The vice president, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has called on African governments to make human capital development a priority of public policy of governments to effectively tackle multidimensional poverty and improve long-term development on the continent.
The vice president stated this during his special lecture on “The challenges of human development in 21st century Africa” held on Friday, at the Oxford University, United Kingdom.
Despite the enormous challenges of human capital development in Africa, Osinbajo 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.
He said 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 stressed that “investing in our people” is the pillar of the federal government’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.
The vice president 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 impact of the National Social Investment Programmes (N-SIP).
He noted that 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.
He further said 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.
With N-SIPs, the vice president said 349,000 new bank accounts had been opened adding that “almost half a million small businesses in Nigeria have accessed the loan under the MarketMoni 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.”
“By the end of this year, two million petty traders nationwide are expected to benefit from the TraderMoni, which provides them collateral and interest-free N10, 000 loans,” he added.
Osinbajo also noted that out of the targeted one million, so far, almost 300,000 households had benefited from the N-SIP’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme with monthly payment of N5, 000 to the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerians.
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.
Besides, he 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.
“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,” he said.
Furthermore, Osinbajo 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.
“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,” he said.
Osinbajo 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.”
“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 said.
He also noted that a total of N55 billion had 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
“We have also prioritized spending on infrastructure rail, roads, and power in particular. Despite earning 60 per cent 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,” he added.