OPINION: The World Bank’s reality check on Nigeria and other stories

Two unrelated development issues startled me a little over a week ago, March 22, to be precise. One of the events had a continental flavor, and the other addressed Nigeria’s growing paradox between rich and poor countries.

These two questions had particularly interested me, as I had, over the years, developed a keen eye for topics related to changing Human Development Index (HDI) patterns.

It had been a long season of trying to get some rest after months of sifting through piles of material looking for opportunities for adventure. But it was also a tough call to completely resist the urge to scour the economic space for new developments.

So here I am, March 22, making the most of a new World Bank report titled “A Brighter Future for All Nigerians: Nigeria Poverty Assessment 2022”, which had just been released. The bank said its findings were the product of a two-year engagement on relevant data and analysis relating to poverty and inequality generated by Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

As many as 4 in 10 Nigerians live below the national poverty line, according to the report. He added that only 17% of Nigerian workers were in the wage jobs best able to lift people out of poverty.

Indeed, the NBS in 2020 had reported that 40% or 83 million Nigerians lived in poverty while projecting that the number of poor would rise to 90 million, or 45% of the population, in 2022.

Now the big shame is that Nigeria has proven analysts right by maintaining its position as the world’s poverty capital, with 93.9 million people among Africa’s most populous country currently living below the poverty line.

Every patriotic Nigerian must be genuinely concerned about this unenviable badge which continues to portray our country as a poor example of leadership. Even a promise by the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in ten years has brought no relief.

In fact, the picture is even bleaker with Nigeria’s unemployment rate reportedly hitting 35% in 2021, according to a report by rating agencies. Earlier in 2019, the estimated youth unemployment rate in Nigeria was estimated at almost 17.69%, or about half of the total unemployed population.

The inflated figures are not helped by the latest data which has partly linked unemployment in Nigeria to the growing phenomenon of school graduates without corresponding employment opportunities.

The paradox of our existence is that while Nigeria remains celebrated for its natural wealth and human capital, a reality check has shown that incompetent leadership and corruption are the main reasons why poverty is at such a high rate in the country.

A trip back in time makes it clear that our country’s bad run with mediocre leadership has its foundation in the enthronement of mediocrity and primal sentiments above excellence.

The anomaly has seen rational economic decisions supplanted by unrewarding political initiatives that do little good for society as a whole.

A radical break with this dysfunctional system has become a national emergency or the country would precipitate its steps towards a failed state. One way to avoid this pitfall is to build a culture of excellence, as evidenced by the global successes recorded by young Nigerians who have taken the fintech space by storm.

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In other news, Dakar, Senegal also took center stage as the world came together to mark the 9th World Water Forum. Reports had noted that this was the first time the forum, the largest international water-related event, would be held in sub-Saharan Africa.

Organizers said the meeting would seek to identify, promote and implement concrete responses and actions for water and sanitation in an integrated manner. The event, which is in its 29th edition, has the theme for 2022: “Groundwater, making the invisible visible”.

But that seems to be where the good news ends. Of concern are the disturbing statistics that place the number of people living without access to safe drinking water at 2.2 billion worldwide. Unfortunately, available records suggest that half of the people who drink water from unsanitary sources live in Africa.

Indeed, in sub-Saharan Africa, only 24% of the population have access to drinking water and 28% have basic sanitation facilities not shared with other households. Any surprise when open defecation and life expectancy remain embarrassing issues in most parts of Africa?

Beyond the fanfare in Dakar, African leaders must therefore take responsibility and be deliberate in their quest to reinvent their societies for sustainable development.

Let it be said that unless Africa’s sad history of underdevelopment is systematically reversed, its cohort of visionless leaders should brace themselves for upheavals that could plunge their economies back into the Dark Ages.

AUTHOR: Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi


Articles published in our Graffiti section are strictly the opinion of the authors and do not represent the views of Ripples Nigeria or its editorial position.

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