Nigeria’s Population Is An Asset If Managed Properly – Obasanjo

The Africa Progress Group led by former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, has moved to curb population explosion in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.

Obasanjo made this known during his speech on Tuesday at the Public Presentation of the 2020 Africa Progress Group Report.

According to the former head of state, Nigeria’s population of over 200 million people with a significant youth bulge should be harnessed for increased industrialisation of the country and Sun-Saharan Africa.

The ex-President said the failure of current African leaders to engage the teeming youths in productive engagement was dangerous as violent extremists and criminals would start enlisting them in their ranks.

Obasanjo said, “Three clusters of questions pop up in my mind any time the scary thoughts of the ever-increasing population kept me awake at night. The first cluster is: how are we going to feed this exploding population? Only a few days ago, the alarm was raised about imminent food crisis in Nigeria. Similar alarm bells have been ringing with increasing stridency all over Africa. How are we going to house them; educate them, provide them with health security and other variants of human security?

Buhari's Government Will Go To Hell Not Just Jail - Obasanjo“The second cluster of questions is: how do we keep this keg of gunpowder of the large army of unemployed youth from exploding? How do we keep them from enlisting in violent extremists’ groups and in gangs of kidnappers? The third cluster of questions is: how can Africa attain the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 in a turbulent sea of exploding, not-well-managed populations?

“While these clusters of questions are frightening, they would appear to have an elegantly simple solution- political will and action to make population an asset. This is the master key of a sort! I am sure you noticed that this “key” has two elements- the will and the action. It is not enough to shroud political will in mere political rhetoric and sloganeering but translating such will into concrete, measurable actions with visible impact on the ground.

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“This is why, in this report, APG, being a group with a burning desire for Africa’s progress has established a unique measure of progress of African countries on the concrete and measurable actions on responsiveness to their growing populations.

“APG is delighted and proud to introduce the Population As Asset Responsiveness Index. Just as UN, AU and other international agencies have established indices for comparing performance of countries with a view to drawing attention towards improvement by stimulating healthy competition, PARI of APG is anticipated to be a stimulus for African countries to show more responsiveness to making their populations more of an asset than a burden.

“It will be an annual measure computed from credible, published and verifiable secondary data obtained from primary data of UN agencies on the indicators of interest including education, health, food security, housing, energy, transportation and employment. The 2020 ranking should be seen as a wake-up call by African countries and basis for strategically planning for improvement in the coming years rather than basis for dejection by low-ranked countries or complacency by the high-ranked.

“Human capital development is the main key for making population an asset. The development partners and private sector can support harnessing a demographic dividend by building capacity for policy implementation into actionable intervention with clear indicators of progress to enable tracking and foster accountability.

“Collaboration with the private sector will also provide funding to support promising programmes which address identified challenges among youth and help create private jobs.

“Civil society is also a veritable partner in the training, preparation, mentoring and monitoring youth in this three-cornered partnership. The ‘youth bulge’, also described as a demographic dividend, offers an opportunity to convert a country’s youth population and human capital into an economic boosting powerhouse if carefully and sensibly managed and invested with education and skill, health and basic services for longer-term economic growth and capital development.

“Examples of today’s Africa’s ‘youth bulge’ were seen in countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia in the 1980s, and the well-handling of this phenomenon contributed to their economic growth by 25-33%.

“African governments should not ignore the overwhelming evidence that the failure of leadership to apply a set of hard choices on population management is encumbering progress in the continent. For the avoidance of doubt, APG is not queuing behind the proposition for policies such as one child or two per family as we have in some regions of the world. Our position is rested on the belief that population, large or small, can be harnessed as an asset rather than a burden.

“Besides, the variability in socio-cultural positions on family planning by different African communities should be respected but properly managed. Africa’s growing population if well managed will yield huge dividends for national and regional development.”

Photo Credit: Getty

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