By Prof. Magnus Kpakol
The Role of the Legislature in Human Capital Development and Economic Competitiveness.
By Prof. Magnus Kpakol CEO and Chief Strategist – Economic and Business Strategies (EBS) Ltd and former Chief Economic Adviser to the President
There is a disease that has ravaged Africa for many decades now. It has left in its trail a great destruction beyond description. It is far more deadly than the Ebola, SARS, and the now dreaded corona virus combined. And that disease is human capital deficiency.
Human capital deficiency is the primary reason Africa lags the world today. Now first of all let me give you my own definition of human capital.
I define human capital as the stock of knowledge, habits, wellness, attitude, potential and other personal attributes, especially creativity, and the ability to be innovative in producing economic value.
In this context we see that human capital is not just about school education or certificates. It is about the factors for rising wellbeing, job performance, efficiency, productivity, economic development and global competitiveness.
If we look around us we can see how human capital deficiency impairs the normal functioning of a person or society. This deficiency not only undermines our potential to create economic value it also reduces our ability to correctly evaluate and estimate the consequences of our choices and decisions. It is a virulently infectious disease which I believe is at the root of dishonesty, and dishonesty is the mother of corruption which people refer to as poor governance.
Now poor governance has inflicted so much economic violence on the people. And here are some manifestations of the economic violence of human capital deficiency.
1. Road accident fatalities
2. High infant mortality
3. High maternal mortality
4. Rising discontinuity in economic growth rates
5. Uncompetitive foreign direct investment
6. Rising insecurity
People who do not have the skills to create value seek to destroy value. In all its manifestations human capital deficiency has exposed Africa to serious disrespect. When a top leader in the world refers to African countries as shit hole countries, it is because Africa is seen in the light of its human capital deficiency. So, should we just be a part of the world to represent a pitiful people and dramatize a shameful condition? No we should not.
Now let us not just talk about the violence of human capital deficiency because we should equally be alarmed by the impoverishment that Africa suffers from being globally uncompetitive as a result of human capital deficiency.
In spite of all of these things, some people have chosen to become the prisoners of some false assumptions. They will say, don’t worry, with time Africa will catch up. But time is not an active resource or capital to help anyone catch up. Human progress does not come, carried on the wings of inevitability.
Now pay attention to this. Se-dol Lee is a retired 18-time computer game world champion and genious. In 2016, he had a historic match in Seoul, Korea, against AlphaGo – an Artificial Intelligence (AI) computer program developed by Deep Mind technologies of Google. After five rounds, Se-dol Lee the genius only won one time against the computer.
Now South Korea has the highest density of robot workers in the world – 631 robots per 10,000 workers – the most of any nation. So how does the future of work and global economic competition look like for Africa? Assuming that Nigeria and Africa are not leaders in robotics and artificial intelligence, what products can they look to produce to keep up with the global competition? Can we survive in the long run by continuing to operate at the periphery?
Let’s go back to the lesson of the computer game. These robots are defeating geniuses. We better prepare our own kids who will compete with the Koreans. Fortunately we have the potential to do this. In Nigeria today, 62 percent of the population is under 24 years of age. And this is about 124 million people. If it was a country it would be the 12th largest in the world in population, well ahead of Egypt which is the second largest country in Africa by population at 100 million people. And then we have about 83 million people today under the age of 15, representing about 41% of the population. If it were a country it would be the 20th largest country in the world by population. Only 3 African countries Egypt, Ethiopia and DR Congo would be larger than it.
So Nigeria really does have potential. Therefore if we can provide a culture and a thirst for human capital development for this population of young people Nigeria might indeed rule the world. However, there will be a perilous consequence if we fail to develop the human capital of these age groups and thereby allow them to become free radicals ready to latch on to any perverse attraction. Human beings rule the world, not infrastructure and not natural resources.
I’m happy that Mr. President is here today. Mr. President I would like to say something about some of the big ideas you have put forward. I can mention at least 4 programs that you have setup or promoted to fight poverty by helping people create value. I believe these programs should be well developed and enriched with strong human capital components in order to make them more successful and make us proud to project for all the world to see. They include the following:
- The N-Power program to help young Nigerians with job training and education
- The Conditional cash transfer program for those in the lowest income groups
- The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program (GEEP) – a micro-lending investment program targeting entrepreneurs with a focus on young people and women.
- The Home Grown School Feeding Program to increase school enrollment by providing meals to schoolchildren,
Mr. President I commend you for these programs and believe that with stronger community leadership and coordination from the elected representatives of our communities we will be able to achieve a lot more in human capital development and also in helping you to realize your dream of lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in the years to come.
I believe that with the very able, dynamic and supportive leadership of the National Assembly we have today, the administration can do a lot more indeed.
The idea of this Green Chamber Magazine we are launching today illustrates the vision and leadership of His Excellency the Rt. Hon. Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila. Mr. Speaker I commend you for the excellent job you are doing.
Let me use this opportunity to state to the executive branch that we will not succeed by merely carrying the legislature along. We will succeed by allowing the legislature to take a leading role in the coordination of what the executive is executing, especially if it has to do with the people they are elected to represent. And I use this opportunity to apologize to the National Assembly because I did not know this quite as well when I served in a couple of different capacities in the government.
Mr. President, your Excellencies, the main reason these Senators and Representatives are elected to the National Assembly is not merely to make laws or to go on oversight duties. The main reason is to represent the interests and welfare of their constituencies that elected them.
In deed, in my opinion for effectiveness and to achieve community validation, no Ministry, Department or Agency should ever start any activity in any constituency without the elected representatives actually leading in coordination.
I pray therefore that the leadership of the National Assembly and indeed all legislature across the land will be keen to learn how there has to be a strong human capital development component in every project being executed in their constituencies.
Indeed I argue that we may want to reevaluate our constituency projects and see how we can increase the human capital development component for the purpose of getting our constituencies to be more economically competitive.
And this is why we must balance the attention we tend to place on passive capital like infrastructure and even crude oil with greater emphasis on active capital such as human capital. Our representatives must be supported to build and enrich our social capital. Now I define social capital as our network of relationships that promote human capital.
As we all know, the primary reason most of our top talents relocate overseas is to take advantage of the social capital that is out there. It is the social capital that connects them with the physical or structural capital they need to be globally competitive.
Mr. President, Your Excellencies, I think that human capital development carries a criticality in everything we want to do as a developing country. It is not something that will happen as we go along, it is something we must be purposely about to assure our survival and competitiveness.
Indeed the process of developing human capital requires not only education and training but also involves creating the necessary environment in which people can build skills, improve knowledge, apply innovative ideas, acquire new competencies, sustain wellness and develop attitudes and aptitude for rising personal and social prosperity.
Unfortunately until recently, there had been simply very poor understanding of the nature of economic growth and determinants of economic growth. Of course economists know that economic growth is in reality the growth in the factors of production like land, labor and capital. They even correctly argue that economic growth occurs from capital accumulation and technological change.
The whole world now knows that human capital is at the intersection of all economic activity. Even the World Bank now has a Human Capital Development Index that ranks 157 countries according to outcomes achieved on health and education. The World Bank has confessed that after an accumulation of irrefutable evidence they have now shifted from emphasizing investments in hard infrastructure projects, to pushing for governments to spend more on human development. And as we know many institutions, like the IMF have historically not valued human capital as a direct contributor to economic growth.
Indeed Kristalina Georgieva who is now the IMF Chief said in Bali Indonesia in 2018 that the most significant mark the World Bank meeting in Indonesia made in development history was to recognize the criticality of investing in people.
She concluded that government expenditures in health, education, social protection are not consumption expenditures but instead are really prime-time investment”. The people are the most important asset we have.
Your Excellency, Mr. President. Your Excellencies, but I have come here today with salt. I have come with a message to create the thirst for a culture of human capital development in Nigeria.
In my organization we are building an extraordinary human capital development product for all Africa and the world. It is called Phenomenal Africa. We are also establishing phenomenal clubs for people in school and work places to promote a culture and a thirst for human capital development. With our web platform and clubs across our communities we need leaders and champions. And we believe this leadership can be best provided by our political representatives.
In Africa human capital development must be broadened from just education and health. It must include attitudes and much more including
Human Capital is not just about your certificate, but actually about what you can do with your knowledge, your skills and your attitude. It is really about how we can create economic value. It is about how we can competitively create products and services to impact all the world.
But in all of this what I want Nigeria to do is to create a culture of human capital development. And in our country I don’t think there is any other institution that can lead the effort to build a culture of human capital development better than the legislature. The Legislature is naturally prepared and ready to do the job.
I commend you Mr. Speaker for launching this great magazine today. I align my self with it. I hope it will be regularly distributed to every part of our country and to every major institution around the world. Let us be the ones to say it to the world, story by story. I want to join you to tell our story. I thank you all.