—As Canadian High Commissioner expresses optimism Nigeria could make progress with talent of its young population

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja

A Non-Governmental Organization Nextier, has predicted that if business continues as usual, Nigeria will fail to achieve its development goals and the nation’s socio-economic conditions could further degenerate.

According to the prediction, Nigeria probably has the highest number of poor people globally and remain the “global poverty capital in 2050,”

Nextier in partnership with the International Institute for Security Studies (ISS) held a two-day development discourse titled “Nigeria in 2050: Major Player in Global Economy or Poverty Capital,” recently sponsored by the Canadian Fund for local initiatives.

Using the International Futures Modelling Platform, the report’s authors, Yeboua Kouassi and Jackie Cillers, modelled what Nigeria would look like in 2050, given her current policy and environmental conditions.

However, the report discussed an integrated set of interventions across different sectors that could propel Nigeria to prosperity.

The discourse was held in two formats: a public webinar and a high-level policy round table. At both events, senior officials from the government, academia, private sector and international development organisations explored policy interventions to address Nigeria’s socio-economic and political challenges.

Participants deliberated on why Nigeria has failed to implement development plans successfully and to achieve sustained impact.

They explored choices and practical interventions that the current and incoming government must employ to reverse Nigeria’s downward trajectory and shape a better future.

Speaking at the round table event, the Canadian high commissioner, James Christoff, expressed optimism that Nigeria could make progress given the drive and talent of Nigeria’s young population.

He reiterated Canada’s commitment to supporting Nigeria towards achieving its development goals.

The Nigeria in 2050 report identified that Nigeria has made some socio-economic progress but still faces severe social, economic and security challenges, adding that the nation has one of the highest poverty rates in the world, given that more than eighty million Nigerians live in extreme poverty.

The group further noted that Nigeria fared poorly on health, nutrition and education indices, as shown by its low ranking of 161 out of 189 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index.

The region faces increasing instability from security challenges such as the high occurrences of banditry, kidnapping, farmer-herder crises, communal clashes and terrorism, he said.

The authors identified Nigeria’s leadership failure, weak institutions and policy missteps as one of the reasons for Nigeria’s inability to achieve its potential. With a score of 1.5 out of a maximum of 5 in 2019, Nigeria’s low government effectiveness reflects its high corruption level, low resource mobilisation, inefficiency in spending, poor service delivery and a weak social contract between the government and the people. Other factors identified by the report include a rapidly growing population, low human capital arising from the weak health and education system, deplorable infrastructure, insecurity, undiversified export, inadequate investments in the agricultural sector, the macroeconomic instability, and an unstable business environment

The Nigeria in 2050 report showed that projecting from current policies and environmental conditions, if bold and transformative actions are not taken, Nigeria will continue to lag in various economic and human development indicators. For instance, Nigeria will likely have the highest number of poor people globally by 2050, with more than 100 million people.

Pathway to the Desired Nigeria in 2050
The Imagine Nigeria report paints a great picture of Nigeria we want by 2050. The African Giant Awakes Scenario models a renewed Nigeria that harnesses its latent, untapped strengths and opportunities. The report describes a reinforcing pathway towards the envisioned future that revolves around solving entrenched problems, catalysing environmental innovation, creating economic opportunity, and a strong leadership and governance system. Nigeria in 2050 report and participants at the policy discourses highlighted the following sets of choices and actions that must be taken to create Nigeria

Nigeria Must Strengthen its Governance System: The report authors and event participants discussed the need for visionary and effective leadership as a significant factor in achieving a prosperous Nigeria. In addition, they emphasised the importance of strengthening not just the federal government but the state and local government. According to them, governance at the sub-federal tiers is often neglected despite the central role they play in implementing policy. Also, deemphasising the federal position would make it less attractive, encouraging genuine political contests and propelling good leadership.

Civil Service Reforms is Essential to Effective Service Delivery: Event participants bemoaned Nigeria’s unresponsive civil service system. They explained that Nigeria must create a more accountable and transparent recruitment process in the civil service because unqualified civil servants hinder effective service delivery. Furthermore, they encouraged the need for Nigerians to have a paradigm shift and adjust the damaging mentality of choosing ethnic and religious representation over merit.

Nigeria’s Elite Must Reach a Consensus to Invest in Development: Participants at the event discussed the need for Nigeria’s elite to gambling on Nigeria’s development. In addition, religious and ethnic organisations and civil society organisations must utilise their influence to get the government’s attention, engage the government in meaningful conversations and hold the government accountable for their actions.

Nigeria’s Government Must Invest in its Human Capital: Nigeria must invest in human capital to harness the potential of its burgeoning young population. Investing in human capital involves investing in better education systems. Such a system involves extending beyond literacy goals to a focus on skills acquisition and real-world experiences to develop a competitive workforce that can harness opportunities in the country and compete effectively in the global economy. Investing in education also leads to well-informed citizens who can think for themselves and not be manipulated during elections. High illiteracy and poverty levels leave people vulnerable to manipulation during elections and decision-making. Investing in human capital also involves strengthening the health system. Nigeria must improve its health system to provide quality and affordable health care because robust health is the foundation for individuals to lead productive and fulfilling lives.

Nigeria’s Government Must Build Resilient Economic Structures: Participants discussed the need for Nigeria to have a strong economic structure that makes the economy less vulnerable to changes in the world’s market. For instance, Nigeria’s past economic recession was due to shocks in oil prices. Participants encouraged the need to create a diversified economy primarily through investment in Agriculture. Furthermore, participants urged the need to invest in new sectors and industries such as technology and entertainment industries. Diversification of Nigeria’s economy is essential, especially with the rapid changing world. Diversification will also reduce import concentration and lead to human capital development.

Other event participants’ suggestions include designing an incentive system to combat corruption and drive development, consistency in data used for measurement of development indices, and improving the business climate, addressing the infrastructure gap and security challenges.

The Nextier Development Discourse is an initiative by Nextier to catalyse public debate and synthesise action points on pressing development challenges in the continent.