By Moses Adeniyi
Following the pressing need to address challenges of human capital development (HCD) deficits in the Country, Governments of the Southwestern States have gathered again to harmonise efforts on actions plan to address the prevailing HCD deficits in the region.
The Governors of the six Southwestern States on the platform of the Core Working Group (CWG) converged to brainstorm on how to chart forward, the demand to boost the three thematic components of “Health and Nutrition, Education and Labour Force” which are identified as the key pillars to boosting HCD.
The Governors who were majorly represented by their deputies and key representatives were joined in Lagos by key policymakers, technical experts and development partners in a two-day brainstorming conference which lasted Wednesday and Thursday in Ikeja the State Capital, highlighting the challenges of the Country and the region in particular, while posing recommendations on action plans to forge ahead in addressing pressing HCD challenges.
In his assertion at the forum on Thursday, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu who is the host of the six South-western states of Federation and the Regional Champion for the SouthWest group (CWG) said the focus of the 2-day engagement “is to strengthen government policies and systems that enable greater engagement with citizens.” informed by “building upon the national framework for the adoption, operation and domestication of the Human Capital Development (HCD) which was transmitted to each state by the Core Working Group (CWG).”
“This high level engagement, which marks the beginning of cross-sectorial collaborations aims to bridge the gap between evidence and action to improve outcomes across the three thematic area of education, health and nutrition and labour force,” he said.
Sanwo-Olu said investing in human development is one of the smartest investments a country can make to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality, and boost productivity of labour.
“As such, we have an ineluctable responsibility to organise actions that will improve socio-economic development of our nation,” he said.
“Africa will soon be home to more than 50% of the world’s youth and our region holds a dominant portion of this demography. We therefore owe our youths the opportunity to be productive members of the workforce that will contribute to the global economy.
“This will not happen if we don’t take informed decisions to tackle some challenges that are peculiar to this region through the HCD initiative. This is particularly critical in the light of the recently released Multidimensional Poverty in Nigeria (2022) Report,” he said.
“The profound shift in global economy is creating a sense of urgency for us as policy makers to prepare our people for the emerging and complex future.
“The key is making the right investments in people – ensuring that they accumulate the knowledge and skills they will need to compete in a new world. In a global world, we cannot afford for our people to not have the proper foundation in health, education and skills,” added.
He said it was high time the States turned lens towards creating diverse opportunities for human development by leveraging evidence-based advocacy to mobilise and take actions to drive the accountability needed to deliver change at scale across communities and improve developmental outcomes for citizens.
According to him, his Administration is fully committed to ensuring “every child, man and woman in Lagos is not left behind and has the opportunity to live a full and productive life.”
“We believe this to be a key element of a 21st Century economy and so inclusiveness and social protection have been placed at the core of our THEMES development agenda.
“We have supported this with our laws, policies and institutions including the passage of a Lagos Social Protection Policy which defines interventions targeting the poor and vulnerable including children, women, persons with disability and the elderly carried out across our various ministries and agencies. We have also ensured our budgets are reflective of our aspirations,” he added.
He commended the establishment of the regional groups under which he serves as the Regional Champion for the SouthWest group.
He submitted that each state must develop a set of accelerated priorities for the project, working across MDAs, NGOs, CSOs as well as local and international institutions.
The Human Capital Development [HCD) initiative was launched in March 2018 by the National Economic Council at a special meeting in Abuja in response to the sub-par position of Nigeria on the global Human Development Index (HD] table as one of the worst performers in the world (157 out of 195 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index 2017).
Speaking on the theme of the conference: “From Plan to Action: Push for HCD,” Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat said the theme was most apt, “especially in light of the current situation of human capital development across our dear nation, captured most soberingly in the recently released Multidimensional Poverty in Nigeria (2022) Report which highlights that we, as a country, still have quite a long way to go in our efforts.”
He said the three thematic areas of the HCD were rightly captured in the Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu led Administration’s policy thrust, the THEMES AGENDA, which the government have continued to deliver on through strategic interventions.
According to him, Investments in healthcare, education and labour force in the State has led to transformative development.
Core interventions he mentioned include the Universal State Healthcare Insurance Scheme which has over 623,000 Lagos residents registered on the ILERA EKO Health Insurance Plan available at 250 Public and Private Hospitals; Mother, Infant and Child (MICH) program which provides free food and healthcare for 1,000 mother across each of the 57 LG/LCDAs; free family planning programs and free health insurance for vulnerable and indigent residents of the state.
Among the Interventions in education he mentioned include; recruitment and capacity building programmes for over 10,000 teachers, the technology-enabled Eko Excel teaching and learning initiative transforming our public primary schools, Digital Lagos – a coding initiative for secondary school youths and adoption of the National School Feeding programme.
Also are annual payment for JAMB and WAEC students in public secondary schools;re-introducing the comprehensive school model; rehabilitation of over 1,000 public schools and construction of several new schools
On labour force, he highlighted skill development and job creation opportunities for the workforce population to excel in their endeavours, as a key area the Administration has invested in.
Hamzat said the State embracing the CWG platform as an opportunity to partner with nearest neighbour states (Southwest) is an expression of its commitment to HCD
Speaking, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and Investments, Mrs. Solape Hammond said the forum was significant in redesigning the path towards achieving Nigeria’s vision of inclusive and sustainable growth.
On key areas that are central to the concept of HCD, Hammond asserted that “beyond an economic sense, emerging focus on human capital provides an additional emphasis on the prominence structures towards nurturing dynamic, competitive, thriving, and productive society.”
“In our pursuit of enabling equal opportunities in Health and nutrition, Education and Labour Force being the three national priority interventions, we need to beam our searchlight on relevant issues and most importantly situate real life expectancies in addressing some of these challenges,” she averred.
Hammond averred that like any investment, investments in HCD need to be well designed if they’re to yield the highest returns.
“The ability of this region to thrive in the modern global economy hinges on its ability to invest smartly in young people, to ensure they are equipped to take on the jobs of the future.
“We must ensure government across the states offer enough commitment to take on this challenge,” she submitted.
Chairman of the Southwest Governors Forum and Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu represented by the Ondo State Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa said States in the region were not happy with Nigeria’s current Human Capital Index rating in the World, thus informing why States in the region are building synergy to learn from one another, as well as develop mutual strategies to build on HCD interventions.
Representative of the World Bank, Dilip Parajuli, Senior Education Global Practice, said appropriation of resources is a key component that must be recalibrated to give priority to key issues of the thematic composition of HCD in Nigeria.
He submitted that strategic allocation of resources must be tailored to reduce the alarming rate of out of school children and poverty profile.
According to him, though there has been allocation of resources to the thematic areas of HCD in the Country, yet the impacts and results are not commensurate to the value of resources allocated.
Calling for performance based allocation where the Federal Government should allocate more resources to performing State efficient in deployment and utilisation of resources, he submitted that efficiency is important while improving on funding with flexibility in allocation.
Dilip said it was important to improve on data information system and assessment evaluation, arguing that while there may be existing data system, it must be built upon for efficiency.
He asserted that though policy actions and its implementation may not be easy, political will is an essential element that must be deployed to make them realistic.
Development partners which converged for the conference include, among others, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the World Bank, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
(FCDO), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Aliko Dangote Foundation, all stressing the important need to foster HCD in the Country.
They agreed there was important need for political will to strategically work out action plans and implement same concertedly with concrete commitment.
Speaking, the National Coordinator, Human Capital Development Programme, Ms. Yosolu Akinbi said the need for agreement and mutual collaboration informed the initiative, given the significance for component States in the Federation to experience transformation in human capacity for national development.
“Its about the total agreement amongst the Southwest States to actually move forward, and in moving forward we have identified key areas where we all need to work on, so to be able to move forward. And those are the things we have articulated that to move forward, we must work on the three thematic areas of health, education and labour force participation,” she said.
The Regional Group, and the SouthWest Regional Summit, the first in the nation, provide the appropriate platform for peer-to-peer learning, strategic policy formulation and collaboration.