Nigeria is a nation rich in natural resources and earthly beauty. However, there are a number of issues blocking its socio-economic growth and development. Chief among these issues are the problems of healthcare and unemployment. The two are undeniably intertwined factors that influence Nigeria’s economy, which is largely dominated by agriculture and petroleum mining. Its thriving agricultural resources have led to population explosions in the nation and furthermore, abundant reserves of petroleum have made them the largest oil producer in Africa.
The Extent of the Problem with Nigeria’s Healthcare
According to the Nigerian Health Journal, only 5% of the country’s budget is allocated to healthcare. Most of that revenue goes to urban areas where populations are more concentrated. However, these urban areas only make up 30% of the population. Many of the most needy Nigerians live in poor, rural areas of the country. Health related statistics often act as indicators of the rate of development in Nigeria. One of these indicators is infant mortality rate. The number of deaths of infants under a year old in a thousand given births is exceptionally high in Nigeria. In 2010, the average life expectancy was only 52 years, giving the country a severely diminished labour pool. Although the number of HIV/AIDS cases is lower in Nigeria than in other African nations, the number of deaths is still relatively high. In 2009 alone, approximately 220,000 people died from AIDS.
The Exodus of Healthcare Professionals
Nigeria also has another obstacle impeding its economic growth, and that is the loss of well-trained and Western educated doctors. Over thirty-five hundred doctors migrated away from Nigeria in 2007 alone. They leave to find economic opportunities in other countries across Europe and North America that have a better socio-economic balance for healthcare professionals. Fortunately, the private sector has done a great deal to strengthen Nigeria’s healthcare infrastructure. Major companies like SPDC and Chevron, who export oil from Nigeria, have spent billions of dollars to provide education and medical treatment to employees living with HIV/AIDS. In the near future, Nigeria hopes to strengthen its partnerships with private companies to bring broader healthcare access to more of its people. This is also achieved through building world-class healthcare facilities in some of the country’s most rural areas.
The World Bank in 2002 reported that 8% of the entire world’s poor lived in Nigeria. In global terms, that is a staggering statistic. It makes therole of health care in the socio-economic development of Nigeria hard to overlook. Economic freedom in Nigeria could be strengthened by more access to affordable healthcare. In that respect, Nigeria is not much different than any other capitalist nation, struggling to find a balance between privatisation and government spending. The privatisation of healthcare could either broaden the range and scope of medical treatments or inflate the costs of healthcare in an already fragile economic environment.
A Brighter Future
There have been considerable strides in improving Nigeria’s health care. Doctors and nurses are returning to Nigeria in record numbers. That is due to the work of entrepreneurs and philanthropists who have made investments in the development of Nigeria. One such pioneer is Dr. Tunji Olowolafe who is the CEO of Deux Projects International and has helped to strengthen the Nigerian economy in recent years. Dr. Tunji Olowolafe has partnered with Microsoft to better educate students for the IT jobs of a changing world and helped start an emergency healthcare training program for the state of Lagos. Dr. Olowolafe and other brave entrepreneurs are poised to lift Nigeria’s healthcare system out of darkness and into a bold new future.