Lesotho urged to invest in human capital

NEO SENOKO

MASERU - With new technologies emerging every day, the world is moving faster as more and more people around the world participate in the digital economy. Lesotho should think carefully about how to devise policies that will guarantee a full exploitation of the digital revolution and its benefits. One of the best ways, according to the World Bank, is to invest in human capital.

The initiative has now turned into a global effort to accelerate more and better investment in people for greater equity and economic growth. Countries are coming together to try and close the massive human capital gap in the world today. Human capital consists of the knowledge, skills and health that people accumulate throughout their lives, enabling them to realise their potential as productive members of the society.

“We can end extreme poverty and create more inclusive societies by developing human capital, which requires investing in people through nutrition, health care, quality education, jobs and skills,” the World Bank says in a statement. The Human Capital Index (HCI) states that a child born in Lesotho today will be 37 percent as productive when she or he grows up if she or he enjoyed complete education and full health. Students in Lesotho score 393 on a scale where 625 represents advanced attainment and 300 represents minimum attainment.

Up to 33 out of 100 children in Lesotho are stunted which puts them at risk of cognitive and physical limitations that can last lifetime. The HCI statistics shows therefore that the country should do more to promote the human capital initiative for future economic benefits.

The World Bank further reveals that the cost of inaction on human capital development is going up, citing that without human capital, countries cannot sustain economic growth and will not have a workforce that is prepared for the more highly skilled jobs of the future and, as a result, will not compete effectively in the global economy. While education is seen as one of the greatest weapons to capacitate people with adequate skills, nutrition has been quoted as another important area of focus, according to the latest Cost of Hunger in Africa Study.

Economic losses attributed to undernourished children ranges from 1.9 percent of GDP to 16.5 across different countries in Africa. This is impeding Africa’s economic growth and social development, the study concludes. “From an economic perspective, there is an important opportunity to shift from a commodity-driven growth strategy to a more diversified production base through industrialisation of commodities and further integration of products into national and regional value chains.

“This shift can be a key element in providing young people with decent labour opportunities in economic activities that will also help Africa move toward a more industrialised and urbanised society that builds on the continent’s comparative advantages,” the study recommends. The study further warned that economies are likely to shift from the ones based on manual labour to skills-based labour, adding the continent must work to reduce the barriers that affect human development in order to maximise the benefits of this transformation.

In one of his latest remarks regarding poor nutrition and its impact on the economy, the president of the African Development Bank Akinwumi Adesina warned that nutrition is responsible for harming children’s educational development and future economic prospects. “It is responsible for stunting children’s growth, harming children’s educational development and future economic prospects. Stunted children today will lead to stunted economies tomorrow; the impact of stunting is irreversible but preventable,” the president noted.

Lesotho’s Minister of Finance Dr Moeketsi Majoro weighed in on the issue citing that while Lesotho spends considerably more resources on health and education than its peers in Africa, the problem is that the country achieves lower outcomes. “The government of Lesotho fully recognises this. The ministries of health, education and training and the finance ministry are working with the Harvard University and the World Bank Human Capital Project (HCP) to squeeze more out of resources already earmarked for the fulfilment of these important sectors,” Majoro said in an interview with Public Eye on Wednesday this week.

Majoro admitted, however, that the country is suffering the consequences of not investing in human capital, particularly due to the poor education system in the country. “The education system in Lesotho is characterised by significant levels of inequality, discrimination against the poor, low quality and irrelevance. The government is fully cognisant of this and as an early adopter of the World Bank’s HCP, intends to adopt a multi-sectoral approach to not only address these identified deficiencies in education, but also eliminate those in early childhood health,” Majoro noted.

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