By Babajide Komolafe
The quantity and quality of goods and services produced by a nation are greatly determined by its human resources. The fact that humans initiate and coordinate production activities, makes them the most important factor that can affect the economy.
Consequently, human resource development or manpower development is regarded as a vital tool for economic growth and development.
In this regard, Norman Hicks of the World Bank stated that “policies directed at human resource development can raise the growth rate of output since they represent an investment in human capital”.
A major focus of manpower development is education, especially tertiary (university) education. According to Edward Denison, a United States economist, education accounted for 14 per cent of the economic growth of the US from 1923 to 1973.
In a study titled, “Accounting for Slower Economic Growth”, Denison asserted that education combined with ‘advances in knowledge’ accounted for about 38 per cent of economic growth.
Highlighting the importance of tertiary education to economic growth, David Canning and Kevin Chan of the Harvard Universities said: “One possible channel through which higher education can enhance economic development is through technological catch-up.
“In a knowledge economy, tertiary education can help economies gain ground on more technologically advanced societies, as graduates are likely to be more aware of and better able to use new technologies.”
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Consequently, they advised that one of the ways that Nigeria and other countries in the Sub-Saharan region can increase their productivity is by expanding tertiary education.
“We conclude that, given this shortfall, increasing the stock of tertiary education by one year could maximize the rate of technological catch-up at a rate of 0.63 percentage points a year, or 3.2 percentage points over five years”, they stated.
CBN’s University Capacity Building Programme
This prompted the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), as part of its efforts to enhance economic growth, to develop a programme, Nigerian Universities Capacity Building Programme, to participate in the provision of infrastructure and capacity building programmes in universities across the country.
The programme which commenced with a pilot scheme involving the first generation universities has since been extended to include second-generation universities.
The projects carried out under the programme include the construction of administrative blocks, lecture halls, laboratories, health centres, and the provision of IT and V-sat equipment.
Under the programme, the CBN has spent about N435 million on various projects in beneficiary institutions including the University of Ibadan, Ibadan (Construction of a 1,200-seater Science Lecture Theatre); University of Lagos, Lagos (Purchase of classroom furniture and equipping Biochemistry laboratory);
Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (A customized building for a Biotechnology laboratory); and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (Internet Connectivity Project: Site preparation, Equipment and Furniture).
Other beneficiary schools are Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife (Construction of and equipping Computer Laboratory and Workshop); the University of Benin, Benin City (Construction of Health Centre Building); the University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri (Construction of Lecture Theatre);
The Federal University of Technology, Yola ( Transfer of ownership of Mai Bornu Housing Estate from CBN to the University and Financial grant towards the cost of renovating the estate); University of Port Harcourt, Choba (Construction of a Lecture Theatre); and Bayero University, Kano (Construction of a Professorial Office block).
Given his passion for economic growth through increased capacity building and domestic production, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele has ensured that the CBN’s support for universities goes beyond provision of lecture halls, hostels etc to include facilitating their emergence as centers of excellence and encouragement of entrepreneurial spirit among undergraduates.
Centres of Excellence(s)
Consequently, the CBN in 2019 announced the commitment of N63 billion to build ‘Centers of Excellence’, in seven universities.
Explaining the rationale for this initiative, Emefiele said: “Education and health are the bedrock of any nation’s development. The CBN felt that there is a need to start first by building these centres of excellence. These centres are being built in two phases.
“The first phase comprised three of these centres, the one in University of Nigeria Nsukka, University of Ibadan and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. The other six are in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Jos, Kano, Maiduguri and one other. The first three are ready and the others will be ready very soon.”
Speaking to journalists at the sidelines of the inauguration of the first of the seven Post-Graduate Centre of Excellence at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Emefiele added that each of the postgraduate centres of excellence will cost about N7 billion.
He explained further that the purpose of establishing the centres was to have post-graduate studies in Economics, Accounting, Banking, Finance, Management and Marketing.
He said that each centre will have an auditorium that could accommodate 500 students and would compete with any business school in economics, banking and finance globally.
According to him, the hostel rooms are equipped with ICT facilities and an e-Library.
Emefiele explained that when the centre becomes operational, programmes such as Forensic Accounting, Global Financial Market, Risk and Compliance Management would be run at the centre, adding, the CBN would get involved in the facilities’ management to ensure the centre was not run down.
Emefiele, who will be clocking 60 years on Wednesday August 4th, this week, also disclosed that the apex bank would bring in accounting specialists and practitioners working in central banks across the world to bring their wealth of experience to bear in the centre.
N500m Support for Agric University
Furthermore, in order to complement efforts to boost economic growth through increased agricultural products, the CBN recently donated N500 million as a special grant to the University of Agriculture in Abeokuta (UNAAB).
Prof. Olufemi Balogun, Vice-Chancellor of the institution, who disclosed this, said, the donation would encourage the university to improve on its academic and other relevant programmes aimed at making the nation self-sufficient in food production.
“It will also enable the university to maintain its leading position as the best university of agriculture, not only in Nigeria, but in the whole of the African continent.
“The University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, is ranked, not only as the best university in Nigeria but the whole of Africa and that is why CBN gave us this money to boost our academic programmes as well as upgrade our facilities,” he said.
Balogun added that more priority would be given to the improvement of courses like veterinary medicine, agricultural engineering, agricultural economics and agronomy, among others.
In addition to supporting universities with needed funds and infrastructure, Governor Emefiele recently announced another initiative aimed at promoting entrepreneurship among university students.
The initiative according to Emefiele will involve entrepreneurship based competition for university undergraduates in order to boost the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) sector and enhance job creation.
Emefiele announced the initiative while delivering the 51st Convocation Lecture of the University of Lagos, Lagos, saying the CBN is ready to partner with universities to develop the framework for such competition.
He added that in this regard the Development Finance Department of the CBN will write to all the universities to conduct entrepreneurship based competition among their students.
Elaborating more on this initiative while addressing the press at the end of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting held last month, Emefiele said this initiative will help to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
”I am lamenting the gap between theory and practice. Why should we have people who graduated from the study of agricultural economy and yet Nigeria has a lot of graduates with agric potentials.
“We are trying to say that if you are a graduate of agriculture, we will like to work with them to see how they can conduct research on seedlings that will give us the highest output.
”We are determined that accessing credit is their problem, we will solve that problem insofar as they are committed to paying. We are going to roll out a framework to support the initiative with universities.
“We will provide a youth entrepreneurship programme in collaboration with universities, whereby we seize their certificate and give them money. Our goal is to develop entrepreneurial skills in our young people.
“For me, it is the most profitable business the youth can do. That is why we must bridge the gap between what they study in school and that when they graduate they can practice what they learnt. We hope the universities will cooperate with us”.