efforts to build the right generation of talents and align closely with the new demand and supply of skills at workplace.
She dressed gorgeously to the toast of every man. The cost of her shoes made in Italy can pay the monthly salary of a Nigerian newspaper reporter. As she stepped into the newsroom, Esther Umune, a mass communications graduate of one of the Polytechnics in Kaduna State immediately caught the sight of everyone – old and young. But the strength of her beauty and classical outfit cannot be compared with her stack incompetence on the job she was newly hired to do – news reporting.
To make matters worse, apart from the fact that she has a very poor command of English language, the 27-year-old light skinned damsel is not computer literate, two major requirements for the job. Unfortunately, it did not take more than the six months’ probation period for her to be disengaged for her incompetence and lack of the right skills for the job.
Like Umune, Shola Yusufu, who is a graduate of computer science says “all through my study years in the university, I was taught networking, but never knew how it looked like till I got this job.” He is now an employee of an internet networking firm based in Lagos state. According to him, the job came through an uncle without the normal way of going through interview process. “I knew I was not employable after school, am only learning on the job now,” he confessed, looking pitiable for himself and his school mates who are not privileged to have such “nice” uncle as destiny helper. A rough scan through a congregation of most Nigerian graduates shows that, that pathetic situation permeates all sectors of the Nigerian sphere. From health, education, Information & Communications Technology to engineering and agriculture, the situation is the same. Public observers say currently, in Nigeria, there is obviously no preparation for a digitally driven workplace, despite the high rate of graduate population in the country.
According to the World Bank Group, even the current government approach does not address the full range of policy intervention in a country that is already backward in technological advancement and industrial innovations. World Bank says Nigeria is not investing enough in human capacity development. The Bank cannot be faulted.
Based on available data, Nigeria’s total budget for education between years 2009 and 2018 is about N3.90 trillion, at a time the nation’s national budget amounted to N55.17 trillion budgets. Over the years, successive Nigerian governments have failed to allocate the 26 per cent of annual budget recommended by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to education. See table above.
The implication is deadly. For instance, in the health sector, Nigeria has been battling with misdiagnosis due to poor state of medical laboratories and poor training of medical practitioners, a situation that has resulted in avoidable loss of lives. For instance, out of the over 6000 registered medical laboratories in Nigeria, two met international standard, according to a 2016 report. The general feeling is that the overall spending on health in Nigeria is just far too low at 0.76 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Unconfirmed data suggest that six out of every 10 Nigerian graduates are either not well equipped with the right skills or talent to work comfortably in a globally competitive digital environment, or totally lack the knowledge of how to operate latest professional equipment in their profession. The implication is that the next generation of Nigerian workforce may not fit in for the jobs ahead.
A World Bank survey on Human Capital Index (HCI) that was unveiled in October in Bali, Indonesia this year, ranked Nigeria 152 out of a total of 157 countries. “This index creates a direct line between improving outcomes in health and education, productivity, and economic growth. I hope that it drives countries to take urgent action and invest more – and more effectively – in their people,” said World Bank President, Jim Yong Kim, noting that: “The bar is rising for everyone.” He did not stop at that. He also pointed to the fact that “Building human capital is critical for all countries, at all income levels, to compete in the economy of the future.”
For global watchers, human capital is a key driver of sustainable, inclusive economic growth. Those who share that knowledge believe that investing in health and education has not got the attention it deserves in Nigeria.
The concern among stakeholders is that Nigeria is not preparing the younger generation for the workplace of the future that will be marked by unprecedentedly advanced technologies, as well as a focus on incorporating artificial intelligence to drive higher levels of production with fewer resources. Millions of jobs have been estimated to have been lost to technology. Technology is changing the nature of work. A report by the World Bank this year showed that technology and automation are replacing scores of tasks and doing away with some jobs. Innovation is also changing the scope of existing jobs, creating new occupations, and launching career fields that didn’t exist a few years ago.
“Technology is enabling companies to meet resource needs in new and flexible ways while also offering workers new ways to manage and build their careers,” says EY Global, a London based multinational professional services firm.
Human capacity building still remains at the level of mere campaign promise in Nigeria. In September 2017, Nigeria’s Head of Civil Service Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita said the central government is determination to support the State governments on capacity building for their workers.
As it stands, government authorities need to literarily create the right conditions for digital-industrial innovations not just to have a generation that will be able to work in an emerging digitalized world but create high-quality employment to accelerate the drive for economic growth.
What to do
Solution? Experts urged the government to invest more in human capital especially in disadvantaged groups and early childhood education to develop the new skills that are increasingly in demand in the labor market, such as high-order cognitive and socio-behavioral skills, a 2019 World Development Report has recommended. Beyond that, the report also expects that countries like Nigeria would enhance social protection to ensure universal coverage and protection that does not fully depend on having formal wage employment.
For those who wish that Nigerians in the younger generation do not face displacement in workplace say the authorities need to increase revenue mobilization by upgrading taxation systems, where needed, to provide fiscal space to finance human capital development and social protection.
Greater investments in people’s health and education are urgent in a rapidly evolving labor market increasingly shaped by technology, according to the World Development Report 2019: The Changing Nature of Work.
“The nature of work is not only changing – it’s changing rapidly,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said. “We don’t know what jobs children in primary school today will compete for, because many of those jobs don’t exist yet. The great challenge is to equip them with the skills they’ll need no matter what future jobs look like – skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking, as well as interpersonal skills like empathy and collaboration. By measuring countries according to how well they’re investing in their people, we hope to help governments take active steps to better prepare their people to compete in the economy of the future.”
Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), Tony Elumelu believes that development of critical infrastructure is a panacea to achieving a successful digital economy in Nigeria. “The truth is that the population of Africa presents opportunities. We have 60 per cent of our working population at the age of 30 and we have 65 per cent of our economy in the informal sector,” Elumelu remarked during a session on Digital Technology at World Bank/IMF annual meetings in Bali in October. He said the talk about digital economy in Africa remains a mirage without fixing critical infrastructure. In his view, digital connectivity is a major issue in Africa which cannot be fixed in the absence of reliable access to electricity. “So, if we want to truly address the issue of a digital economy in Africa, these challenges have to be fixed,” he stated.
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