Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest man, says it is his responsibility — “as a business leader” — to provide jobs and opportunities to the people.
However, he acknowledged the need for these people to, first and foremost, be healthy, and also to possess the basic skills.
Speaking at the Expanded National Economic Council on Investment in Human Capital in Abuja on Thursday, Dangote said that for this generation to thrive as adults and drive economic progress, huge investments in the health and well-being, and in their ability to learn and apply new skills in an ever-changing global economy, are needed.
“That, at its core, is what we mean by “human capital”: healthy and productive and well educated young people who are then enabled to succeed, lift up themselves and their families, and contribute to society through their own ingenuity,” he said.
“As a business leader, it is my responsibility to offer jobs and opportunity — but I can only do that when the people themselves are healthy and have basic skills.
“And as a philanthropist and a development expert, I have seen firsthand the critical gaps and proven interventions that can help set those young people up for success, especially the poorest.”
He listed nutrition as a key example of these critical gaps, saying it was already a “primary focus” for the Dangote Foundation.
According to him, one of the biggest factors undermining our progress today is malnutrition. Poor nutrition prevents children from realising their full potential – stunting not only their physical and intellectual growth, but also their education and employment opportunities.
“As a business leader, I feel the consequences of malnutrition. An inadequately skilled workforce is a constraint on my business,” he said.
“And, again, as a philanthropist and a development expert, it is the kind of challenge I am committed to helping to solve. But this is where my two roles converge — because all sectors: business, philanthropy, and especially government will need to step up to address the human capital challenge we face in Nigeria.
“Key to all this is the fact that success in areas of human capital like nutrition are win-wins for the economy. On nutrition, data from the World Bank shows that every naira invested can yield 35 naira in returns, as people who were held back start fulfilling their potential.
“This is why I am so pleased to be here at this forum: because for Nigeria to truly compete globally, we must prioritise investments in the health, education and opportunity of our people alongside other critical areas like infrastructure. Together, these are the inputs that will make Nigeria richer.
“You, my friends in government, must lead. But when you do, you will have committed Nigerians like myself joining in the effort.”