Being a paper presented by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State at the 75th anniversary of Island Club, Lagos.
It is an honour to address the illustrious and prestigious Island Club and to be part of your 75th anniversary. I am proud to be associated with a club that has promoted good fellowship and inter-racial as well as inter-religious harmony; not only in Lagos State but in all Nigeria.
Founded by some eminent and distinguished Nigerians, to whom we should still be grateful to, our club has remained very relevant and positively impacted on the social and political growth of our country.
As we cherish the history of our club and revel in the present, we must realise that the responsibility of shaping the future of our nation is a responsibility we must face up to.
Just as the Island club influenced the social and political growth of Nigeria in the past, I am very confident that, with the calibre of individuals in our club, the future is ours to determine.
This is the reason why I chose the topic – Nation Building: Communities, Inclusion and Prosperity.
But again, because of the nationalistic nature of Island Club, the topic could easily be – Island Club: Communities, Inclusion and Prosperity. So, there is a linkage between communities, inclusion and prosperity. Communities interact to create prosperity, but again what I am trying to bring out is to find out to what extent has this linkage worked for us as a state and as a nation.
Our club is a very important community in Nigeria and we must be part of the story of inclusion and prosperity of our nation.
Before I get into this discourse let me make a few declarations:
There have been so many papers on nation building with focus on institutions and regulations but I will restrict myself to the softer issues – the people; the most important fabric of the nation.
In discussing this topic, we must determine who we are as a nation, where we are and where we want to be.
I will not draw any conclusions but I will present some critical information and present what we have tried to do in Lagos State for nation building.
Globally there is a feeling that we live in an increasingly fractured world
Results of the World Inequality Report of 2018 shows that inequality has increased everywhere in the world, despite substantial geographical differences, with the richest one per cent twice as wealthy as the poorest 50 per cent and Nigeria is no exception.
In recent decades, income inequality has increased in nearly all countries, but at different speeds, suggesting that institutions and policies matter in shaping inequality.
There are a number of prevailing opposing political, economic and trade trends reshaping the world, including the widening gap between the rich and poor, climate change and concerns around the future role of technology.
So, recently, we have been hearing things like Brexit, nationalism or Triumpism, which some people see as populist and nationalistic tendencies. That is how fractured the world is.
Around the world, people are finding it increasingly difficult to buy into the narrative of shared, continuous social and economic progress that has prevailed for decades.
The truth is that globalisation has inadvertently exposed a fractured world. However, from a strictly economic perspective, the world is really not in bad shape. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), for example, predicted a growth rate of 3.7 per cent in 2018.
The reality, however, is that for most people, the benefits of economic growth remain elusive. This category of people thus feel excluded from globalisation and all the rosy narratives that often accompany it, hence the fractures we see in the world today.
These fractures foster intolerance, the rising nationalism, populism and strife all over the world and intolerance technically leads to terrorism. This fracture is even more evident in Nigeria with the various indicators of inequality.
The focus of national economic programmes since 1960 has been the reduction of poverty, bridging inequality and the achievement of a sustained economic growth that should translate to economic development.
However, our growth indicators, even when we averaged growth of six per cent prior to the recent recession of 2015 and 2016, we have not managed to translate into real development for the greater majority of our people.
The reality and which is the stark truth is that the country is stuck in dire situation.
UNDP’s most recent Human Development report (combines life expectancy, education and income into a single measure) reveals Nigeria’s has a score of 0.51 which is low (1 is the maximum; Norway is at 0.953).
To put this in perspective, Nigeria’s HDI is lower than Kenya, Congo and Ghana. The question is, if Nigeria is number one on GDP, then where should our HDI be if we really want to grow and become a true nation.
However, the 0.51 score masks massive differences between different parts of Nigeria for example, Lagos ranks the highest among all states at 0.65 and is comparable to South Africa and Morocco, while, Sokoto ranks the lowest at 0.29, which is worse than war-torn Yemen.
The stark difference in HDI scores points to the extreme inequality in Nigeria’s well-being – imagine a segment of the population with life expectancy, education and incomes similar to South Africa, while others live like residents of currently devastated Yemen.
Various other indices present an equally worrying picture
According to UNICEF: Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. 10.5 million children (20 per cent of world population of such children).
According to Oxfam, women represent between 60 and 79 per cent of Nigeria’s rural labour force but are five times less likely to own their own land than men. Women are also less likely to have a decent education.
Over three-quarters of the poorest women in Nigeria have never been to school and 94 per cent of them are illiterate.
Five million of our people face hunger. More than 112 million people are living in poverty in Nigeria. 57 million Nigerians lack safe water. Over 130 million lack adequate sanitation.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its Q2’2017 report, stated that the country’s unemployment rate rose from 14.2 per cent to 18.8 per cent. Underemployment is also close to 20 per cent. We need to understand these statistics for us to realise why we need to talk about nation building, inclusion and prosperity.
CBN’s data indicates that only 48.6 per cent, equivalent to 46.9 million Nigerians, have access to formal financial services. This is behind developed nations, but it is also behind some of our African peers.
According to the World Bank, only 39.4 per cent of adult Nigerians have bank accounts with only 5.6 per cent having access to mobile money service. In other words, millions of our people are excluded from the formal banking and financial systems. To build a virile nation, we must pursue financial inclusion aggressively.
Nearly 10 per cent of newborn deaths in the world last year occurred in Nigeria (UNICEF: 2017).
What really is inclusion?
According to the World Bank framework for inclusion, Social Inclusion is the process of improving the terms for individuals and groups to take part in society. It is also the process of improving the ability, opportunity and dignity of people, disadvantaged on the basis of their identity, to take part in society.
Individuals and groups want to be included in three interrelated domains: markets, services, and spaces.
Intervening in one domain without consideration of the others is likely to be one of the most important reasons for the limited success of inclusion policies and programs.
I can use Lagos as a good example of a society practicing social inclusion because Lagos is a classical example of a cosmopolitan city that has imbibed every other person to succeed in anything that they try to do.
In their day-to-day interactions, people engage in society through four major markets — land, housing, labour and credit — all of which intersect at the individual and the household level.
Access to services is essential to improving social inclusion. Health and education services enhance human capital. Social protection services cushion vulnerable groups against the effects of shocks and promote their well-being.
Physical spaces have a social, political, and cultural character that solidifies systems and processes of exclusion.
Intense global transitions are leading to social transformations that create new opportunities for inclusion, as well as exacerbating existing forms of exclusion. So we must ensure that we do not exclude people or groups from building a great nation.
Social inclusion matters for itself. But it also matters because it is the foundation for shared prosperity and because social exclusion is simply too costly.
There are substantial costs — social, political, and economic — to not addressing the exclusion of entire groups of people.
A sustainable path towards ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity also involves creating an inclusive society, not only in terms of economic welfare but also in terms of the voice and empowerment of all groups.
We must begin to realise that every strata of the society counts, we must listen and accommodate all views, whether they are poor, whether they are Igbos, Hausas, whether they are rich, Muslims or Christians, we must put everything in a basket for us to be able to build the nation correctly. An inclusive society must have those institutions, structures and processes that empower local communities, professional associations, artisans, CDAs so they can hold government accountable.
It also requires the participation of all groups in society, including traditionally marginalised groups, such as ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, in decision-making processes.
Ensuring inclusion and evolution of a prosperous community
To ensure inclusion and evolve prosperous communities, social policy needs to move beyond conventional social service approaches toward development’s goals of equitable opportunity and social justice.
Thankfully, the Nigerian economy has turned a corner and we continue to see positive indices of economic recovery and an encouraging outlook for the future.
However, economists have stated quite strongly that for Nigeria to attain its potential, we need the economy to grow by six to seven per cent a year because the population growth is almost three per cent. This is critical if we are going to move the needle in reducing poverty, preventing social unrest and unlocking the full potential of this country.
To meet our growth ambitions we need jobs and we need to increase productivity too.
Nigeria has the advantage of a large population, but the majority are under-skilled. It is imperative to equip workers with the skills needed to keep pace with an economy in transition like Nigeria.
Average productivity of a worker in Nigeria is very low at $2.24/hr relative to $19.68/hr in South Africa and US$29.34/hr in Turkey.
Improvements in productivity will require investments to ensure a broad availability of good quality education as well as relevant vocational training to improve value-added activity across key sectors such as manufacturing and services.
We need to close that gap in economic and political power between women and men. Providing both girls and boys with education is a first step.
Quality education is the basis for jobs and income. A modern, competitive economy needs the best heads and hands, regardless of gender. This is sound economics and simple common sense.
Government need to implement structural reforms to enhance efficiency, making valuable long-term investments in technology and science to support research and development.
In addition, governments also need to support the economy to provide jobs for their fast-growing young populations. They should also encourage businesses to provide lifetime training to workers, ensuring they continue to have relevant and valuable skills to support employment as they age.
Professional services firm, PwC in its World in 2050 posited that governments of emerging markets should follow a two-pronged approach:
First, they should continue to develop strong institutions and macroeconomic fundamentals.
Second, they should continue to invest in infrastructure, to aid the development of other industries and education, to develop a broadly skilled and flexible workforce. I believe these suggestions are apt for our circumstance.
While digital revolution is affecting financial services, we need to decide together what type of financial system will really impact employment and bring more people into the formal financial system.
We must also continue to fight corruption.
Inclusion and prosperity: The Lagos example
Our vision to make Lagos safer and more prosperous for the people is driven by the need to foster and build an inclusive society – A Lagos that works for all. This has been our primary focus in the last three and half years.
This vision of making Lagos Africa’s model mega city and global economic and financial hub is reflected in everything we have been doing. Bringing our communities together to ensure the future prosperity of Lagos State is non-negotiable. I am convinced that we are on the right trajectory and that’s the way to go if Lagos is going to show a very good example to the rest of the country.
Let me share just a few statistics to show you just how important Lagos is to the success of Nigeria.
The population of Lagos State today is estimated at 24 million people and still counting. This is equal to that of 30 African countries put together.
By 2050, Lagos is on track to be a city of 36 million people or the sixth largest city in the world after Mumbai, Delhi, Dhaka, Kinshasa, and Kolkata and ahead of Tokyo, Karachi, New York, and Mexico City.
We have a migration rate of 86 people moving into Lagos every hour, higher than New York (7), London (9) or Mumbai (72) and they are not going back. This is World Bank statistics of 2016. So, recession ended in 2016? Are the remaining 35 states working?
So when you compare the figures of 2016 and now, the remaining 35 states, they are moving to Lagos and that’s why you have traffic congestion. There is nothing working economically in other states and we are coming towards the end of the year, people are going to find what to do for the remainder of the year, so when you count the number of cars on the road, you will observe that there is a challenge coming up.
We have a population density of 6,939 persons per kilometre and an average of five persons per household.
With all these comes challenges and pressures on the physical and social infrastructure. So the truth is that investment in infrastructure can never be enough.
We believe that every Lagosian must have the opportunity to grow, develop their own skills and contribute to their families and communities in a meaningful way. The aggregate sum of family well-being is the meat for nation building.
If they are healthy, well educated and trained to enter the workforce and are able to make a decent wage they are better equipped to meet their basic needs and be successful. Their families will also do well and the whole of society will benefit.
So, as a government, we are committed to providing a safe, secured and conducive environment for business to thrive. In the last three and a half years, Lagos has become the safest city in Africa. We are daily improving the ease of doing business in our state and we are hoping to ensure that all businesses have what they require to succeed.
Government does not have to participate in businesses. We do not have the requisite skills. All we need to do is to create the enabling environment for the private sector to own the economy and then the GDP will grow. We have played a significant role in the improved ranking of our country’s ease of doing business index in 2017 and also in 2018.
We have empowered a lot of young people to participate more in the economy of this state and the process to reflate the Nigeria economy.
Our Employment Trust Fund has disbursed N5.84 billion to 7,880 Lagosians out of which 1,123 have fully repaid their loans, a revolving fund that targets inclusion and prosperity. Over 25,000 jobs were created through the loans and employability programmes.
To ensure inclusion, 3,613 women received N2.29 billion while N1.44 billion was disbursed to individuals less than 35 years and at least N100 million disbursed in each local government of the state.
We are on course to attain the vision of a 24-hour economy that will make the state globally competitive. Earlier this year, I signed the Lagos State Electric Power Reform Bill into law, trying to challenge the status quo to see whether Lagos can actually provide power for itself and I think that is the right way to go if we are going to totally industrialise this state.
Education is high on the priority list of this administration, and a significant portion of the state budget every year is allocated to upgrading infrastructure and building capacity.
Through the novel “Code Lagos” and Ready-Set-Work programmes, we are promoting education as a development tool to boost employability of our students and improve the livelihood of Lagosians. The idea is to match graduates from tertiary institutions with the employers needs because most times employers complain that they cannot employ our graduates, so we created these programmes for our graduates as a skill set to be able to meet that need.
These programmes give the youth opportunity to learn critical learning skills and reduce numeracy and analytical gaps and inculcating the entrepreneurship spirit in our school leavers.
On a more comprehensive scale, Lagos State is changing the approach to vocational training to make it a more integral part of the education system. This idea of white collar job is gone forever, so we need to teach people vocational skills so that they can enter into the middle level class of the employment needs in this country. This is the gap that we need to fill up.
We have similarly made huge investments in healthcare – Ayinke House, the Lagos State Biobank in the Mainland General Hospital, Yaba and other Mother and Child Care Centres across the state as well as our about-to-be launched Health Insurance Scheme. All these are to create a platform for those that we had actually left behind before.
We entered into a collaboration with Kebbi State to produce rice – LAKE Rice and this was the singular thing that crashed the price of rice in Nigeria. We are trying to do more to ensure that food security in the state is secured.
We have gone further to establish a rice value chain with a 32 tonnes per hour rice mill to be located on 32 hectares of land in Imota, Ikorodu and early next year we should be able to finish it.
With our bulging population, you will agree with me that food security is critical to this state.
We have also realised that the tourism, hospitality, arts, sports and entertainment are the new frontiers for job creation, hence our massive investments in these sectors. You can see that we are rebuilding the Onikan Stadium and several other recreational facilities around this axis. The whole idea is to continue to create that enabling environment to encourage the private sector to take the front seat.
We have invested in the development of an integrated and modern inter-modal transportation system in the state and part of it is our bus reforms, the laybys and bus stops and we are channelising some of these waterways and few months from now, you will be able to see some new ferry services coming up.
The rail project appears to be slow, but the truth is that it’s not the physical structure that has been committed. So, to put a rail in place, you need communication, you need power and other things to make it work and those things are what is part of the delay and again because of the water challenge that we had, which was not part of what was designed, it looks like more work is being done under water than you can see physically, but more work is ongoing.
People living with disabilities have found a home in Lagos and we have done a lot to provide for their special needs because that’s what we talk about inclusion because they are part of the prosperity of this state.
Inclusion and Prosperity: We are all involved
Often times, our people hold the view that the solution depend solely on government or politicians but that is not true.
Citizens, businesses and groups such as the Island Club will need to be more proactive in interrogating the issues and engaging with decision makers to influence decisions.
We need to go beyond looking at government to find ways to develop our most valuable resources, our people.
We need to share responsibility with community organisations, businesses, universities and municipalities in the task of improving the well-being of all Lagosians and preventing and reducing poverty.
My final message is that we all need to take the gauntlet and we must all be involved in this nation building. It starts from the community and on the streets and then we need to improve every one and at that point we would be rest assured that the prosperity of this country is up north and going forward and then we can build the nation that we can all be proud of.
I thank you all.
*Ambode, Lagos State governor, delivered this address at the 75th anniversary of Island Club, Lagos.
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