Nigeria is blessed with tremendous human capital potential. With over 200 million people, over half of whom are youth, Nigeria has the opportunity to drive inclusive growth by developing its human capital. Investing in people through education, skills training, healthcare, and enabling opportunities can unlock Nigeria’s promise and create a brighter future for all. There are key strategies Nigeria can pursue to fully realise its human capital advantages.
Improving access to quality education
Education is the foundation for developing human capital. Ensuring inclusive access to quality education from early childhood through secondary schooling is critical. Key focus areas include:
Increasing enrolment rates
Despite improvements, Nigeria still has over 10 million out-of-school children. To tap into the full potential of its youth population, Nigeria must continue its policies and programmes to increase enrolment and retention at all levels of education. Government incentives, school feeding programmes, education campaigns, and investments in improving education infrastructure can get more children into school and learning.
Investing in education infrastructure
Many schools in Nigeria lack basic infrastructure like functioning classrooms, furniture, laboratories, libraries, electricity, and water and sanitation facilities. Poor learning environments undermine outcomes. Nigeria should increase budget allocations to renovate and equip schools at all levels to meet minimum standards.
Improving teacher quality
Teachers need ongoing training and support to be effective educators. Standardising teacher certifications, making professional development compulsory, improving pay and working conditions, and implementing performance management frameworks can improve teachers’’ quality and instructional practices.
Prioritising the Science and Technology Curriculum
Building skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is vital for Nigeria’s development. Educational policies and investments should prioritise improving curriculum and teaching capacity in STEM subjects at all levels to build critical analytical and digital skills.
Educational technologies can improve access and teaching practices. Government partnerships with technology companies and telcos to provide low-cost devices, educational software, and connectivity can take learning beyond the classroom. Digital skills development should also be integrated into the curriculum.
Expanding Access to Technical and Vocational Education
Technical and vocational education equips youth with practical skills for employment and entrepreneurship. Nigeria should:
- Increase funding to technical colleges to improve facilities, tools, and instruction.
- Provide scholarships and loans to make TVET more affordable.
- Partner with industry to design market-relevant curricula and certifications.
- Promote apprenticeships and work-based learning opportunities.
- Leverage technology to increase access through online or blended TVET programmes.
- Implement public awareness campaigns on the benefits of technical careers.
Prioritising technical education will create a more skilled workforce and provide viable alternatives to university education.
Improving access to quality healthcare
A healthy population is vital for economic participation and human capital development. Key healthcare access priorities include:
Increasing health insurance coverage
Only around 5% of Nigerians have health insurance currently. Expanding coverage through public health insurance schemes and partnerships with private providers can improve healthcare affordability.
Investing in Primary Healthcare Centres
Many Nigerians lack access to basic healthcare. Investments in building and equipping primary health centres staffed by qualified personnel, particularly in rural areas, can provide essential care closer to home.
Expanding the Health Workforce
Nigeria faces healthcare worker shortages. Increasing training and compensation for doctors, nurses, and midwives can help attract and retain talent in underserved areas. Task-shifting policies can also leverage community health workers.
Prioritising Maternal and Child Health
High rates of maternal and child mortality undermine human capital development. Government programmes expanding prenatal care, access to skilled birthing services, immunisations, and nutrition can improve outcomes.
Combating communicable and non-communicable diseases
Disease prevention and control programmes are essential. Public health education, improved WASH services, vaccination drives, and screening and treatment for malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and NCDs like diabetes and hypertension can improve health and productivity.
Promoting Women’s Empowerment
Women make up half of Nigeria’s potential talent pool. But discriminatory socio-cultural norms and a lack of agency and opportunities constrain their economic participation. Strategies for women’s empowerment include:
Keeping Girls in School
Only around 50% of girls transition to secondary school. Subsidies, family incentives, and campaigns on girls’ education can improve female enrolment and retention rates to build their human capital.
Improving access to reproductive health services
Family planning services enable women to avoid early or unintended pregnancies and pursue educational and economic goals. Access to contraception and safe abortion services should be expanded.
Increasing Women’s Financial Inclusion
Only around 36% of women have a financial account. Digital financial services combined with business training can provide capital to start enterprises. Expanding women’s financial inclusion unlocks productivity.
Strengthening Women’s Legal Rights
Reforms to inheritance laws, expanding protections against gender-based violence, and supporting organisations promoting women’s legal literacy uphold their rights. Representation in politics should also increase.
Promoting workplace inclusion
Pay gaps persist, and women lack leadership roles. Equal pay legislation, gender diversity initiatives, family leave policies, and safe transport and childcare help women succeed at work.
Investing in Youth Empowerment and Employment
With a median age under 20, Nigeria’s growing youth population represents a demographic dividend if engaged in productive activities. Strategies include:
Mainstreaming Entrepreneurship Education
Entrepreneurship training and incubators in schools and universities, combined with funding schemes, can enable youth innovation and business creation.
Expanding Vocational and Work-Readiness Programmes
Workforce development programmes teaching skills like job search strategies, interviewing, CV writing, and soft skills equip youth for employment. Apprenticeships and internships provide experience.
Developing digital skills
Digital literacy is imperative for the 4th Industrial Revolution. Computing education and access to technology develop ICT skills for the digital economy.
Supporting youth participation and leadership
Creating youth networks, engaging young people in policy discussions, and supporting youth-led organisations and community initiatives develop skills and agency.
Implementing youth employment schemes
Subsidised hiring, entrepreneurship grants, and public works programmes help economically engage youth and provide needed income. Private sector partnerships are key.
Unlocking youth innovation and productivity provides a vital engine for national growth and prosperity.
Promoting Adult Skills Development and Lifelong Learning
In a changing economy, skills must be continuously upgraded. Strategies include:
Expanding Adult Literacy Programmes
Around 50 million Nigerian adults are illiterate, limiting their livelihood options. Government and community programmes can provide adult education and skills training.
Offering Job Re-skilling Opportunities
For workers needing to transition between occupations, short courses, online learning, and skills boot camps enable upskilling and retooling for new roles.
Encouraging employer-provided training
Tax benefits and training levies can incentivize companies to upskill employees through on-site instruction, funding for external certification courses, and study leave.
Leveraging online learning platforms
Digital platforms enable affordable, scalable, and flexible adult education. Partnerships between the government, edtech companies, and universities can develop locally relevant content.
Recognition of Prior Experiential Learning
Pathways recognising existing skills and knowledge through competency assessments rather than formal credentials alone aid mobility.
Lifelong learning systems create a nimble, resilient workforce able to thrive amid economic changes.
Promoting financial inclusion and income security
Financial inclusion and social protection schemes also build human capital.
Expanding access to financial services
Digital financial services combined with financial education empower underserved groups like women, youth, and rural populations to save, invest, and manage risk.
Developing Inclusive Insurance Markets
Insurance protects assets and cushions against shocks like illness, disability, or crop loss that threaten livelihoods. Public-private partnerships can improve the availability of health, agricultural, and microinsurance.
Strengthening pension systems
Expanded retirement savings through contributory pensions provide income security in old age while growing capital markets. Awareness campaigns and enrolment drives should target uncovered informal workers.
Implementing Cash Transfer and Public Works Schemes
Unconditional cash transfers, or transfers conditional on school attendance, boost vulnerable households. Public works programmes provide jobs and needed services.
Financial inclusion and social security give people stability and unlock productivity by supporting investment and risk-taking.
Fostering good governance and enabling institutions
Capable, responsive public institutions and governance are critical for implementing people-centred policies.
Corruption syphons resources from development. Institutions like anti-graft agencies, the judiciary, and the National Assembly must maintain independence and accountability to restore trust.
Strengthening public financial management
Reforms to budget processes, public procurement, audit practices, and revenue agencies improve the efficient allocation of resources to priorities like health, education, and social protection.
Building institutional capacity
Strengthening ministries of health, education, social welfare, youth, gender, etc. requires investments in leadership, staffing, data systems, and policy capability to deliver results.
Encouraging citizen engagement
Taxpayers have a stake in accountable governance. Mechanisms like social audits, participatory budgeting, and open data portals foster transparency and amplify citizen voices in policymaking.
Supporting data- and evidence-based policymaking
Good data enables good policy. Government statistics agencies require capacity-building support to provide disaggregated data measuring service delivery, inequality, poverty, and progress against human capital goals.
With a commitment to integrity and people-centred delivery, a professional civil service can implement bold reforms for national development.
Nigeria possesses tremendous potential to transform into a leading economy powered by its human capital assets. But this requires long-term vision and investment. By urgently acting to improve health and education, promote inclusion, create economic opportunities, and strengthen institutions, Nigeria can secure a prosperous future. The time to act is now.