On 4 April 2019 the World Bank unveiled its Human Capital Plan titled, “Building Human Capital in Africa: The Future of a Generation”. The Plan was launched against the background that Sub-Saharan Africa scored the lowest of all the world’s regions on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index. The Human Capital Index is a measure of how well countries invest in the next generation of workers.
Africa in general, and Sub-Saharan Africa in particular, was found to have high levels of child mortality and high rates of stunting. Stunting prevents optimal intellectual development among children, a condition which leads to inadequate learning outcome. This has effect on economic productivity in adults.
The World Bank’s Africa Human Capital Plan identified targets to be achieved by the year 2023. These include drastic reduction in child mortality with the view of saving four million African children; averting stunting among eleven million African children; increasing learning outcome for girls and boys in schools by twenty percent; and to increase future productivity of African workers by at least thirteen percent.
The Plan further aims at empowering girls by preventing early marriages and adolescent pregnancies.
The world Bank shall allocate US$ 16 billion during the fiscal years 2021-2023. These resources could be sourced through grants or concessional financing for human development projects. In particular, the funds will support countries to come up with new strategies to better invest in people.
Africa needs to equip its youth with skills appropriate for the future economy given its youthful population. It is estimated that out of a total African population of 1.2 billion people, 43 percent are below the age of 15 years. The youth brain power holds the future of Africa. It is imperative therefore for Africa to timely invest in its youth.
The World Bank has taken the first step in African human capital development, African countries should now provide leadership in developing high impact human development strategies anchored in in the principle of every child counts.
Hafez Ghanem, the Vice-President for Africa at the World Bank was correct when he stated at the launch of the Plan as follows: “ …for the Region to compete in the global, digitizing economy and to really make a dent in poverty, it is imperative that Africa’s young people and future workers are enabled to fully develop their human capital.”
According to the United Nations Development Programme, Namibia’s Human Capital Development Index value was 0.647 in 2017. Namibia was at a position of 129 out of 189 countries and Territories. Life expectance at birth was 64.9 years. Mean years of schooling was 6.8. Stunting prevalence stood at one child out of four children under the age of five. In 2013 under five mortality was 55 per 1000 live births. The Namibia Child Survival Strategy 2014-2018 aimed at reducing child mortality below 20 births per 1000 live births by 2035. Given the reported resurgence of new HIV/AIDS infections, the prevalence of hepatitis infections in the population and high levels of poverty in the country Namibia’s Human Development Index is likely to have gone down.
It is however encouraging to learn that the Office of Prime Minister is in the process of reviving the Food and Nutrition Council.
The Council should rekindle the interest and awareness of all the stake holders that human capital development starts with well- nourished babies.
The first 1000 days are critical in the optimal development of a baby. Nutrition security is key to human capital development. The Food and Nutrition Council is an important vehicle in promoting human capital development in the country.
Namibia may wish to engage the World Bank to review the state of education in the country given the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Is the education system providing learners with skills appropriate to the globally digitizing economy! Is the country improving its Gross Domestic Product per worker or is the country improving its productivity and competitiveness? The World Bank may provide the country with the expertise necessary to give answers to these questions.
The Namibian youth deserve an enabling environment to develop their brain power.
They need to be reassured of a strong and unwavering political commitment to human capital development. The young people are the future. The country should at all times prioritize the development of their brain power. The time to act is now and the World Bank has declared its readiness to assist Sub-Saharan with resources to improve and strengthen human capital development.
Namibia should join 23 other African countries who have joined human development coalition. Our country should commit itself to increasing investment in training the next generation of workers.
The future of the coming generation should be defined high level skills which will enable the country to industrialise itself as promised by Vision 2030.