Sunday, 11 October 2015

Life Expectancy in Nigeria

At 52 years Nigeria has the 17th lowest life expectancy in the world. For a country with a GDP of US$521 billion this is an indictment of governing in the country in colonial times and since independence. With 62% of the country living in poverty it is not hard to see why the health of the people is so poor. However, life expectancy is not just about health and disease. As well as being a measure of health and wellbeing; life expectancy also provides an insight into a country's present and future productivity. It is in seeing it just as a matter of eradicating disease that Nigeria is failing in the huge task it faces in improving life expectancy. 

Low life expectancy in Nigeria can be attributed to the poor state of public healthcare, widespread poverty, unemployment and underemployment, rural underdevelopment, wealth inequalities, government corruption and social deprivation. The stress of living through, and enduring financial and social privations has contributed to a very sparse existence that has created a very inhospitable environment for most Nigerians. In order to reverse this the country needs improved healthcare and a more strategic approach to reducing poverty. 

Improving healthcare will require ensuring free primary care for the poorest in both urban and rural areas. This is needed in addition to the existing health insurance scheme being promoted by the government. It will also require the establishment of country wide health surveillance and protection against common diseases and infections. Providing people with the reassurance of effective and timely healthcare is as important as increasing access to healthcare. In order to do this the needs to rigorous data collection and analysis on health conditions and needs. Information collected will help with targeting resources and commissioning appropriate healthcare provision. 

Poverty reduction will need a coordinated strategy, at federal and state levels, to reduce unemployment, prevent urban drift and increase opportunities for rural development. This will need to be combined with developing an infrastructure for targeted welfare and trading and employment support. Welfare support is needed for those who are most at risk of poverty or out of work. There must be a recognition that academic qualifications alone are not enough to produce a healthy population and fit for purpose workforce. A diverse workforce with a wide variety of skills and abilities is required. 

Life expectancy can only be improved if the overall health of the nation improves and the social and economic conditions for all improve. 

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Managing But Not Coping

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected president of Nigeria he swept in on a promise of change and honest government. After, 100 days he seems to be making up a lot of excuses for why things might not change. Contrary to what he might imagine nobody expects change to happen overnight. We understand that in order for things to change; Nigeria and Nigerians need to reform. This type of sea change can only happen over time. 

In order to reform institutions it is important that you engage stakeholders and identity what the problems are. Reform cannot be based on innuendo and conjecture. It needs to be rooted in evidence and tried and tested means. In order to do this a president needs to have a capable and trustworthy team around him. The ability to bring together a strong team is a sign of good leadership. It shows vision and a desire to achieve concrete objectives. Doing so in a timely fashion is essential for good leadership because it gets the ball rolling and frees up the leader to focus on strategy and other areas of concern. 

The task in Nigeria involves not only change but also development and restructuring. There are problems with healthcare, education, unemployment, poverty, transportation, weak manufacturing, security, brain drain, and housing. All these are in addition to corruption, dwindling oil revenues, and inefficiency in bureaucracy. Tackling all these issues will require that the president has a team around him that he can entrust his vision to and rely on. However, it also requires that his team understand his vision and are fully invested in it. For this to happen the team needs to play a part in shaping the vision and developing strategies to take it forward. 

Nigerians are not expecting miracles (regardless of the manifold prayers). But they are hoping for good leadership and guidance. Being given a political mandate should not be seen as a license for autocratic and unilateral rule. To achieve change the president needs the services of not just a cabinet but also 160 million Nigerians. He needs to share his vision and plans with the people, coopt them on his mission, and listen to what they have to say. Only then will he truly make change happen.