Nigeria’s survival lies in its children
By Carl Umegboro
“ IT can be said that there are four basic and primary things that the mass of people in a society wish for: to live in a safe environment, to be able to work and provide for themselves, to have access to good public health and to have sound educational opportunities for their children.
”– Nelson Mandela, Africa’s role model in sober reflection on the continent’s over 1billion population. Demographically, Africa recorded a critical increase in last few decades. Its current population is five times its size in 1950.
According to UNICEF analysis based on United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision (UN-WPP), United Nations, New York, 2013, the continent’s population increase will likely continue, with its inhabitants doubling from 1.2 billion to 2.4 billion between 2015 and 2050, and eventually reaching 4.2 billion by 2100.
It is also believed that more than half the projected 2.2 billion growth in the world population from 2015-2050 is expected to take place in Africa, thus, the future of humanity is largely African.
By this tendency, in about 35 years time, one in every four people will be African, rising to four in 10 people by the end of the century. Comparatively, back in 1950, only nine among 100 of the world’s number of inhabitants were African.
These trends have potential implications vis-àvis future economic growth.
A research has equally shown that in 2050, approximately 41 per cent of the world’s births, 40 per cent of all underfives, 37 per cent of all children under 18 and 35 per cent of all adolescents will be African; far above previous projections.
From record, in 1950, only about 10 per cent of the world’s births, under-fives, under-18s and adolescents were African. Furthermore, research shows the population of Africa’s under-fives will rise by 51 per cent from 179million in 2015 to 271 million in 2050 and its overall child population (under-18s) will increase by two thirds from 547million in 2015 to almost 1 billion by mid-century.
Predictably, about 1.1billion children under 18 will be living in Africa by 2100, making up almost half (47 percent) of the world population of children at that time.
Thus, considering that almost 2billion babies will be born in Africa within 35 years and almost one billion children, nearly 40 per cent of the world’s total, will live in Africa by mid-century, investing in children sensitively becomes paramount for Africa to realize the rights of its burgeoning child population and benefit from a potential demographic dividend.
If judiciously invested in through quality education, improved healthcare, protection and participation mechanisms, these 1billion children and their predecessors, the children of today and tomorrow, have the potential to transform the continent, breaking centuries old cycles of poverty and inequity.
For Nigeria as the arrowhead; with the largest increase in absolute numbers of births and child population in Africa, incontrovertibly, extraordinary attention is germane. From data, the greatest number of births in the continent takes place in Nigeria.
From 2015 to 2030, about 136million births are expected to take place in Nigeria–19 per cent of all African babies and six percent of the global figure. By 2050, Nigeria alone will account for almost one tenth of all births in the world.
In absolute terms, Nigeria is projected to add from 2031 to 2050 an additional 224million babies (21 per cent of the births in Africa and 8 per cent of all births in the world).
Optimally, tackling abject poverty and investing in nation’s poor children, regrettably many in number will be critical to providing better and more sustainable future living standards for all, and to permanently reduce future poverty and inequity.
If the current demographic trend is unabated, there is a strong possibility that millions of more children will grow up in severe poverty. For instance, World Bank data for sub-Saharan Africa in 26 countries including Nigeria shows that more than half of children under 18 are living in extreme poverty on less than US$1.25 per day.
This scenario may be upturned, particularly through sustained investments in children’s welfare.
The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) report shows that the country presently has about 10.5million out-of-school children. In UNICEF statistics, about 69 per cent of the figure is in the Northern region.
These records in practical terms oppose United Nations Conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to which Nigeria is a signatory, and which broadly centres on best interests of the child.
Emphatically, to directly or otherwise subject children to be roaming the streets, begging for food and necessaries, especially deprivation of quality education amount to infringement on children’s rights.
Article 3 of CRC provides: “In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”
Thus, prioritizing child education especially for girls and ensuring quality education for all will be imperative to slow adolescent fertility rates, and build a society fit for all. Above all, providing quality education for children will ultimately, positively affect the entire society knowing that in addition to population control, it instinctively empowers women to be economically active players beyond baby-making at homes.
For example, most men seemingly age faster and even pass on before women possibly due to excessive stress and worries. An economically empowered, trained woman in most cases becomes a support base for family’s sustainability.
Thus, investing in children and empowering girls and young women are requisite long-term panaceas or remedies.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and Associate, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (United Kingdom). 08023184542- SMS only Https:www.carlumegboro.com