Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo says West Africa must brace up for its growing population, which is projected to hit 650 million 2050, by providing quality basic education, healthcare and nutrition.
He stated this on Thursday in Abuja at the presentation of the Human Capital Development, HCD, Strategy Documents of Nigeria and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.
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The event was organized by Nigeria’s National Economic Council, a statutory body chaired by the vice president, and comprising the governors of the country’s 36 states, the Ministers of Finance and the Federal Capital Territory as well as chief executives officers of some strategic agencies of government.
The Nigerian HCD strategy followed the launch, in 2018, of the programme by the National Economic Council, while the ECOWAS document resulted from the adoption of Regional Integrated HCD 2030 strategy by Authority of Heads of State and Government at its fifty-ninth ordinary session in June 2021.
Pointing out that almost 400million of the projected population would be young people; the vice president stated that inadequate nourishment would result “in sub-optimal learning outcomes and a life time of disadvantage, especially in what is becoming a fiercely competitive Knowledge economy.”
According to the vice president the most important pieces of work that leaders can do are on planning and investing in human capital development, healthcare, nutrition, quality education, skills, and jobs.
“Our most important targets and objectives, nationally and regionally must be on the improvement of the quality of lives, living standards and livelihoods of our people—the happiness, security and general welfare of our populations, he stated, adding “clearly nothing else is as important.”
Stressing that youthful populations portend an increased risk of social instability, Osinbajo said that it has become necessary to invest in relevant skills even as governments provide good paying jobs and opportunities.
“All these mean that governments face huge public expenditures, growing as population increases daily.
“But in these massive challenges lie the incredible opportunities of being the most profitable investment frontier in the world, of becoming the global food basket, of becoming the greatest source of highly trained human resources in technology, engineering , sciences and in the creative sector, among others.”
While stating that it is the commitment of national and sub-national leaders that would determine whether the strategy documents would “gather dust or gather momentum,” Vice President Osinbajo said political will and action would be required to implement documents.
In her speech, the Vice President of the ECOWAS Commission, Finda Koroma said that the demographic transition in West Africa, resulting from rising population, would bring with it social risks as well as opportunities to maximize and achieve demographic dividends.
“Particular emphasis must be placed on improving health sector and nutrition coverage, ensuring quality education for our children, providing enabling environment to improve the employability of the youth, financial inclusion, and promoting digital payment, particularly among women and youths aged between 50 and 64 years.
“It is therefore with a view to filling the current human capital gaps in the region and preparing the region to make the most of the demographic dividends of its population that the ECOWAS Commission, together with other international partners and our member states have developed the Integrated Human Development Strategy for the region with the aim of making the ECOWAS Region the best regional economic community in terms of human capital development by 2030, which means over the next 10 years.”
Among others who spoke at the event were the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing; the World Bank Country Representative in Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri; Country Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Jeremie Zoungrana and the Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau, Nuno Gomes Nabiam.