Inadequacies in Nigeria’s human capital development index received international attention recently when philanthropist and founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, urged the government to focus more in this area so as to lay a good foundation for the nation’s prosperity. He said that although Nigeria has enormous potentials, such could only be maximised when the citizens are well- equipped.
Countries making positive impact on the global scene leverage extensively on their Human capital. With Nigeria placed 114th out of 130 economies in the overall ranking of the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Human Capital Index for 2017, it is obvious that the country needs to do more in this regard.
It is commendable that the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is making efforts at improving infrastructural development in the country, so also are some state governments. Yet it is important for greater attention be given to human capital development. A cursory look at Nigeria’s annual budget on health reveal that the country is not doing enough to service that critical sector. For instance, a British medical journal, Lancet, in May 2017, ranked Nigeria 140th out of 195 countries studied between 1990 and 2015 in access to, and quality of health care.
Similarly, the World Health Organisation, has also revealed that Angola spent 6.5 per cent on health; Brazil 6.5 per cent; and South Africa 6.3 per cent in 2015. But, Nigeria’s allocation for health in the proposed 2018 annual budget is N340.45 billion out of a total budget of N8.6 trillion, just 3.9 per cent of the budget. Ironically, the same Nigerian government hosted Heads of States of member countries of the African Union in April 2001 where they all agreed to allocate at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to improving their countries’ health sectors.
Since the Declaration, the highest health allocation for Nigeria was in 2012 where 5.95 per cent was allotted to the sector. In 2014, it allocated N216.40 billion to healthcare, representing 4.4 per cent. In 2015, it was N237 billion, which represents 5.5 per cent of the entire budget. Same with 2016 (4.23 per cent) and 2017 (4.16 per cent).The government followed the same trend this year by even reducing the proposed health sector allocation from 4.16 per cent in 2017 to 3.9 per cent in 2018.
Again, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), for Nigeria to be seen to prioritise healthcare, it must at least spend a minimum of N6, 908 per Nigerian annually, which when multiplied by 180 million people will amount to N1.2 trillion. The WHO, in its wisdom, also recommended a minimum of 13 per cent of annual budget for health.
The situation is not different with the nation’s education sector. The state of education can be easily explained by the fraction of budgetary allocation invested in the sector. This defers from other African countries, in our view, where the importance of investing in education as a vehicle for irreversible development and strong economy is appreciated.
Although Nigeria prides itself as the giant of Africa, evidently, it has a lot to learn from some other countries across the continent. In Kenya for instance, education has traditionally received the major share of the country’s national budget to take care of teachers’ salaries and subsidise primary and secondary education. In Ghana, government has established itself to be a big spender on education. In 2013, Ghanaian government committed a whopping 31 per cent of national budget to education, as against Nigeria’s eight per cent in the same year.
Egypt, one country whose universities always stand out on the continental ranking, the government spent EGP104 billion on education in the 2016/2017 fiscal year, which amounted to 11.1 per cent.
South Africa spent R213.7 billion on basic education, which is about 15 per cent of the 2017 budget. The case is different in Nigeria. An assessment of the trend from 1999 shows that the lowest allocation, 4.46 per cent to education was in 1999, and the highest, 11.44 per cent was in 2015. The average allocation in all 19 years of democratic rule is 9.14 per cent.
We are persuaded to posit that human capital is indeed a critical component of Nigeria’s future economic growth. The country has largely achieved growth by extracting natural resources but the youths have to be equipped both physically and mentally to drive the nation’s future success. For this next generation to thrive as adults and drive economic progress, it is the opinion of this newspaper that the country needs to invest in the health and well-being of the people and in their ability to learn and apply new skills.