Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Prospects for Economic Growth in Nigeria – A Demographic Perspective

Please find below the report of The Next Generation Nigeria Task Force commissioned by the British Council Nigeria the task force has looked at the country's development prospects through a demographic lens.I felt it was something we all should see,so we can start working on persuading the powers that be to actualize the recommendations the report since it is in our best interest as Nigerians and for our country. 

Nigeria – The Next Generation

The Next Generation Nigeria Task Force is commissioned by the British Council Nigeria. The Task Force is an independent body and the British Council does not necessarily agree with or endorse the views expressed within its reports.

All Task Force members serve in an independent capacity and not as representatives of any organisation.

The Task Force is chaired by:

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
Managing Director of the World Bank

David Bloom*

Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and
Demography at the Harvard School of Public Health

Task Force members are:

Alhaji Lamido Ado Bayero
The Chiroman Kano

Donald Duke
Governor of Cross River State, 1999-2007

Frank Nweke
Director General, Nigeria Economic Summit Group

Lord Triesman
Former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for Africa

Pat Utomi
Director of The Centre For Applied Economics at Lagos Business

Maryam Uwais
Principal Partner, Wali Uwais & Co

Overview/Key Findings

Nigeria stands on the threshold of what could be the greatest transformation in its history. By 2030, it will be one of the few countries in the world that has young workers in plentiful supply. Youth, not oil, will be the country’s most precious resource in the twenty-first century.

Nigeria has been struggling against the demographic tide since independence. Rapid population growth has created a huge strain on the country’s economic, social and political systems. Today, just 1.2 adults care for each of the country’s children and old people.

During the past 30 years, the Nigerian economy has stagnated, in sharp contrast to the fortunes of such natural comparators as Indonesia. The 1990s was a lost decade for Nigeria with per capita GDP falling to below 1980 levels.

 Today, Nigeria’s demographic tide is finally turning, as population growth slows and its ‘baby boom generation’ enters the workforce. By midcentury, depending on how fast family size falls, there could be as much as a whole additional adult to support each child and old person.

Nigeria stands ready to collect a substantial demographic dividend. If it continues with recent positive economic growth, improves health standards, and harnesses a growing workforce, the average Nigerian will be as much as three times richer by 2030 and over 30 million people will be lifted out of poverty.

If Nigeria fails to collect its demographic dividend, the seriousness of the country’s predicament should not be underestimated. Its prospects will be bleak and could be catastrophic.

In the worst case, Nigeria will see: growing numbers of young people, frustrated by a lack of opportunities; increased competition for jobs, land, natural resources, and political patronage; cities that are increasingly unable to cope with the pressures placed on them; ethnic and religious conflict and radicalisation; and a political system that is discredited by its failure to improve lives.

Demography is pushing Nigerian states and regions onto widely different trajectories, and could further increase inequality if measures are not taken to promote social cohesion.

Demographic factors are steadily increasing Nigeria’s risk of conflict. If it fails to respond appropriately over the next decade, it couldwell face a demographic disaster.

Nigeria is currently poorly positioned to maximise its demographic opportunities, despite marked improvements in the policy environment over the past decade.

At present, health and education standards are low, especially in disadvantaged regions and among the poor. Many young Nigerians are illequipped for life in a modern economy. Young women are especially likely to be excluded from opportunities.

A shortage of jobs is a serious challenge, with young Nigerians taking many years to become productive contributors to society. A Nigerian only produces more than he or she consumes for an average of 30 years of their life, compared to 34 years in Indonesia, 35 years in India, and 37 years in China.

Nigeria urgently needs to develop a thorough action plan for its next generation. At present, policymakers have too little robust data on the country’s future challenges. In effect, they are running the country blind. Better evidence is needed to inform more far-sighted policies.

Investment in people must be substantially boosted. The government should set targets for increasing expenditure on education and health, using oil revenues to fund both infrastructure and recurrent spending, while ensuring that existing funds are spent more efficiently.

For education, the priorities are to develop skills that lead to employment, through expansion of vocational training, and to tackle the gross inequalities in educational provision that threaten Nigeria’s integrity as a cohesive society.

In the health sector, rapid improvements are possible, especially by tackling very high levels of child mortality. Regions with low health standards need emergency funding to build effective primary health systems, with a focus on maternal and child health care.

The needs of young families must also be put at the heart of the Nigerian policy agenda. With better health and education, parents will choose to invest more in fewer children, giving them a much better chance of living a prosperous, secure and fulfilled life. Creating pro-family policies must be a priority for the Nigerian government.

Without remedial action, the crisis in the job market will worsen rapidly as growing numbers of young Nigerians enter the workforce. Nigeria needs to create almost 25 million jobs over the next ten years if it is to offer work to new entrants, and halve current unemployment.

Nigeria needs to develop the infrastructure that will underpin a world class economy, spending up to an additional 4% of GDP on this task. It should diversify away from oil, with an emphasis on sectors that will improve employment prospects for young people, while removing obstacles to economic growth and private enterprise.

The oil industry contributes 40% to national GDP, but employs less than 0.15% of the population. Other industries still in their infancy offer greater potential to Nigeria and Nigerians: communications; manufacturing (textiles, clothing and footwear; automobiles); and the mining of resources other than oil.

Nigeria must tap into the energies of the next generation itself, releasing its innovative and entrepreneurial potential, and ensuring that young people have increasing opportunities for political expression. It should also harness the potential of the diaspora, both to provide opportunities for the young; and for new ideas, investments, and contacts of the global Nigerian network.

With the right policies for the next generation, Nigeria’s aspiration to become one of the world’s largest 20 economies is in reach. If Nigeria’s leaders make the wrong choices today, the country will suffer the consequences for many decades to come – and Nigeria’s development breakthrough could be forever lost.

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