Amechi Ogbonna, Bali, Indonesia
Saddened by rising human capacity deficit in Nigeria and other African nations, the World Bank yesterday warned that the country risks a jobless workforce in the next 20 years unless the Federal Government devotes more resources to training and development of its human capital resources to guard against the catastrophic consequences of technological disruption.
In an opening speech at the ongoing annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group in Bali, Indonesia, the World Bank President, Dr Jim Yong Kim, said it was high time Nigeria, prioritised investing in its people or risk a workforce that would not fit into the new global economy in 20 years time.
According to Yong Kim, “Nigeria is one of the most important countries, not only in Africa but also in the world, and so we feel that it will be extremely important for the government to really go on a different level all together in terms of commitment to investing in human capital.”
The World Bank, he said, has taken responsibility for placing too much “emphasis on hard infrastructure like roads, rail, energy for a very long time.
But going forward, it has changed its approach to investing in human capital development by committing investments in this direction in the last 20 years.
He lamented that many African governments continued to focus on investing in hard infrastructure to generate resources than for investing in health and education.
But Kim said the bank is opposed to such arguments and specifically appealed to the Nigerian government to start investing in her people right away.
The World Bank group boss urged the Nigerian government and its minister of Finance in particular, to take responsibility by investing in the nation’s human resources.
According to him, “there are so much waiting for the grants to come, we’ll wait and the activities will help us and they will tell the donors we need more money, and what has happened is, in many African countries if they don’t receive grant-based financing they just simply don’t spend on health and education.”
Kim attributed his strong appeal for investment in human capital to the fact that the “rapid changes in technology sweep away many low-skill jobs as nobody is quite sure how long that will take, but a child born today, in 20 years almost certainly many of the low-skill jobs today will be gone and the requirements for this child to be able to learn throughout his or her entire life is simply going to get higher.”
He expressed dissatisfaction with African countries standing up in the red Zone of human capital development, adding that the bank provides “a bit of support” for Nigeria in terms of the health budget, while lamenting that the overall spending on health was just far too low at 0.76 per cent of GDP with educational outcomes in Nigeria being very, very poor.”
The World Bank President then sent out what he called “a loud and strong message to Africa, Africa needs to invest more in health and education.
Luckily, because our IDA for the poorest countries is 50 per cent larger than it was three years ago, because we have more financing, we can provide more support for African countries.”
Jim Yong Kim noted that “if a country’s children grow up unable to meet the needs of the future workplace, that country will find itself incapable of employing its people, unable to increase its output, and utterly unprepared to compete economically.”
The World Bank, he said knows that “politicians in rich and poor countries alike face uphill struggles funding better healthcare, putting more money into schools, and making other investments in people that yield measurable dividends over time, but need a stronger argument.
That’s why today we’re launching a new tool to help countries make those investments in their people: the first Human Capital Index.”
This index he explained “gives policymakers compelling evidence that delivering better outcomes in children’s health and learning can significantly boost the incomes of their people – and shape the direction for their countries – far into the future.”