By Tunji Olaopa
In this piece, the focus of my policy advisory will be on the critical connection between education, unemployment and job creation as fundamental elements in the transformation of Nigeria’s economic growth and development. And this is crucial because of Nigeria’s low-employment intensity and its collateral effects on the non-inclusive growth of the national economy. Over the years, so much analytical ink has been spilt over the largely uneven, unbalanced and socially non-inclusive growth trends of the Nigerian economy, deriving essentially from the unimaginative monocultural dependence of the economy on oil. This is further aggravated by several deep-seated structural debilitations at the heart of national low development policy performance over the years. I have in mind, first, the crippling national infrastructural deficit which is now estimated at $100m yearly, and requires $80billion in financial commitment over the next ten years to build up. There is also, second, the cost and ease of doing business. In the 2022 ranking by the World Bank, Nigeria currently stands at 131 out of 190 countries. This simply implies that the regulatory environment for doing business in Nigeria is not friendly enough to boost the economy. Nigeria’s heavy dependence on the oil and gas sector is also inhibiting because it is not a labor-intensive sector in terms of its production process and the dynamics of its capital formation.
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All this has grave implications for the chances of the Nigerian economy to achieve a robust diversification through a multi-pronged and strategic policy rethinking of the developmental components. The resolution of this problematic is inherently connected with the governance imperatives of a restructured Nigerian federation that has the capacity to harness the non-oil resources of its federating units based on comparative advantages. It is easy for the reader to immediately discern how such a critical move, especially the unbundling of the agricultural sector, can easily alleviate the lingering unemployment tension. This policy challenge has consistently been crucial to the social inequality which has instigated the unbridled draining of human capital made up of essentially young Nigerians who cannot be blamed for choosing the Japa option in privileging their life prospect rather than be undermined by a state that is not rethinking its potential.
What is also immediately certain is the significant role that education and training will play in arresting the drift in Nigeria’s human capital and workforce dynamics. This is because the challenge of unemployment is complicated by (un)employability as a result of various levels of skills deficiencies and mismatch. And this not only demonstrates the defectiveness of the educational system skewed in favour of formal certification, but also points at the urgent need for an education reform as a critical part of the larger development equation in driving Nigeria’s progress. On the other hand, and also quite unfortunate, the informal education sector is not only disarticulated, the policy innovation that ought to creatively reconnect it as a structural base for productivity has been scant and far-between. And when successive governments have been earnest in their investment in technical and vocational education and training (TVET), it has also been to the detriment of the proper structural reprofiling of the traditional apprenticeship system and non-formal training models as equally fundamental elements in the education provisioning that generates productivity and human capital for jumpstarting Nigeria’s development. And this is not to say that even TVET itself has been properly grounded since there is still a serious gap between the available opportunities and the skills and competences the education made possible.
We are then sensitised to the creative policy direction that the new administration needs to pursue—an urgent and comprehensive re-articulation of the education sector in ways that (a) strengthen the formal education and certification process to fit into the industrialization objectives of the Nigerian state; (b) connect the formal and the informal education sectors together on a continuum of learning and training; and (c) leverage the traditional apprenticeship, informal and vocational training and formal certification into a reprofiled human capital development policy. Such a proactive policy strategy will surely be a significant complement to the Nigeria’s 6-level National Vocational Certification Framework (NVQF) which links the education and training systems in terms of industry and competence-based qualifications. This has the advantage of facilitating a strategic collaboration between the higher education and industrial dynamics in Nigeria; in terms of connecting the dots between theoretical and practical realignment to rejuvenate the workplace for national development. The trajectory of the Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) is also lamentably stalled due to the total lack of synergy between students inchoate theoretical learning and workplace demands.
So, while the incoming administration crucially needs to start mapping the policy framework for a proactive education reform that will connect learning and training to human capital development, at another fundamental level, there is also the critical imperative of land reform as part of the development reflection. Here, land reform relates to leveraging land and agriculture as development complements for rejigging job creation and youth employment. This calls for the meeting of governance and constitutional reforms to facilitate land reform as a legitimate means of aggregating and expanding the means of production that Nigeria needs to achieve economic growth. The focus of this governance and constitutional alignment is the repeal of the Land Use Act of 1978. This has an immediate relevance of freeing up land use in ways that aggregate it for economic development. The Act contradicts all the critical norms of land use for economic growth anywhere on the globe. And its logic is only due to the lopsided unitary federalism that is suffocating developmental initiatives. Whereas land is supposed to belong to local communities in terms of customary and legal dynamics, Nigeria’s anomalous federalism gives all lands to the Nigerian government. And this becomes an immediate constraint on the socioeconomic dynamics of national development.
It not only undermines the subsidiarity principle that engineers the grassroots as the context for a people-centered development initiative, it also fundamentally ties landholding to the tough and debilitating environment of doing business in Nigeria. Unfortunately, however, when farmers—the fulcrum of any agricultural resurgence—fails to hold the titles to the lands they farm, then the agricultural unbundling will be affected in ways that prevent their being coupled to the governance reform to activate development. More important still, as Hernando de Soto argues, in most third world countries, land and other critical resources for development are held in “defective forms”. In other words, “houses built on land whose ownership rights are not adequately recorded, unincorporated businesses with undefined liability, industries located where financiers and investors cannot see them.” The problem of this observation for farmers and agricultural investors in Nigeria is therefore that any land that is not properly documented cannot be capitalized for investment and national development.
We then turn back full circle back to the governance challenge of the ease of doing business in Nigeria that links landholding to the surveying and regularizing land use for investment purpose. Nigeria needs a land development policy, with an institutional framework, that frees up land use for investment and development purposes. But in the long run, the land reform must be insinuated into a broader and more comprehensive local government/governance reform that will tap into the larger objective of restructuring of Nigeria’s federalism and all its debilitations. At this point, we have a confluence of reform fundaments—democratic governance, national development, local governance, federalism and education. And they are all intertwined into a policy framework that the next administration must be willing and politically courageous to hold together. Federalism speaks to a local government/governance imperative that instigates grassroots development founded on social capital and the subsidiarity principle. When development is genuinely taken to be about the people, then its dynamics must emanate from below, and within a rural and local governance context that unbundles the growth possibilities that could radiate democratic governance. This includes the traditional and informal apprenticeship system and the non-formal vocational training that could complement the formal educational training for the harnessing of Nigeria’s human capital for development.
The Igbo apprenticeship system is a good case in point. This singular example brings to the fore how a local innovation can serve as the nexus for developmental policymaking. It is an educational initiative that brings a solid entrepreneurial spirit into the development equation. This provides a leeway for undermining the vicious cycle of unemployment, while also redirecting focus away from the government as the sole provider of everything. And this is just one example, among many, of how the government can harness the social capital and subsidiarity represented in the local government arrangement that has already been, to all intents and purposes, excised from the federal dynamics and the framework of stultifying centralization.
The next government has a lot on its plate already. And what must be done must be dictated by the agonies of Nigerians who have had to suffer too much for the simple fact of being born into a country that lacks developmental leadership. The flash point of the urgent policy intelligence and direction are already clearly outlined in painful reliefs in the lives of Nigerians. Unemployment is not something that can be subject to bad politics that kills Nigerians. This is the politics that past governments have played. The next government cannot afford to do the same.
. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor, National Institute For Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos. firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Black Tax: Family Charges And Mandatory Payment
By Toyin Falola
You cannot be one rich man among your poor siblings and relations and not become poor. After all, you stole the destiny of six others to add to yours. Having made them poor, you must cater for them. Ogunde, my friend, built a house for his father and mum. You did well. On the day of house-warming Mama Ogunde called my friend to her room for a private discussion, advising him to buy a plot of land for his junior brother. The first tax has been paid, then the imposition of the second. Three months later, his sister called him to announce her wedding ceremony. Ogunde had to pay the third tax. Each time he calls me, Ogunde is lamenting the never-ending tax. Those payments, the mandated gift, and the exchanges are now what we call the “black tax”: it is the price you pay for knowing someone. Kinship was invented in an agricultural age for collective bonding and survival. Today, it is for purposes of tax collection with delivering public services. As you read this, you are either paying the tax or collecting it. Confess!
The African social system is unarguably built on the premises and strength of family and responsibilities. Society is built on collective responsibilities that spread even to every member of the society at large as a unit. This is why persons from the same village, like Umuahia, would always refer to their kinsmen as brothers or sisters merely because they have come from the same village or area. It is the sense of responsibility that bonds the African society that has been spelt out so eminently. But the question in this piece is not about the collective nature of the African communities but the responsibilities that follow from the family relationships, either for those within the same blood or the “village family.” The issue is of “black” tax; black here is not a racialized category.
Black tax is a phenomenon that has been brought to bear in the African society of today; the modern exposure has allowed questions raised on whether the cultures are of necessity or mere subjections that have resulted in the slow pace of individual developments or castigated some Africans’ invisible slavery. African men and women give, and they take care of theirs. But then there is just one successful person in an extended family: the act of giving moves from mere social responsibilities to social burdens.
Mikel Obi, a Nigerian footballer and a legend in the English Premier, recently lamented the plight of an average African. When you reach out to success and strive hard, you probably might face limited help from some of your family members. In fact, everyone is supposed to have his or her problems, and the contemporary conditions of African countries would actually justify their excuses. However, you could strive and become something without anything, but when that success comes, you have not achieved it for yourself or your immediate family; you have done so for almost everyone who carries the same last name as you, related by any measure of distance and acquaintances. The black tax must be paid.
The concept of the black tax probably originated from South Africa; it was seen as the returns black workers, in the past, sent to their families and relatives for upkeep. It should be understood that the apartheid South Africans were such that Africans and blacks were discriminated against and had only a few opportunities to contend with. Hence, the few of them who had the opportunity to work were seen, to some extent, to have been in such a position for their families that they could not have similar opportunities. I have been in the company of people from Lesotho in South Africa, returning home with the Black tax. Many people from Zimbabwe living in South Africa pay it. In my heavy luggage to Lagos, only the contents of the carry-on belong to me; the rest is black tax. I pay it routinely. Recipients even now include chefs, drivers, and Malam the Gateman.
Like the Brown Tax in the Latino communities, the Black Tax spread across Africa as a general description of family relations for every black. It is seen as an obligation, and the person who sends it must do something as a necessity. Those who are the beneficiaries sometimes develop a sense of belonging and claim over the income of the individual.
Let’s address the culture. African cultures are beautiful, and the idea of taking responsibility for one’s immediate family, at least, is born out of the many philosophies that formed the foundations of the African society, from Ubuntu to Omoluabi to the collectivism orientations that have cut across the African societies; one would understand why the contemporary society should not quickly run into the mistake of casting the habit as a forbidden practice.
We must understand that new cultures and the contemporarily subscribed behaviours born out of overbearing cultural diffusions gotten from excessive universalism have been gradually killing the bonds that the African societies have for each other. It has increased selfishness and made the act of philanthropism, which was initially a social necessity, become out of the ordinary.
At what point should one say that the black tax is bad, and to what extent would the African circumstances create the limit? Are African parents truly entitled to the success of their children? Often than not, an average African parent assigns a primary purpose of nurturing and sacrificing their lives for their children. It is an African thing for parents to forego what they need the most in order to allow their kids a needed opportunity or resources that would put them in the right positions. In the pre-European interference era in Africa, what was paramount was to ensure that a child had the right skill as well as the right behaviour, but the parents were always on the watch to ensure that akosejaye, the written destiny, of a child is fulfilled to the fullest and they were ready to make any type of sacrifices. This mentality was carried on when the new order of definition of what success meant arose across Africa. Education and other resources must be attained, and the mothers would not mind selling their biggest clothes or properties to ensure that these voids were filled. The culture prevailed over time and is still predominant in the African society of today. Children in every African household became an ambition and duty that nothing would negotiate the commitments to them. Many African parents have continued working in toxic environments; many have lost their health or become disabled from the wares they sell in traffic jams and the hustles and bustles of places like Oyingbo Market.
Basically, to an African parent, a child is an investment and future insurance for old age and moments where one’s effort would not be enough to feed or meet necessary needs. The African family institutions are different from many other parts of the world. One would then ask whether the “wokeness” conceptions would justify taking such future expectations wrong. For anyone a parent has sacrificed for, there is a level of expectation from them, and I do not think contemporariness should be reason enough to remove that responsibility. This goes down to immediate family like siblings who have followed the rough paths with one.
My point is not that one must give without control or that every ‘ask’ should never be met with a ‘no’; otherwise, one would never move to the point of self-actualization. However, the first condition to be put to black tax is the measure of sacrifice the potential beneficiary had made. This separates responsibility from mere philanthropy. It is a measure to keep one’s circle small and reduce unnecessary ‘billings.’ Young Africans who are growing must understand that what comes first is themselves, the means to secure their future, and after all personal or immediate needs have been covered, those that we owe come in, but it should never be at the expense of one’s development. One must know that the greatest responsibility owed is that that guarantees growth.
The above is also not to say that we should kill the African culture of giving. There are many individuals to be lifted out of poverty. The continent today is positioning itself as a proper headquarters of poverty and as such, it cannot afford to stop all the help it could get. However, one must ensure that giving should be out of abundance. Abundance is indeed the remainder from excesses and should never affect fundamentals, secondary, and even tertiaries. It is an act out of comfort. So, the black tax may not be an unnecessary social responsibility, but instead, some level of necessity and discharge of appreciation to those who have made tangible sacrifices in our lives. Evaluate your black tax; instead of complaining to me as Ogunde does every other day, he should review the list and delete the names of several recipients. As I told him yesterday, why not use part of the tax to take me out?
Obama, Clooney, And Gates Should Include Witch Persecution InTheir Campaign
By Leo Igwe
The Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) welcomes the collaboration between the foundations of Michelle Obama, Amal Clooney, and Melinda French Gates to end child marriage in Africa. These foundations have committed to ending this practice within a generation. This initiative, announced during their recent visit to Malawi and South Africa, demonstrates the urgency that such a harmful traditional and cultural practice demands. Child marriage is a sore on the conscience of humanity. It violates the health, rights, and well-being of women and girls. Culture, tradition, or religion should not be used to excuse or justify practices that undermine the humanity of women and girls. So it was a great relief to know that these influential women would be working together to combat this menace.
At the same time, AfAW wants to draw the attention of Obama, Clooney, and Gates to another practice that is undermining the rights of women in Africa: witch persecution. Witchcraft accusation is pervasive in Malawi and other parts of the region. Witchcraft accusation is a gendered phenomenon that predominantly targets women and girls. Those accused of witchcraft are tortured, banished, or murdered in cold blood. In Malawi and other parts of the region, accused women are raped, stoned to death, or lynched. Many accused women are banished and forced to live in make-shift shelters called witch camps in Ghana’s Northern region. In Malawi and the Central African Republic, the accused are imprisoned, or flee to live in prisons to avoid being killed. Rooted in traditional and cultural beliefs, witch hunting is another vicious phenomenon which they said would not be eradicated.
This misperception should be rejected and discarded. This mistaken assumption has prevented international organizations including the UN from treating the problem of witch persecution with the urgency that it deserves. This misrepresentation has made the world ignore and look away while women and sometimes girls are accused, abused, abandoned, or savagely killed in the name of witchcraft. As in the case of child marriage, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches believes that witch persecution can end within a generation. The problem can be solved or resolved in a matter of years. AfAW is working and campaigning to rally national and international political will against witch hunting. That was why the organization announced in 2020 a decade of activism against witch persecution in Africa.
AfAW urges Obama, Clooney, and Gates to join efforts in stopping witch persecution of women and girls. They should know that the girls they are trying to save from being married away as children could end up being stoned to death or buried alive for witchcraft. Obama, Clooney, and Gates should include witch-hunting in their campaign because the practice is rooted in gender injustice and misogyny. The foundations should know that women are likely to suffer child marriages when they are young and witch persecution when they are growing old. So they should not focus on one and ignore the other. To effectively protect and defend the rights of women and girls, they should tackle both child marriage and witch-hunting . The foundations should commit to ending practices that violate the rights of women, whether they are young or old, children or adults.
Dr Igwe directs the Advocacy for Alleged Witches, which campaigns to end witch persecution in Africa by 2030.
Powering Prosperity: Unlocking Nigeria’s Potential Through U.S. Partnership
By David Greene
Nigeria is on track to be the world’s fourth-most populous country by 2050. It already has the largest economy in Africa and, with 60 percent of its population under the age of 25, it stands on the threshold of a demographic dividend that can dramatically transform its economy for the better. Nigeria’s strategic partnerships are essential in harnessing this potential, and the United States is playing a leading role. As we near the six-month mark of President Tinubu’s administration, our relationship has emerged as a key for success. One year ago, at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC, President Biden renewed our commitment to deepening engagement across the continent. Here is how we are doing that in Nigeria – working in areas that matter most to everyday citizens, such as growing the economy, strengthening democracy, improving health outcomes, ensuring security, and addressing the climate crisis.
Nigeria’s economic potential is vast, and with the right macroeconomic framework, a sound fiscal strategy, and a strong commitment to rooting out corruption, it can become a preferred destination for foreign direct investment. American investors and companies are eager to engage with Nigeria, and the United States government is doing its utmost to build our bilateral trade and investment ties.
Consider these examples: We have joined forces to accelerate Nigeria’s digital transformation, with investments from U.S. tech giants such as Microsoft, Cisco, Meta, Google, and Starlink. This partnership has built a platform to train unemployed and underemployed women and youth. Moreover, it has been a catalyst for quality investment, accounting for more than a quarter of all venture capital flowing into Africa.
Collaborative efforts in agriculture further underscore our commitment. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently dedicated $22 million to strengthen Nigeria’s cocoa value chain, supporting more than 60,000 cocoa farmers, processors, marketers, and other agribusiness service providers in what is Nigeria’s #2 foreign exchange-earning export. From tech to agriculture, these steps go beyond statistics. They translate into tangible outcomes: good jobs, seed money for new ventures, and higher-value agricultural exports.
The United States is also a steadfast partner in strengthening Nigeria’s health sector. With World AIDS Day – December 1 – approaching, it is worth recalling that over the past two decades, PEPFAR, the leading U.S. initiative to address HIV/AIDS, has invested nearly $8 billion in Nigeria, providing more than 1.6 million individuals with life-saving HIV treatment. In response to COVID-19, the United States donated more than 44 million vaccine doses, helping the Nigerian government approach its target vaccination rate of 70 percent of the eligible population. Partnerships like the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, with an annual budget of more than $71 million, have reduced child death rates and strengthened health systems.
Those investments are just part of our overall development assistance to Nigeria. In fiscal year 2022 alone, the U.S. government allocated over $1.2 billion dollars in such support. These funds provide humanitarian assistance, and improve health, economic development, education, social services, democracy, human rights and governance, and peace and security.
In the latter two areas – democracy and security – we aim to support an inclusive future where Nigerian citizens’ votes count and translate into responsive governance, and where they can live in peace. We are a steadfast partner in seeking to strengthen election processes that will enhance accountability to meet citizens’ expectations, and pursuing innovative projects to help communities resolve differences without violence. Through cooperation with and training of Nigeria’s military and police, we are building more capable forces. Collaborating with civil society, law enforcement, and the judiciary, we are confronting the security challenges that stand in the way of economic growth while upholding a shared commitment to human rights. Initiatives include building Nigeria’s counter-terrorism capacity, bringing technology to courtrooms and case-management systems to help in the administration of justice and reduce pre-trial detention, and supporting efforts to enhance accountability and transparency in police forces.
Our partnership to address the climate crisis reflects our mutual recognition of this challenge, and our respect for Nigeria’s role as both an energy producer and a country profoundly impacted by the effects of climate change. In the leadup to COP28 – the 28th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change, which begins this week – the United States and Nigeria are aggressively seeking solutions. For example, U.S. support for Nigeria’s leadership as a Global Methane Pledge champion has led to action that is reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the benefit of all.
These programs and cooperative efforts advance a joint agenda that is built and driven by the highest levels of our leadership. President Biden met with President Tinubu in September, and numerous senior U.S. officials have come to Nigeria in recent months to confer on meeting Nigeria’s energy needs, driving U.S. trade and investment in Nigeria, and strengthening our law enforcement cooperation. These engagements strengthen our ties, address Nigeria’s pressing needs, and tackle shared challenges.
Ultimately, realizing Nigeria’s potential hinges upon enhancing its fiscal and economic health – and capitalizing on its strategic partnerships to build on that foundation. The opportunity has never been greater. Nigeria, with its youth, energy, and entrepreneurial spirit, is poised to seize this moment. We commend the government for its bold actions thus far to try to move the economy to a more solid footing. The United States is your partner in that effort – through investment, better security, a stronger workforce, and resilient institutions – that benefits all Nigerians and expands prosperity for both our peoples. Our journey ahead has its obstacles, of course. But together we will find a path toward a shared prosperity.
. Greene is Chargé d’Affaires, a.i. United States Embassy Abuja.
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