Towards a more empowered economic agenda for development
As one of the world’s most resource-rich markets (oil, coal, cocoa, metals and minerals) and as Africa’s most populous nation (over 190 million) Nigeria offers unparalleled economic opportunity for foreign direct investment among emerging markets.
Despite these factors, some remain skeptical to the country’s economic outlook.
A 2018 economic report by global banking giant, HSBC, recently outlined a number of shortcomings in the Nigerian economy including, “sluggish growth” and “unemployment at record-high”.
Rather than deriding and dismissing the report, as some have done, this now provides Nigeria with an impetus for serious change for the better.
Gender and development can play a crucial role in addressing these shortcomings.
Though immense socio-economic advancement for women has been made over throughout last decade, in terms of “educational attainment” and “political empowerment” the World Economic Forum ranks Nigeria 135th out of 144 countries surveyed as part of their annual Global Gender Gap Index.
In today’s workforce, women in Nigeria are far more likely than men to be unemployed or underemployed (through part-time work) and over 67 per cent are married by the time they turn 25 while only 15 per cent of men of the same age are.
Despite progress on narrowing educational attainment gaps, an expanding economy, and a booming energy sector, only a quarter of all R&D personnel are women and just 33 per cent of Nigerian women hold a bank account-inheritance and access to financial services remain restrictively limited towards women.
Regional and cultural differences aside, an economy the size of Nigeria and with such potential for prosperity should be looking at improving the situation of this underdeveloped workforce.
Individual examples demonstrate that Nigeria’s women can and do achieve the highest levels of academia and corporate management – the time has come to empower them more.
Investing in women thus seems not just logical but also an economic low-laying fruit given that countless studies, including those published by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the IMF, and an entire academic literature to support the strong correlation between gender-equality, the financial inclusion of women and economic growth.
When compared to Ghana, South Africa, and Kenya, there is little to suggest Nigeria could not be as – if not more competitive – than peer markets.
Post-revolution Tunisia, as a regional peer, is an example of a recovering economy undergoing gender policy change as a means to positive economic growth and investment from Tunisians abroad.
With a highly-educated and English-speaking Diaspora consisting of over 17 million nationals, Nigeria similarly stands to gain significantly by leveraging policy enhancement, greater economic coordination of trade, sustainable development, and financial inclusion.
If the empowerment of women through easier access to capital via inheritance and financial services remains unrealistic from a policy standpoint, greater organic investment in women may prove effective.
For example, empowering women across Nigeria with greater access to high-yield educational opportunities (such as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math programs), fewer bureaucratic barriers, and greater coordination/integration of women’s professional networks across local regions and across the Diaspora, may prove impactful in tackling the concerns of global banks, economic research institutions, and investors alike.
The future for Nigeria is both in the hands of its men and women.
Carl Loof is a management consultant with a Masters in Economic Sociology from the London School of Economics and a graduate of the University of Chicago and Sciences Po, Paris.
No comments yet