New World Bank research released today (Thursday) gives policymakers, especially in Nigeria evidence that delivering better outcomes in children’s health and learning can significantly boost the incomes of people—and of the country—with returns far into the future.
The report that was released showed that Nigeria ranked number 152 out of 157 in global Human Development Index. Human capital—the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate over their lives is the bedrock of sustained economic growth and poverty reduction rates in any country. The rating reveals the poor attention to funding education and health in Nigeria, among her peers.
“We feel that the overall spending on health is quite too low, 0.76 per cent of GDP. And also the educational outcomes in Nigeria are very, very poor,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said at a world press conference in Bali, Indonesia where the 2018 International Monetary Fund/World Bank Annual Meetings is holding.
Dr Kim acknowledged that Nigeria is one of the most important countries not only in Africa but the world, saying it will be extremely important for Nigeria to really go on a different level all together in terms of their commitment to investing in human capital.
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday put the figure of out of school children aged 6-14 in Nigeria at 10.5 million. UNICEF said Nigeria is losing out on a literate and skilled workforce it needs to grow economically.
“You’ve got to start investing in your people right now. and not least of which, of all the reasons why you need to do that, the rapid change in technology, the fact that many low-skill jobs will be eliminated. Nobody’s quite sure how long that will take,” Kim said in reaction to a query on its view plan for the rising rate of out of school children in the country.
Many African countries are in the red zone, based on Table 2 in the Human Capital Project.
“This is a very loud and strong message to Africa. Africa needs to invest more in health and education,” the World Bank President said. Luckily, because our IDR, our fund for the poorest countries, is 50 percent larger than it was three years ago because we have more financing, we can provide more support for African countries.
“But the message here is that Heads of States and Ministers of Finance have to take responsibility. There’s so much waiting for the grants to come. You know, we’ll wait and the activists will help us and they’ll tell the donors we need more money, we need more money. And what’s happened is, in many African countries, if they don’t receive grant-based financing, they just simply don’t spend on health and education.
“So, we hope that this is a loud wake-up call for leaders throughout the African continent, and especially in Nigeria,” he said.
On financial inclusion, Kim said the Bank is committed to universal access to financial services by 2020. He however raised some concerns that although some bank accounts could be created, but then, people don’t use them. He also noted that fact that women still are getting financial access at a much slower rate than men, and the gap between men and women in terms of financial access remains.