Nigeria’s Population Growth and the Future of the Nigerian Child

(By Shuaibu Sakiwa)

The depressing rate of poverty in Nigeria needs to be addressed to secure a better future for the babies and youths of the next decade. The World Bank state that poverty rate in Nigeria is at about 67%, this worrisome situation is more felt in the rural areas and the Northern Eastern region of the country. High poverty rate in Nigeria has deprived families of access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, education and healthcare which has increased tendencies for conflict, with the current Boko Haram insurgency in some states of the North depicting a situation where poverty, unemployment and low level of education has created a platform for the insurgency to thrive.

Nigeria is expected to retain its position as the most populous country in Africa. This is due to continued high fertility rate of Nigerian women which stands at 7.5 babies as against the global average of 2.5 babies. According to global population projections, African population will grow from 1.2 billion in 2015 to 2.4 billion in 2030, in the same period, Nigeria’s population is expected to grow from about 169 million to more than 200 million making it the fifth most populated country in the world after India, China, USA and Pakistan. Interestingly, the expected population growth in Nigeria and Africa coincide with a decade Africa is projected to witness economic growth, this is evidenced with the flow of Foreign Direct Investment FDI into Africa which has grown from $3.3 billion in 2000 to $246 billion in 2012 with Nigeria and South Africa attracting the largest share.

However, the current situation in Nigeria requires urgent investment in its current 72 million young people if it must reap the benefits of its large youth population and the projected 5.9 million babies to be born yearly over the next decade in Nigeria. For instance, Nigeria stills ranks low in Human Development Index, ranking 22 out of 50 Africa countries. To redress this trend, drastic efforts must be in place to address current issues of insecurity, high poverty rate, unemployment, falling standards of education and low health care standards. This will go a long way in improving the hapless economic conditions of Nigerian youths and the over 5.9 million babies that are expected to be born every year over the next decade in Nigeria.

The depressing rate of poverty in Nigeria needs to be addressed to secure a better future for the babies and youths of the next decade. The World Bank state that poverty rate in Nigeria is at about 67%, this worrisome situation is more felt in the rural areas and the Northern Eastern region of the country. High poverty rate in Nigeria has deprived families of access to basic necessities such as food, shelter, education and healthcare which has increased tendencies for conflict, with the current Boko Haram insurgency in some states of the North depicting a situation where poverty, unemployment and low level of education has created a platform for the insurgency to thrive.

Worst still is the disheartening high rate of youth unemployment and underemployment in the country. The National Bureau of Statistics NBS figures shows that about 20.3 million youths are unemployed and government intervention has not kept pace with the growing number of graduates who join the labour market every year. Thus, many graduates and able youths are left with no choice than to become political thugs, vandals, kidnappers or internet fraudsters while those who choose the path of nobility struggle to survive with informal jobs like selling recharge cards, okada riding and other menial jobs.

Efforts to reduce poverty must be carefully designed and must go beyond setting up of agencies whose impacts are hardly felt. Hopefully, the noticeable transformation in the agricultural sector which resulted in private investment of about $5.6bn into sector will improve the sector to the desired level it ought to be thereby attracting youths to go into the sector. With 90% of the over 923 million square kilometers of land arable for farming in Nigeria, investment in the agricultural sector can employ millions of youths. This is coupled with Nigeria’s over 160 million people which will serve as a huge market for agricultural products, thus, readdressing the embarrassing N1 billion daily rice import and N1.3 trillion annual amount spend on imported basic items like wheat, sugar and fish all of which Nigeria has the capacity to produce.

More imperative for human and economic development is investing in infrastructure such as energy, road, rail and air transportation which will go a long way in attracting the desired investment in manufacturing, construction, mining and services which also serve as a catalyst for a country’s global competitiveness. Addressing Nigeria’s low electricity supply, as compared to South Africa’s 45,000 megawatts, more investment in roads especially to rural areas, launching of modern rail network that will make movement of goods faster are the realistic way for the country to achieve its target of becoming the twentieth largest economy in the world.

Unlocking the potentials of Nigerian youths to become relevant in an increasing competitive, globalized and knowledge based economy can only be achieved by investing in education at all levels from basic to tertiary level. According to UNICEF out of the about 57 million out of school children globally, regrettably 10.5 million of them are in Nigeria, thus acceding to the country the first position among countries with the highest concentration of out of school children in the world, more worrisome is the low rate of girl enrolment in schools. This situation is worst in the North East and North West region of the country.

For those who are in school, the sector is currently faced with myriads of problems which are evidenced in decayed infrastructures, low quality teachers, outdated curriculum and over population at all levels. To harness the potentials of school children, government must address issues of low quality and quantity of teachers, improved school environment, access to computers and internet, and a revised syllabus that will increase the skills and knowledge of school children to make them ready for the jobs of the next decade and invariably help this country strengthen its technology and become prosperous.

Despite recent improvements in the health sector, Nigerian children still die from preventable infectious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and HIV/AIDS which account for 70% of the estimated one million under five deaths in the country. Improving the health standards of Nigerian children will provide a healthy and able youth whose human resources are needed to achieve the Vision 2020. Furthermore, the government must continue to vigorously pursue the attainment of health related MDGs, sustained immunization and put in place effective policies that integrate maternal and child health to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates in Nigeria.

Investing in security, education and health care of children will be the way for Nigeria to turn the tide of its projected 109 million under 18 children by 2021 in its favour. Already the country is battling with growing number of youth that are restless and frustrated with lack of opportunities, increased competition for jobs with the tragic Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment still in fresh in our minds. Other associated problems with Nigeria’s high population are increased urbanization and its attendant negative effect of lack of proper sanitation, inadequate housing and crime. All these require pragmatic response from governments at all levels to provide a secure and prosperous future for today’s children and its unborn citizens.

E-mail: ssakiwa@gmail.com

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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