Investing in human and social capital for Nigeria’s growth

17 May 2024
Muhammad Ali Pate


Our governance must pivot toward citizen-centric policies.

Coordinating Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Muhammad Ali Pate


This being the keynote address of the Hon. Coordinating Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate, CON, as Nigeria Development and Finance Forum (NDFF) 2024 Conference, which held on 8 – 9 May 2024, at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja. The address, which was delivered on Day 1 of the conference, has been edited for brevity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I extend my apologies for the delayed start; unforeseen commitments held me up.

Today, I stand before you to discuss a subject of paramount importance – the investment in human and social capital and its implications for Nigeria’s growth.

Our esteemed President has often reiterated his vision for a prosperous Nigeria, encapsulated in his ‘Renewed Hope’ agenda. It is within this framework that we must position our discourse on the nation’s trajectory.

Evidence of Prosperity through Education and Health

There is compelling evidence that the health and education of a population are critical determinants of sustainable and equitable socio-economic development. Consider the journey of a girl: an educated and healthy girl matures into an empowered woman, a nurturing mother, and a cornerstone of society. Her well-being during gestation ensures the birth of a healthy child, who, if breastfed and immunised, is more likely to thrive and excel academically, leading to higher lifetime earnings and contributing to a virtuous cycle of prosperity.

Impact of Health on Economic Growth

Healthier populations not only foster a productive workforce but also attract foreign direct investment. For instance, a 10% increase in adult survival rates correlates with a 6.7% rise in worker productivity and a 4.4% boost in GDP per worker. Similarly, a one-year increase in life expectancy at birth is linked to a 4% increase in GDP per capita.

Role of Education in Economic Expansion

Education also plays a pivotal role. Each additional year of education is associated with a 10% increase in individual income. Moreover, a one-year increase in average educational attainment can lead to a 0.5% to 1.2% rise in the annual GDP per capita growth rate.

Demographic Dividends and the Path Forward

Nigeria, with its burgeoning youth population, stands at a crossroads. The demographic dividend awaits but requires strategic investments in health and education. In 2014, I led a study that highlighted the varying population structures across our geopolitical zones. The Northeast, Northwest, and North Central zones, with their younger populations, are poised to reap the most significant benefits from such investments.

Current State and Future Directions

Regrettably, Nigeria’s investment in health and education has been lacklustre. With public investment in health at merely $12-13 per person and in education at $14-15 per capita, we fall short of the necessary resources to build robust systems. To drive change, we must set ambitious goals to save lives, reduce physical pain, and bridge the vast inequities in health outcomes.

Governance, Population Health, Healthcare Value Chain, and Job Creation

Our governance must pivot toward citizen-centric policies, as evidenced by the People’s Voices survey. We must focus on population health outcomes, ensuring basic care for all through primary healthcare systems and expanding health insurance, particularly for the vulnerable.

Yesterday’s event in Lagos marked a significant milestone in our journey toward self-sufficiency. We gathered with industry leaders, both local and international, to mobilise investments across the healthcare value chain. Our goal is clear: to produce essential items like test kits and pharmaceutical generics domestically, reducing our reliance on imports.

In alignment with the President’s initiative, we are re-industrialising our healthcare sector, leveraging digital technology to create a robust value chain. This not only enhances our health security but also generates employment opportunities. With over 300,000 healthcare workers and the potential to create 100,000 additional jobs in related services, we are poised to retain significant economic value within Nigeria.

Economic Resilience and Health Security

The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the global economy underscores the need for resilience. We must pre-empt outbreaks, rapidly detect them, and respond effectively. Our success in containing diseases like meningitis and diphtheria exemplifies our commitment to safeguarding public health and, by extension, our economic security.

Social Action Fund and Community Development

The Social Action Fund, approved by the President, is a testament to our trust in the wisdom of our communities. It empowers them to identify their priorities and address basic needs, from infrastructure to healthcare amenities. This community-based approach ensures that development efforts are tailored to the specific needs of each area.

Intersectoral Coordination and Lifelong Support

Our government’s approach is holistic, coordinating across sectors to provide support throughout an individual’s life course. From health and education to social welfare, we aim to interface with citizens at every stage, ensuring their well-being and prosperity.

Investing in People: Our Greatest Asset

We recognise that our greatest asset is our people. The health, education, and social welfare of our citizens should be at the heart of all governance and policy actions. By investing in human capital, we initiate a virtuous cycle of growth that benefits everyone, especially girls, women, and children.

Demographic Dividend and Quality Education

The demographic dividend presents a unique opportunity, particularly in the northern regions. Investing in quality education and health services will yield significant returns. At the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, we are committed to reducing maternal, infant, and child mortality, controlling vaccine-preventable diseases, and addressing non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment.

Empowerment and Employment for Youth

Empowering the girl child and women is crucial, as is supporting the boy child to become a responsible adult. Providing quality jobs for our youth is essential for their successful transition into the labour market. We must harness the entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerians, offering jobs that are well-paying, enduring, and offer clear progression.

Improved Governance and Anti-Corruption Efforts

Improved governance is our foundation. We must collaborate across government sectors and with the private sector to build stronger, citizen-focused institutions. Combating corruption and reducing waste will create an environment conducive to peace and investment.


I am optimistic about the direction our President is leading us. I encourage you to share this optimism and join us in building a Nigeria where every citizen can thrive.

Thank you, Jide Akintunde (Director of NDFF), for inviting me to speak at this important conference. I wish you all the best.