School of Public Health
School of Public Health
The Next Generation
Key Findings 6
Chapter 1 – Turning the Tide 10
Chapter 2 – Dividend or Disaster 15
Chapter 3 – Ready for the Future 21
Chapter 4 – Champing at the Bit 28
Chapter 5 – An Agenda for Nigeria 37
The Next Generation Nigeria Task Force is convened
by the British Council Nigeria.
The Task Force is an independent body and the
British Council does not necessarily agree with
or endorse the views expressed within its reports.
All Task Force members serve in an
independent capacity and not as representatives
of any organisation.
The Task Force
The Task Force is chaired by:
Managing Director of the World Bank
Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and
Demography at the Harvard School of Public Health
Task Force members are:
Alhaji Lamido Ado Bayero
The Chiroman Kano
Governor of Cross River State, 1999-2007
Director General, Nigeria Economic Summit Group
Former Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with
responsibility for Africa
Director of The Centre For Applied Economics at
Lagos Business School
Principal Partner, Wali Uwais & Co
Professor Bloom also directs the Task Force's academic team.
The Academic Team
Senior Research Fellow, King's College London
Jocelyn E. Finlay
Department of Global Health and Population
Harvard School of Public Health
Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard School of Public Health;
and LUMS School of Science and Engineering
Department of Economics, University of Hawaii - Manoa and the East West
Department of Economics, University of Ibadan
Holly E. Reed
Institute for Demographic Research and Department of Sociology, Queens
College, City University of New York
Department of Economics, University of Ibadan
River Path Associates
Center on International Cooperation, New York University
Director Programmes, British Council Nigeria
* Also serves on the Secretariat.
† Also serves on the Academic team.
project of this magnitude could not have been completed without the
dedicated effort of a large number of people. In particular, The Task Force and
British Council would like to thank the following:
Members of the academic team listed earlier, for their intellectual leadership in
defining and answering the most important questions the Task Force should consider,
and for enthusiastically responding to the Task Force's comments, views and
questions in refining the results of their research.
Members of the research staff at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH): Akochi
Agunwamba, Elizabeth Cafiero, Abigail Friedman, Marija Ozolins, and Larry Rosenberg
– for gathering and making sense of data, for reviewing multiple drafts of both the
background papers and the final report, and for many other forms of support which
are harder to list. Livia Montana at HSPH for her advice on navigating the intricacies of
the DHS data sets. Matthew Kent at River Path Associates for his work on background
research, and reviewing drafts of the papers. Participants of the Harvard Africa
Seminar at Harvard University on April 13, 2010 and of the IUSSP Seminar on
“Demographics and Macroeconomic Performance” on June 4-5, 2010 in Paris – for
their valuable comments and feedback on the research. And finally, Dilip Ratha at the
World Bank for providing data on migration and remittances.
The British Council staff in Nigeria: Oladunni Abimbola, Ijeoma Arguba, Olamipo Bello,
and Ramatu Umar-Bako – for their help and persistence in gaining access to the
Nigerian census data, and for arranging the logistics of the Task Force meeting in
The grant management staff at HSPH: Julie Rioux, David Mattke-Robinson, and
Katherine Hazard – for their willing help in managing the intricacies of the British
Council grant. And members of the staff at the other organisations: Jane Frewer at
River Path Associates and Liang Wang at the World Bank – for their help in
coordinating schedules, meetings and reviews.
Finally, the project could not have been started without Peter Upton and Lord Kinnock
of the British Council, whose leadership was instrumental in envisioning the research
–which we hope places the issue of demographic change at the centre of Nigeria's
policies for the future.
1. Nigeria stands on the threshold of what could be the greatest transformation in
its history. By 2030, it will be one of the few countries in the world that has
young workers in plentiful supply. Youth, not oil, will be the country's most
valuable resource in the twenty-first century.
2. Nigeria has been struggling against the demographic tide since
independence. Rapid population growth has created a huge strain on the
country's economic, social and political systems. Today, just 1.2 adults care for
each of the country's children and old people.
3. During the past 30 years, the Nigerian economy has stagnated, in sharp
contrast to the fortunes of natural comparators such as Indonesia. The1990s
was a lost decade for Nigeria with per capita GDP falling to below 1980 levels.
4. Today, Nigeria's demographic tide is finally turning, as population growth slows
and its 'baby boom generation' enters the workforce. By mid-century,
depending on how fast family size falls, there could be as much as a whole
additional adult to support each child and old person.
5. Nigeria stands ready to collect a substantial demographic dividend. If it
continues with recent positive economic growth, improves health standards,
and harnesses a growing workforce, the average Nigerian's income will be as
much as three times higher by 2030 and over 30 million people will be lifted
out of poverty.
6. If Nigeria fails to collect its demographic dividend, the seriousness of the
country's predicament should not be underestimated. Its prospects will be
bleak and could be catastrophic.
7. In the worst case, Nigeria will see: growing numbers of restless young people
frustrated by lack of opportunity; increased competition for jobs, land, natural
resources, and political patronage; cities that are increasingly unable to cope
with the pressures placed on them; ethnic and religious conflict and
radicalisation; and a political system discredited by its failure to improve lives.
8. Demography is pushing Nigerian states and regions onto widely different
economic trajectories, and could further increase inequality if measures are
not taken to promote social cohesion.
9. Demographic factors are steadily elevating Nigeria's risk of conflict. If Nigeria
fails to respond appropriately over the next decade, it could well face a
10. Nigeria is currently poorly positioned to maximise the economic opportunities
created by its demographics, despite marked improvements in the policy
environment over the past decade.
11. At present, health and education standards are low, especially in
disadvantaged regions and among the poor. Many young Nigerians are ill-
equipped for life in a modern economy. Young women are especially likely to
be excluded from opportunities.
12. A shortage of jobs is a serious challenge, with young Nigerians taking many
years to become productive contributors to society. A Nigerian only produces
more than he or she consumes for an average of 30 years of their life,
compared to 34 years in Indonesia, 35 years in India, and 37years in China.
13. Young Nigerians are increasingly frustrated by their lack of opportunities, and
there are signs of new movements emerging to campaign for change. The next
generation can make a huge contribution to Nigeria's future, but if its potential
is not harnessed, it will become an increasingly disruptive force.
14. Nigeria urgently needs to develop a thorough action plan for its next
generation. At present, policymakers are faced with a dearth of robust data on
the country's future challenges. Better evidence is needed to inform more far-
1. Investment in people must be substantially boosted. The government should set
targets for increasing expenditure on education and health, using oil revenues to
fund both infrastructure and recurrent spending, while ensuring that existing funds
are spent more efficiently.
2. The priorities for education are to develop skills that lead to employment through
expansion of vocational training, and to tackle the gross inequalities in educational
provision that threaten Nigeria's integrity as a cohesive society.
3. In the health sector, rapid improvements are possible, especially by addressing very
high levels of child mortality. Regions with low health standards need emergency
funding to build effective primary health systems, with a focus on maternal and child
4. The needs of young families must also be put at the heart of the Nigerian policy
agenda. With better health and education, parents will choose to invest more in fewer
children, giving those children a much better chance of living a prosperous, secure
and fulfilled life. Creating pro-family policies must be a priority for the Nigerian
5. Without remedial action, the crisis in the job market will worsen rapidly as growing
numbers of young Nigerians enter the workforce. Nigeria needs to create almost 25
million jobs over the next ten years if it is to offer work to new entrants, and halve
6. Nigeria needs to develop the infrastructure that will underpin a world class economy,
spending up to an additional 4% of GDP on this task. It should diversify away from oil,
with an emphasis on sectors that will improve employment prospects for young
people, while removing obstacles to economic growth and private enterprise.
7. The oil industry contributes as much as 40% to national GDP, but is highly capital
intensive and employs only a tiny fraction of the population. Other industries still in
their infancy offer greater potential to Nigeria and Nigerians: communications;
manufacturing (textiles, clothing and footwear; automobiles); and the mining of
resources other than oil.
8. Nigeria must tap into the energies of the next generation, releasing its innovative and
entrepreneurial potential and ensuring that young people have better opportunities
for political expression. It should also harness the potential of its diaspora to provide
opportunities for the young and for new ideas, investments, and contacts.
9. With the right policies for the next generation, Nigeria's aspiration to become one
of the world's largest 20 economies is within reach. If Nigeria's leaders make the
wrong choices today, the country will suffer the consequences for many decades to
come – and Nigeria's development breakthrough could be forever lost.
The Next Generation Task Force was convened to explore Nigeria's future at a time of
rapid demographic, social, and economic change.
Over the next 20 years, Nigeria will experience huge growth in the number of young
adults in its society. If these young people are healthy, well educated, and find productive
employment, they could boost the country's economy and reinvigorate it culturally and
politically. If not, they could be a force for instability and social unrest.
The Task Force has undertaken an extensive programme of research. We have completed
a comprehensive and unique study of the threats and opportunities presented by
Nigeria's changing demography. We conducted two background studies
A comprehensive literature review, covering Nigeria's geography, resources,
regional dynamics, social tensions, government and governance, economy,
population, health, and education.
A series of interviews with Nigerian opinion formers, including politicians, civil society
activists, writers, artists, business people, teachers, academics and young adults.
We then commissioned four new research studies, each of which explored different facets of
the challenges facing Nigeria and generated the original insights that inform this report.
From these studies, the Task Force has published the following papers:1
Capitalizing on Nigeria's Demographic Dividend, by Holly Reed, which assesses the
peer-reviewed demographic literature on Nigeria, before analysing the two most recent
Demographic and Health Surveys for Nigeria (2003 and 2008), and the 2006 census.
Population and Economic Progress in Nigeria, by Andrew Mason, Olanrewaju Olaniyan
and Adedoyin Soyibo, which uses new data to provide an assessment of Nigerians'
economic lifecycle and offers comparative estimates of public and private investment
in human capital.
The Politics and Socio-Economic Dynamics of Demography in Nigeria: The Past and
Present in the Future, by Abiodun Alao, which examines the socio-economic situation of
Nigeria's youth, including survey data on their attitudes and opinions.
Nigeria's Demographic Dividend, by David Bloom, Jocelyn Finlay, Salal Humair and
David Steven. This report provides the first estimates of the size of Nigeria's
demographic dividend, and includes new findings in areas that include human capital,
population policy, and Nigeria's diaspora.
Finally, we conducted an online survey of 650 Nigerians and held a series of debates
The Task Force report is intended to catalyse a broader debate on Nigeria's future – and
especially the needs of its young people. The next generation is beginning to find its
voice. If Nigeria can harness its ideas and energy, then its future will surely be bright.
TURNING THE TIDE
THE FUTURE OF A YOUNG COUNTRY
oday, Nigeria stands on the threshold of the greatest transformation in its history. Over
the next 20 years, the fundamental nature of its society could alter beyond recognition.
Yet the direction of this change remains profoundly uncertain. Decisions made today will have
a critical influence on the path the country takes. In the best case, Nigeria will enjoy a
substantial boost to its development, becoming an economic engine not only for the region,
but also for the whole of Africa. If the worst happens, it will see a deepening cycle of economic
underperformance, social unrest, and even conflict.
The choice between success and failure rests on Nigeria's ability to harness the power of its
single greatest asset: not oil, but youth. Although the effective use of Nigeria's vast oil
resources is an important part of the story, the oil industry alone will not be able to effectively
harness Nigeria's rapidly increasing numbers of young people.
Nigeria is already the world's eighth largest country. By 2030, it will have an additional 68
million people, and will add a further 63 million by 2050 (see box 1), making it the fifth most
populous nation in the world after India, China, the United States, and Pakistan.2 As a result,
Nigeria will have a considerable, and growing, global influence.
But this is not simply about raw numbers. The world is ageing quickly. Western countries are
already grappling with the burden imposed by their greying societies. Even countries like
China are now seeing a decline in the share of working-age people in their population. While a
global scarcity of young adults will accelerate in the coming decades, Nigeria will remain a
young country throughout most of the twenty-first century.
As youth becomes an increasingly precious resource, Nigeria will be one of the few large
countries in the world that has young adults in plentiful, and growing, supply.
AGAINST THE TIDE
Throughout its history, Nigeria has battled against exceptionally tough demographic
conditions. The numbers tell a clear story. Fifty years ago, at independence, there were just 45
million Nigerians. Today its population has more than trebled, topping 158 million.3
Such rapid growth places enormous strains on any society. In Nigeria, fertility rose through the
first quarter century after independence, with each woman bearing an average of seven
children in the mid-1980s.4 During this period, infant mortality, while still shockingly high, was
falling. The result was unsurprising: growing numbers of large families faced a constant
struggle to subsist.
Today, over 40% of Nigerians are under fifteen, while 3% are over retirement age.5 That means
there is only slightly more than one adult of working age available to take care of each
dependent in the population, a ratio that worsened after independence and is now barely
higher than it was in 1960.
Any country with so few working age adults and so many children is likely to find economic
progress exceedingly difficult to achieve. Throughout the post-independence period,
Nigerians have devoted substantial resources to feeding, clothing, housing, educating, and
securing the health of their children. This has come at a significant short-term cost, diverting
funds that could have been used to construct factories, invest in infrastructure, or build the
institutions needed to support a modern economy. Nigeria's post-independence generation
has sacrificed its own prospects in order to make a substantial investment in their children's
The economic impact has been predictable. Between 1980 and 2006, Nigeria's economy
TURNING THE TIDE | THE FUTURE OF A YOUNG COUNTRY
barely kept up with its surging population, with incomes barely higher today than they were 30
years ago.6 Over the past generation, Nigeria has fallen far behind its international
competitors, most of whom have enjoyed much more favourable demographic conditions
during this period (see box 2).
Demography is clearly not the only factor in Nigeria's underwhelming economic performance
over the past 50 years. Better education, healthcare, and governance would have all helped
the country grow faster, but providing these services was complicated by rapid population
Nigeria has been struggling against a powerful demographic tide ever since independence.
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
Today, this demographic tide is finally turning in Nigeria's favour. For half a century, Nigeria may
have faced tough demographic conditions, but over the next 50 years, demography will begin
to work in its favour. This will provide the country with opportunities on a scale that few richer
countries can look forward to.
The drivers of change are easy to understand. For a generation now, Nigerian women have
been choosing to have fewer children, following a pattern seen in countries across the world
as they develop (though current levels of fertility in Nigeria are still relatively high).7 As health
standards improve, babies have a much greater chance of surviving to adulthood. For a while,
family size grows rapidly, but parents soon adjust, choosing to focus their energies and
resources on ensuring that a smaller number of children have the chance of a better life.
While Nigeria's population is still growing, it is doing so more slowly than at any time since
independence and the proportion of children in the population is finally beginning to drop. At
the same time, a large 'baby boom' generation is now entering the workforce. The net result is
that there are now more adults available to support each child in the population. Depending on
how fast fertility rates drop, by mid-century there could be as many as one extra adult Nigerian
for every child. This change has the potential to provide a substantial economic boost.
However, Nigeria will not collect this demographic dividend automatically. If the country fails to
enact the right policies to capitalise on its one-off demographic opportunity, its future could
be much bleaker even than the present. Judging the future by the past, wrong choices could
seriously worsen the country's current situation.
Nigerian policymakers must turn their attention to understanding and exploiting the country's
TURNING THE TIDE | THE FUTURE OF A YOUNG COUNTRY
demographic window of opportunity, or risk dramatic and long-term consequences
The Changing Face of Nigeria
1990 2010 2030
Nigeria s population has grown by 60 million in 20 years.
There will be almost 70 million more Nigerians by 2030.
Percent ag e of N igerian Population
TURNING THE TIDE | THE FUTURE OF A YOUNG COUNTRY
1990 2010 2030
Urban res idents R ural res idents
Nigeria is an increasingly urban country; virtually all its
population growth is in its towns and cities.
Sources: UN DESA World Population Prospects (2008 revision) and UN DESA World Urbanisation
Prospects (2007 revision)
Ratio of Wor king-Ag e to Non-Work ing-Age People
Pak ist an
1960 1965 19 70 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 201 0 2015 2020 2025 2030 2035 2040 2045 2050
In 1980, Nigeria was considerably richer than both Indonesia
Since then, Pakistan s economy has grown at 2.5% per year
and Indonesia s by 3.6%, while Nigeria s has barely grown at
GDP per capita in Pakistan is now 50% higher than Nigeria s,
TURNING THE TIDE | THE FUTURE OF A YOUNG COUNTRY
while Indonesians earn twice as much as Nigerians.
But both countries and Indonesia in particular - have
enjoyed much more favourable demographic conditions than
Nigeria (see graph).
In the next twenty years this will begin to change, offering
hope for Nigerians of a new era of sustained growth.
Source: UN DESA World Population Prospects (2008 Revision)
DIVIDEND OR DISASTER
UNDERSTANDING NIGERIA’S DEMOGRAPHIC CHOICES
ver the past 50 years, many countries have experienced similar demographic challenges
to the ones that now face Nigeria. Our analysis draws on this international experience,
providing a strong base of evidence on which effective policies can be built.
The demographic dividend is a concept that is well understood by economists. The window of
opportunity opens as fertility and youth dependency decline, and the working age share of the
population rises. The East Asian countries saw a sharp increase in the number of young adults in
the workforce from the mid-1970s onwards, a period that coincided with the region's economic
'miracle'. One third of growth in this period can be directly attributed to the favourable
demographic conditions the region was experiencing at the time.8
But demography is not destiny. Countries can only collect their dividend if young workers are
healthy, adequately educated, and able to find productive employment. Robust financial markets
help too, allowing adults to save for their retirement while generating the capital that can provide
a further boost to growth. All this requires an effective government, a strong society, and relatively
high levels of peace and security.
If these factors are not in place, a country will miss its opportunity. The damage may be subtle at
first, with decades of underperformance followed by crisis as the baby boom generation reaches
The results may also be much more dramatic, as large cohorts of unemployed or underemployed
young people destabilise their societies, fuelling crime and creating conditions where civil
conflict becomes more likely. Instead of collecting a
dividend, a country that is not well prepared to make
the most of its baby boom generation can find itself
in the midst of a demographic disaster.
In this report, we quantify – for the first time – the size
of the demographic dividend on offer to Nigeria,
while explaining the seriousness of the
demographic risks the country faces.
During the current decade, Nigeria's economy has experienced relatively robust growth, with
annual per capita income growth far outstripping its historical performance by most measures.
Assuming Nigeria maintains this growth, Nigerians would see significant improvements in their
standard of living. By 2020, the average Nigerian could expect to have 48% more income than
today.9 By 2030, his or her income would have more than doubled.10 Such a sustained period of
growth would have a transformational impact on the lives of ordinary Nigerians.
But demographic conditions mean there is the potential for Nigeria to significantly accelerate the
transformation of its economy. Task Force research has modelled a scenario that includes two
economic drivers that are at the heart of the demographic dividend: an expanding labour force
and steady improvements in life expectancy (see box 3). Their impact on Nigeria's prospects is
Average annual incomes increase from N311,224 today ($2,070) to N516,452 in 2020
($3,435) and N884,359 in 2030 ($5,882).12
31.8 million people are taken out of poverty by 2030, showing the potential of the
demographic dividend to transform lives.13
DIVIDEND OR DISASTER | UNDERSTANDING NIGERIA’S DEMOGRAPHIC CHOICES
Moreover, our research suggests that the dividend could be larger if its effects are augmented
and supported by much-needed investment in human and social capital. At 48 years, life
expectancy in Nigeria is still shockingly low and is projected to increase only to 56 years by
2030.14 We explore what would happen if health improvements raised life expectancy to the
current developing-country (excluding China) average of 64 years by 2030, which would
correspond to Nigeria achieving a significant degree of catch-up by 2030 to income-adjusted
global health standards. We also look at the impact of steady improvements to Nigeria's
institutions, where the country continues to lag well behind international standards on indicators
including corruption, rule of law, and public sector efficiency.
Again the results are striking. Although the impact of better health and institutions looks modest
in percentage terms, adding about two percent to per capita GDP in 2030, its true impact is in
terms of lives, bringing another 2.3 million people out of poverty.15
Over the next generation, Nigeria's demographic wave could bring huge benefits to its citizens –
halving poverty and nearly trebling per capita incomes in a generation.
Unfortunately, at the same time as
Nigeria's opportunities are increasing, its
risks are multiplying.
Demographic change does not take place
in the background. It heralds a profound and deep-seated transformation to all facets of a
society, and many of these changes are already being felt in Nigeria. In 1960, fewer than 7
million people (17% of the population) lived in the country's towns and cities. Today, Nigeria is
half urban, half rural. Over the next 20 years, the urban population will almost double,
increasing by 65 million (64% of the population, see box 1).16
Nigeria's urban centres are very different in character from its traditional villages. Kinship
structures are weaker and families are smaller. Young people – especially those in cities – tend
to have very different attitudes and expectations than their parents – and the sheer size of the
new generation ensures that it will be an influential, and potentially disruptive, force.
These social and cultural changes are unsettling, but they can have a positive impact with