Despite the country’s HDI ranking of “152 out of 188 countries and territories” in 2016, all the metrics are either virtually unchanged or worse. Below is my piece in 2006 which is still apt today.
Nigeria, ranked 159th out of 177 nations in the HDI ranking of countries’ capacities as recently reported in the Human Development Report, must urgently embark on substantive structures and sustained long-term programs that are geared towards addressing and increasing levels of its citizens’ standard of living, life expectancy, and education.
Interestingly, the Human Development Index (HDI) generated by UNDP and reported annually in the Human Development Report (HDR) represents a defined estimate of a measure of capabilities of countries. HDI is a comparative measure of standards of living, life expectancy, literacy, and education of the countries worldwide. The HDR of November 9, 2006 was an indictment of Nigeria’s development programs.
Furthermore, HDI is a benchmark means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare, and the relative impact of domestic economic policies on the quality of life in the countries of the world. Generally, HDI is a necessary tool for countries, particularly Nigeria, to use in assessing and evaluating development programs in three major component areas: knowledge measured by adult literacy and mean years of schooling, longevity measured by life expectancy at birth, and income measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita at purchasing power parity (PPP) in USD. Speaking about GDP, the primary indicator used to gauge the health of a nation’s economy, is the total monetary value of all goods and services produced over a determined period of time by the nation. While Luxembourg ranked number one in GDP ranking with GDP per capita of $80,288, Nigeria ranked 136 out of 182 countries with GDP per capita of $678.
Sadly, Nigeria and other African countries lag behind other developing countries in the HDI ranking. On global poverty, HDR stated, “Income poverty has fallen in all regions since 1990, except in Sub-Saharan Africa. The share of world’s people living on less than $1 a day has fallen from 28 per cent to 21 per cent, leaving just over 1 billion people below the threshold.”
Also, on world’s life expectancy, HDR sadly said, “Over the past three decades developing countries as a group have been converging on the developed countries in life expectancy. Their average life expectancy at birth has increased by nine years, compared with seven in high-income countries. The exception again is Sub-Saharan Africa. For the region as a whole life expectancy today is lower than it was three decades ago and even this headline story understates the problem. The countries in Southern Africa have suffered catastrophic reversals…”
In a cursory look at the low performing nations, some of the recurring descriptors have been extreme egalitarianism, high inequity and inequality of distribution of wealth, surplus labour and low productivity, and excessive government spending culminating in waste of resources and inefficiency marinated in corruption. Additionally, excessive government role in economy, besides setting the optimum policy mix, inhibits wealth creation. With adequate incentives and conducive business climate, citizens and investors would create wealth for their respective nations and that would in turn create jobs for the surplus labour.
Nevertheless, high egalitarianism and extreme inequality in distribution of wealth stunt economic growth. Similarly, extreme political instability coupled with corruption and lack of political ideological underpinnings reduce latent economic growth through the corrosion of social cohesion and internal consistency exacerbated by the absence of rule of law.
As a result, uncertainty of lives and properties seem to be the order of the day. Worse still, most of the low performing countries do not have sustainable and credible long-term economic development plans.
A subsequent study of the HDI ranking churned my stomach. It was strikingly disturbing to note the number of and the countries that ranked ahead of Nigeria. Togo, Uganda, and Cameroon are among the countries that ranked ahead of Nigeria—the giant of Africa.
Sad as it may be, it’s irrelevant now, regarding where Nigeria’s capacity position is pegged on the world list; it’s rather about where the country goes from here. Majority of Nigerian citizens should be able to have a decent standard of living, a long and healthy life, and high level of education. Nigeria’s low rankings in various world’s benchmarks underscore the need for rigorous development programs while spurning profligate programs. It’s incredibly important to have specific development targets and the costs—devoid of wastefulness and inefficiency of meeting the targets.
Policy makers and government officials should study adequately the Human Development Indicators and the MDGs to have a framework to provide optimum policy mix for development programs. They should also demonstrate concerted efforts on sustained long-term programs that would reduce inequity and inequality in distribution of wealth; the need for policies that create business climate favorable to investment and job creation could not be overemphasized here.
Such situation would absorb the surplus labor and subsequently increase productivity due to competition. The quest for competitive edge would spur skilled and creative workers.
The image of Nigeria would take a turn for good if the country’s HDI ranking continues to improve significantly. The Heart of Africa Project is a laudable proposition. However, it has to lurk perfectly behind stable political environment coupled with substantive and sustainable long-term development goals that would yield