By Uchechukwu Okwum,
It’s no secret that Nigeria has been struggling of late when it comes to ensuring that all its citizens are properly educated. Poverty and conflict are two of the main causes of its difficulties, but lack of education also feeds both of these problems, creating a vicious circle. It’s thought that the government cannot solve these problems alone and that private enterprise needs to step in to help.
The economic importance of education
Why should private enterprise step in? Because one of Nigeria’s biggest economic assets is its large population, but only an educated population can really help business to move forward. The increasing dominance of technologically driven industries in the Nigerian marketplace means that employers need access to a workforce with good technical and professional skills. Furthermore, as military experts think, improving access to education can help to stabilize troubled areas, and investing in it could help businesses to expand into new internal markets.
The African Leadership Academy
One example of how business is connecting with the education system is the African Leadership Academy. People regularly read about Tunde Folawiyo and other supporters of the Academy are probably familiar with its aims—to help develop the skills of the next generation of African leaders and entrepreneurs—but less well known is the level of success it has achieved after 40 years of work, because of widespread dispersal of its alumni. They can now be found in almost every area of business, right across Africa and the wider world, but while some have remained in Nigeria to dedicate their talents to its growth. Others have become useful allies for Nigerian businesses trading abroad.
Sustaining the economic boom
Nigeria’s success in recent years has been remarkable, and its economy is diversifying impressively. However, with a significant proportion of the population still in poverty, there remains a lot that could go wrong. To ensure a successful future, the country needs to invest significantly in educating all its people, going beyond the current approach to its universal primary education plan, which many children in poorer areas still cannot access. Education for all enables social mobility and can give businesses access to a much greater pool of talent. Public private partnerships have been tried successfully in other countries such as the UK and US and Nigeria is in a good position to undertake similar initiatives, enabling the government to acquire the capital it needs to make a move that would guarantee increased productivity—and thus more money paid in taxes—in the future.
Education cannot only make people more employable and help them acquire better positions, it can also help them make better use of the money they earn and make them less vulnerable to exploitation. As more private individuals acquire the earning capacity and skills necessary to save and invest their own money, they provide a stabilizing force for the economy as a whole. By investing in its children, Nigeria can secure its future, which is a good thing.