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Government’s essential item: Humans

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Deserted Marina road during the lockdown. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

I’ve always said that a functioning and flourishing human capital is the greatest asset any government can have. For the most part, the success of countries was, and at times still is, determined by their gross domestic product (GDP). Economic indicators typically comprised the marker of development. It was not until recently that human development indicators such as literacy, education, health, labour, were argued among researchers to have as much priority when measuring the success of a country. From economic indicators to now artificial intelligence and advancements in technology—these all seemed to take precedence over the role of human capacity serving as an asset in nation building.

There are many reports that say artificial intelligence will replace human capital, where we will no longer need human bodies in the offices or behind production lines. And yes, we are seeing how advancement in technology is affecting the labour force worldwide, displacing human capital even further; however, we are not one hundred per cent there yet. COVID-19 has shown us the disregard for the importance of human capital in the workforce adopted throughout the world.  Currently, we have thousands of stores, small businesses, corporations and more who have ceased to function during this time. A record 17 million people have filed for unemployment in America, further creating an economic disaster for the country. All these workers who are forced to stay home from this global pandemic have shockingly shown governments, including America, the importance of a functioning and productive human life.

Governments now see and understand the importance of human beings, not just their lives, but the expertise, various specializations, skills and knowledge that we all possess. Healthcare workers, grocery store employees, police officers, military men and woman are all on the frontlines as essential workers to ensure that we have what we need and are kept safe and healthy. However, they too are unfortunately succumbing to COVID-19. These human lives are our human capital. In times like these, our natural resources, economic indicators, or lab-made robots are not what will save a country. The human workforce will.

We have idolized money from an individual level to a global/governmental level. Although money is needed to run things, for now it’s human beings that put money to work. It’s our minds and talents that innovate and create—our minds that create vaccinations and the technology that is so needed to keep the world running and in place.

I’ve always said that human security is the real security of a country. When a government is able to put human lives above all else and put in place the proper measures to ensure people are able to live adequately and to realize their potential, then we become an asset to the productivity of a country. If you have a population in any country that has high levels of mortality, low levels of literacy, high occurrences of internal conflict, these are recipes that create human insecurity which then creates a slippery slope that leads to an increase in crime, an increase in political de-stabilization, an increase in deviant behaviour, and even more; at the end of the day this leads to a lack of productivity in a country.

Our essential items are not only our resources—not our minerals, not our oil, not our businesses—but human lives. Human lives run these businesses, they cultivate and harness our resources. They save lives in the operating room, they lead countries from oval offices, and they create and invent in ingenious ways.

Government is not made up of machines or robots but of human lives, and it is only as good as the individuals who lead it. The essential item that we cannot lose, not to this pandemic, nor to any global issue still impacting our generation, is you.

• Odugbesan-Omede, a professor of Global Affairs and Politics, is a political commentator and writer


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