Nigeria’s baby boom

Each year more babies are born in Nigeria than in the entire continent of Europe.

Image: World Bank.

Yesterday, a statement was credited to Bob Diamond, former CEO of Barclays, who is attending the World Economic Jamboree in Abuja. Mr. Diamond is credited with saying:  “Nigeria is the place to be if you want manufacture diapers.”

Mr. Diamond is right on that count. But, that statement is not just about diapers, neither is it just about attracting the likes of Procter and Gamble, who just opened a huge manufacturing plant in Agbara, Ogun state. There is a more hidden meaning to that, one I think Mr. Diamond may have come across before, so let’s look at that statement a bit more.

Nigeria is experiencing a baby boom.

Between 2008 and 2011, 5.4 million babies were born in Europe. I mean Europe, not the European Union. In 2008 alone, 6 million babies were born in Nigeria. In 2009, it was 5.9 million babies, in 2010, 5.8 million. By 2011, the number had swung back up to just over 6 million, and in 2012, 6.7 million babies were born to Nigerian women. In each year in a four year period, Nigeria produced more babies per year than Europe in the entire four years under review.

In just under two decades, each of these kids will be ready to go into the work force. We have to ask critical questions.

Is Nigeria capable of giving each one of the 30.4 million new additions in the time period under review an education? With the way things stand, when less than 95,000 people write the common entrance, I think not.

Nigeria lacks infrastructure, so we will need polytechnics more than we will need universities for these young ones. Our polytechnics have been shut for ten months now, so a backlog is already growing that will take years to clear.

Asides that, we will need to create jobs for them to go into when done with education. Our policies don’t encourage SMEs. SMEs are the backbone of any economy, not civil service, definitely not multinationals or foreign investors. Where are our SMEs? They cannot get credit from banks, so the vast majority of them fold up before their first birthday.

Let’s face it folks, we are sitting on a demographic time bomb, and at this rate, even if we defeat Boko Haram, someone else will take their place.

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