Human capital development must be a priority of public policy of governments across Africa, to effectively tackle multidimensional poverty and improve long-term development on the continent, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this during his special lecture on “The Challenges of Human Development in 21st Century Africa” on Friday, at the prestigious Oxford University, United Kingdom.
During the lecture, Prof. Osinbajo highlighted ongoing investments, efforts and plans of the Nigerian government and the progress it has made in improving the country’s Human Capital Development indices and investment climate, as well as the widespread impact of the National Social Investment Programmes (N-SIP).
Despite the enormous challenges of Human Capital Development in Africa, the Vice President further called on African governments to unlock the “opportunities to significantly move the needle in the journey to vastly improved standards of existence for our people.”
“All over Africa, the political will to better the lot of our restive populations is evident, innovative ideas are also in abundance; if we keep our focus, especially on good governance, the next two decades may truly be the African decades,” he said.
The Vice President said that while non-governmental and philanthropic organizations help to bridge development gaps through various interventions, governments have a major moral duty to ensure human capital development is its major priority as tackling poverty will boost growth and development across different sectors.
He added that “investing in our people” was a major pillar of the Buhari administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“Governments are also best placed to deploy the public policy tools required to bring about synergy between growth objectives and social needs,” he said, while calling on African governments to prioritize investments in its people.
He noted that the administration’s Social Investment Programme (N-SIP) was among its ‘far-reaching’ policy in this regard, noting that it will continue to make policies and initiatives to improve human capital development in Nigeria.
Speaking further, the Vice President noted that a major plank of the Federal Government’s approach to empowerment “is to improve financial inclusion.”
“Our Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) is an important tool for financially empowering small businesses, artisans, market women, petty traders, and table top traders,” he said.
Highlighting the nationwide impact of the N-SIPs, the Vice President noted that 349,000 new bank accounts have been open, while almost half a million small businesses in Nigeria have accessed the loan under the MarketMoni scheme – a short tenor interest-free credit of between N50,000 and N300,000 for small businesses under the auspices of their cooperative societies as a risk management device.
Also, by the end of this year, two million petty traders nationwide are expected to benefit from the TraderMoni, which provides them collateral & interest-free N10,000 loans.
Prof. Osinbajo also noted that out of the targeted one million, so far, almost 300,000 households have benefited from the N-SIP’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme, in which the poorest and most vulnerable households in the country are given N5,000 monthly.
He said the administration’s Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) was an important tool for financially empowering small businesses, artisans, market women, petty traders, and table top traders.
The Vice President also noted that the Home-Grown School Feeding programme provides a meal a free balanced meal to over 9.2 million children in public primary schools in 25 states every day, and has helped to tackle malnutrition and improve school enrollment.
He said, “The programme, by using local produce, livestock and poultry supports local agriculture, provides jobs for 95,440 cooks resident in the various communities in which the schools are located.”
Prof. Osinbajo further said the N-Power programme, which has provided jobs for 500,000 young Nigerian graduates in the last two years, has a target of skilling 10 million Nigerians by 2023.
He said, “As the proportion of working age group of 15-59 years will continue to increase steadily over the next years, Nigeria has the advantage of “demographic dividend‟. Harnessing the demographic dividend through appropriate skill development efforts provides an opportunity to achieve inclusion and productivity within the country.
“Over the past two years, through the N-Power Programme, the largest post tertiary employment programme in Africa, we have been able to offer skills development programmes digitally to over 500,000 young citizens between the ages of 18 and 35. We have set a target of skilling 10 million Nigerians by 2023.”
The Vice President also highlighted the provision of social housing in a Family Homes Fund as a “core plank of government’s empowerment approach, which is expected to provide another 1.5 million jobs by 2023.
He said, “Our Family Homes Fund aims to provide up to 500,000 housing units by 2023 using a concessional financing facility to construct houses at less than N5m, as well as a home loans assistance programme that will enable people at the bottom of the housing pyramid to buy their own homes at subsidized rates. This will be complemented by a rent-to-own scheme.”
He also noted that a total of N55 billion has been disbursed to 250,000 farmers under the administration’s Anchor Borrowers Programme scheme, which provides subsidised credit to small holder farmers so they can boost production with guaranteed uptake by the anchor companies
Prof. Osinbajo added that the continued diversification of the Nigerian economy by this administration and its massive investment on infrastructure are some of the initiatives it has deployed towards promoting growth and human capital development in the country.
The Vice President said, “We have also prioritized spending on infrastructure. Rail, roads, and power in particular. Despite earning 60% less than previous administration, we have spent N2.7 trillion in two budget cycles on capital, the highest in the nation’s history. We also executed a comprehensive, phased plan for ease of doing business which earned us 24 places higher on the World bank ease of doing business index and commendation as one of the top 10 reforming economies in the world. We launched our energizing economies project, providing solar power to markets and economic clusters for small businesses and petty traders.”
At the event, Prof. Osinbajo also inaugurated the International Advisory Board (IAB) of Oxford University’s African Studies Centre, under the School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA).
The members of the inaugurated board are eminent leaders from across the world including several African countries like Nigeria and South Africa. They include Mr Tito Mboweni, an international advisor of Goldman Sachs, and former Chairman of the South African Reserve Bank, who will chair the board; Madame Monica Geingos, First Lady of Namibia, lawyer and entrepreneur; Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, former UN Under-Secretary for Political Affairs, one-time Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and former Nigeria’s External Affairs Minister; and Dr. Charlotte Scott, former First Lady of Zambia and development specialist.
Others are Mr. Gareth Ackerman, Chairman of Pick’n’Pay, South Africa; Mr. Alex Duncan, Director and Consultant Economist, The Policy Practice, Brighton, United Kingdom; Mr. Ivor Agyeman-Duah – Economist and author, Accra, Ghana; Governor Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, Nigeria; and Ms. Linda Mabhena-Olagunju, founder and Managing Director, DLO Energy Group (Pty) Ltd, South Africa.
The Vice President was received by the Head, Oxford School of Global & Area Studies, Tim Powers; and the Director of the African Studies Centre, Prof. Wale Adebanwi.