According to the Brookings Institution, using data captured from the World Poverty Clock, Nigeria is now being referred to as the poverty capital of the world. 87 million Nigerians are reportedly living in extreme poverty, representing nearly 50% of the country’s estimated 180 million population. With current growth rates, it is projected to become the world’s third largest country by 2050 based on United Nations figures. This further stresses that a continuous population boom without pruning current poverty rates sets the country up for higher rates.
Fifty eight years after independence, various governments have put in place several poverty eradication programmes and policies. Nevertheless, these have not been able to significantly yield the desired results. One of the major challenges with many poverty eradication schemes has been the failure to truly impact the target groups – the poor and marginalised. At the inception of democracy in 1999, an estimated 70% of Nigerians were said to be living in poverty, nineteen years down the line, the situation is not far from what is used to be.
The Challenges before Nigeria
- Most poverty alleviation programmes are designed without a needs assessment of the beneficiaries. On another hand, an in-depth knowledge about the target audience is often times lacking.
- Anti-poverty programmes mostly adopt a top-down approach which is usually marred by corruption, bureaucratic bottlenecks and obvious gaps between the planners and the purported beneficiaries.
- Efforts to eradicate poverty have only rarely been directed at poor people or the challenges they face. A lot of the efforts to end poverty adopt the indirect methods of seeking to change the economic environment rather than the poor.
- Give-aways breed dependence and self-doubt instead of social change. It is impossible to donate people out of poverty; it is important that beneficiaries consciously invest time and efforts into bettering their lots. Teaching a man to fish may not be the answer if the person in question is not committed to fishing.
- There are never enough funds available for foreign aid or philanthropy to expand successful anti-poverty programmes. Often times, the most promising and cost-effective conventional development projects that have real bearing on the poor fail to make a headway against poverty because of financial constraints.
- Anti-poverty efforts have been scattershot and uncoordinated; hence much progress is not achieved at the end of such programmes.
The National Social Register
In a bid to direct focused schemes at the people who really need it, the Federal Government of Nigeria in partnership with the World Bank has developed a national social register that has the poorest of the poor in a single database. Unlike other methods used to target the poor in Nigeria in times past, the register is built using a Community Based Targeting (CBT) method which utilises CBT officers who carry out visits to proposed beneficiaries in order to ascertain real poverty levels using set parameters. The register is built from bottom-up rather than the top-bottom approach that was used in the past.
The Federal Government is confident that for the first time, the on-going social investment schemes aimed at reducing poverty are actually targeting those who need it. The confidence also stems from the approval of the $500 million World Bank facility for the National Social Safety Nets Project (NASSP) that uses the social register to give out conditional cash transfers targeting 5 million poor Nigerians. Currently nine (9) states are benefiting from the scheme and 1 million households are targeted. There are high chances that with this strategy, tracking the effects of government’s poverty alleviation programmes might be effective. Nonetheless, is this enough to take the country to Eureka by 2030?
Achieving the 2030 SDGs
Goal 1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seeking to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” shows the commitment of world leaders to tackle the global scourge of poverty. However, according to the World Bank, ending poverty by 2030 may not be as feasible as expected due to the current developmental rates that shows that at least 10% of the sub-Saharan African population would remain in poverty by the year 2030. The level of aid has reduced and the United Nations (UN) target of spending 0.7% of economic output has been missed by many countries.
The high rate of poverty in Nigeria is caused by multiple factors and current revenues cannot cater to all the developmental initiatives directed at ending poverty hence considering more strategic measures would help in driving more positive results:
- Focus on building human capital through quality education and healthcare to promote inclusive growth and sustainability.
- Both the government and private sector can work towards providing viable economic opportunities for skilled citizens to engage and increase their productivity levels.
- In addition, the SDGs present significant opportunities for the private sector to open new market opportunities and attract new private investments in poverty eradication by leveraging companies’ core competencies, expertise and resources.
Many leading companies are already using the SDGs to help them develop new inclusive and sustainable opportunities. However, barriers such as regulatory environments, lack of information, and lack of systematic public-private sector collaboration is currently preventing more businesses from responding to the Global Goals in general or even any specific goal in particular. With its on-the-ground networks and ability to swiftly adapt and innovate, the private sector is well positioned to bring new solutions to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by their 2030 target.