On Thursday, 10th of May, 2018 at Four point by Sheraton, Victoria Island Lagos. Various organisations stakeholders gathered – from both public and private – to discuss harnessing the demographic dividend in Nigeria. The conveners of this first of its kind conference were the National Population Commission, UNFPA, GBC Health, ONE, Population Council and the host organisation – HACEY Health Initiative.
The first Panel discussion was on “Education, Employment, and Entrepreneurship as a tool for economic development”, Dr Haliru Bala – Federal commission, National Population Council (NPC), Kebbi State – said, “Public sector cannot achieve without private sector, an alignment of both sectors is needed to achieve the demographic dividend”. Ms Anita Okemini – Policy director, ONE campaign – tackled this topic from the demand and supply end leading to increase in the national GDP while the economist – Ms Bamidele Odusote, Business Analyst, ACIOE Associates – also on the panel drove her point home from the logical angle and the sustainability point of view.
The Logical angle, been an economic equation, which shows that variables which make up Demographic Dividend of a country are the same as what makes a business work, these are Governance (Policies), Economy (how well we are doing as a nation), Labour (human capital, capital and productivity) and Health (determinants of quality of Labour given), all equating to the Demographic Dividend in a population. Also from the Sustainability point of view, she stated that ensuring continuous profit making and orientation are strong drivers of demographic dividend sustainability.
Hakeem Adeniji-Adele – Chief Technology Officer, Microsoft Nigeria – expanciated on the type of data and labour mind-set that private sector could provide. This led to listing the roles of private sector in providing continuous and quality education, employment, entrepreneurship and empowerment of the youth for the 21st century jobs and opportunities.
The second panel discussion titled “Improving health for economic growth” had Dr Omolaso Omosehin – Assistant representative/ Head Lagos liaison officer, Dr Sylvia Adebajo – Country Director, Population Council, Dr O. Ejehi Edun – State team leader, Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI) and Paul Olajuni – Cofounder and Director of research and development, HACEY Health Initiative highlighting the importance of health as well as the usefulness of family planning, other Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights and education in saving lives, money and time.
There is a continuous typical systemic failure from no synergy of private and public sector, therefore we need to build a system that works and policies should be translated into actions by forming synergy and frame work that is smart and sustainable, said Dr Sylvia Adebajo, the Country Director of Population Council. Finally, the stepwise process of harnessing Demographic Dividend by educating women and girls – catching them early and young before their sexual and reproductive health is tampered with and distorted – will lead to good reproductive health, family planning, controlled population growth which will in turn allow for informed decision and economic growth, was elaborated upon by Paul Olajuni, the Cofounder and Director of Research and Development of HACEY Health Initiative.
In conclusion, enrolment into education, completion and opportunities by private sector was imbedded in the fact that government should take the lead; branding and serious advocacy should be employed by public sectors to drive home messages. Everyone should be involved and educated, no one or sector should be left behind as we all need to lead the process and get involved. The Press Club, UNILAG was one of the organisations to sign the “Act today for tomorrow pledge” and the event was brought to a close with the remarks from Barrister Abimbola Saliu, Federal commissioner representative, Lagos State.