The Importance of Higher Education in Economic Development

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By: Yemi Abioye

Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa!  However, despite this fact, there are a host of issues that still prevent the country from attaining its full potential.  If Nigeria is to increasingly advance, it must invest in its competitiveness by not only diversifying its economy but investing in its people and building strong institutions.  In higher education, this means strengthening teaching institutions and increasing funding for research universities that create innovations that drive economic growth.

Sustained economic growth is achieved as skills are attained and utilized.  In an increasingly technological world, complex skills that lead to the next innovation are often attained through educational institutions such as polytechnics and universities.  Indeed it was through research institutions that breakthroughs in technologies such as radar, penicillin, the computer, the internet and global positioning systems, to name a few, were discovered.  Additionally, talented graduates have created and populated many new businesses that have gone on to employ millions which have transformed the world in areas of health, communications, security, the arts, etc… Many new technologies and businesses are waiting to be discovered and built.

The role of higher education in economic growth is clear, and its role in strengthening democracy is widely recognized.  In the coming weeks, the NHEF has challenged university students at our partner universities to analyze the role of higher education in strengthening democracy, a critical question for a democracy as young as Nigeria.  We anticipate thoughtful and critical essays from this, the upcoming generation.

To exceed our past, we must develop and strengthen institutions such as universities.  Through knowledge sharing and skill attainment, they are the drivers of development.  Not only do they produce and train talent needed for a 21st century economy, but also nurture minds that can create the next innovation in issues such as sustainable development, waste management, communications, healthcare etc… Our knowledge creating institutions must be nurtured to solve the problems unique to us. Nigeria has a vast potential that continues to go untapped. We must harness it!

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