How double-digit growth can lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty

To stem the tide of rising poverty and provide opportunities for a fast expanding population, Nigeria needs to achieve double-digit growth, according to speakers at a Lagos Business School (LBS) Public Sector Seminar.

With two economic recessions in just five years, and a 0.51 percent growth rate recorded in the first quarter of 2021, Nigeria’s growth rate has failed to match its average population growth rate of 2.6 percent since 2015 which means worsening poverty levels.

“If Nigeria does not grow by at least 9-10 percent, we will be in trouble when the population explodes,”Asue Ighodalo, Chairman, Sterling Bank Plc said at the LBS seminar themed “Nigeria in Challenging Times; Imperatives for a Cohesive National Development Agenda Confirmation,’ which held virtually on Tuesday.

Ighodalo also explained that there is a need to bridge the distrust between the public and private sector as the government cannot achieve the growth rate Nigeria needs alone.

“Most of our revenue is used to service debt and pay salaries and not to invest in capital expenditure. We need effective and patient capital from local markets, Development Financial Institution (DFI) and foreign market as it would create a multiplier effect on all the sectors of the economy,” he said.

He also noted that no one wants to bring their money to an uncertain economy filled with insecurity.

Read also: The psychology of poverty and material exhibitionism in Nigeria

According to data from Nigeria Security Tracker (NST), there have been 2,943 abduction cases and 5800 death cases due to insecurity between January and June 2021 with many businesses affected.

A report by SB Morgen (SBM) Intelligence, a Lagos-based political risk analysis firm, also shows that an estimated N10 billion have been demanded by Kidnappers ($19.96 million) in the first six months of the year.

Investment is necessary to create more opportunities to accommodate its fast-rising population and reduce povertybut insecurity continues to scare potential investors away.

According to global investment trends monitor report released by the United Nations’ Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflow to Nigeria hit $2.6 billion in 2020, the lowest since 2005.

The federal government has unveiled its plan to lift 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years but experts have said the roadmap to achieving this goal is still unclear.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) about 40 percent of the total population of Nigeria, or almost 83 million people, live below the country’s poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) per year.

Suleyman Ndanusa, Senior Visiting Fellow, Lagos Business School said to lift more people out of poverty, the Federal Government must focus on agriculture because it is a large employer of labor. “There must be more infrastructural development, especially power as it is an enabler of prosperity and job creation.”

Ndanusa also mentioned that insecurity will perpetuate poverty as farmers and businesses need security to be productive.

Frank Nweke, Senior Visiting Fellow, Lagos Business School also pointed out that there is a need for all states to act together to reduce poverty. “The government wants to lift 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years but we must ask ourselves if Kastina, Abia, Enugu, and other states want to lift their people out of poverty. There needs to be some common front approach to deal with this issue.”

The experts also highlighted the importance of engaging the youths.

“80 percent of Nigerians registered by INEC are below the age of 50. That is where the power of Nigeria lies. But most of them have lost hope in Nigeria already and want to leave. They must be able to defeat apathy that comes in form of escapism,” said Oluseun Onigbinde Director/Co-Founder of BudgIT.

“We need to raise a sense of awareness and reach them in a language they understand. The issue of unemployment and poor quality of education also needs to be addressed,” Onigbinde said.

Koyin Ajayi, Managing Partner, Olaniwun Ajayi LP also explained that Nigeria needs to focus on converting its huge youth population into an advantage and not a ticking time bomb. Just like China and India, Nigeria needs to invest in its youths.

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