With a population put conservatively at 170 million and growing at about 2.8 percent, Nigeria has one of the fastest growing populations in the world. Experts say the country’s population is set to exceed 250 million, which is roughly 50 million households, by 2030.
This, ordinarily, is a great socio-economic asset for any nation, but not Nigeria, where this growth is far ahead of infrastructure development and even the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), thus creating growth imbalance that needs to be given urgent attention.
Nigeria is challenged a great deal by dearth of infrastructure which is limiting its economic growth in many ways. This is made worse by the country’s rapid urbanisation which is also growing at an estimated rate of 4.3 percent per annum.
A World Bank report says 50 percent of the world lives in cities today and 70 percent is expected to live in urban areas by 2050. In Nigeria, it is projected that unless something urgent is done now, about 50 percent of the country’s population will live in cities by 2025.
These statistics, as scary as they look, are real, but Nigerian government does not seem to be bothered about their implications to economic development. In 2013, the National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan (NIIMP) that would span 30 years was presented to the government by a presidential advisory committee set up to address that.
The government of that time did little or nothing on the plan which then required about $30 trillion to implement. Today, following its review in 2017, the country requires about $460 trillion to attend to the plan which provides the roadmap for building world-class infrastructure that will guarantee sustainable economic growth and development.
Nigeria is just a couple of months away from another round of electoral process that will bring in a new set of leaders. Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar are the presidential candidates of the two dominant political parties. Both of them are not new to governance, which is why citizens’ expectation is high that whichever of them that emerges as president of the country next year should prioritise infrastructure.
Whoever becomes the next president should revisit the infrastructure plan which is also aimed to enable Nigeria take advantage of the vast opportunities in the domestic and global economies to enhance its competitiveness and improve the quality of life of the citizenry. It provides an integrated view of infrastructure development in Nigeria, with clear linkages across the key sectors.
A close look at the plan shows that about 50 percent of investments in the plan would be directed at the roads sub-sector in order to refurbish cross-national highways and expand the regional road network and linkages to other modes of transportation.
This is quite understandable given that Nigeria has the worst roads infrastructure in Africa. Roads infrastructure in the country is critical to the economy as it accounts for 90 percent of passenger and freight traffic and is therefore the backbone for all other economic infrastructure.
Another priority area in the plan is housing, which the plan recommends attention should be given to, increasing the number of housing units in order to close the current and projected housing deficit estimated at 17 million housing units at the moment.
Andrew Nevin, partner and chief economist for PwC, advises that besides addressing the energy, water and roads infrastructure needs of citizens, Nigeria needs to build more houses to match the growing population and rapid urbanisation, pointing out that Nigeria’s yearly demand for property is about 1 million, but the yearly supply is just 100,000 units.
Chii Akporji, an executive director at Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), blames Nigeria’s housing deficit on the country’s infrastructure deficit. “Infrastructure is all encompassing and remains the bedrock of the economy”, she posited, stressing that it contributes to the cost of housing.
“Infrastructure constitutes about 25 percent of construction cost. It is the major cause of housing deficit” , Akporji insists, suggesting that government should initiate an infrastructure fund that focused specifically on housing.
She says that critical infrastructure, especially power, energy and water are still a huge challenge in most cities, pointing out that globally, cities account for up to 70 per cent of energy use and 80 per cent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission. These cities also host most of the infrastructure exposed to risk from climate change, requiring them to invest in resilience as well.
“In these cities too, the International Finance Corporation, an arm of the World Bank, predicts 37 percent growth in energy consumption, and that 96 percent of growth will occur in developing countries; global water consumption has grown at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century and, in developing countries, this will increase by another 50 percent by 2025”, she said.
All these should be the concern of both sitting and intending leaders. The solution to all these lies in building critical infrastructure including green building which, in its design, construction or operation, reduces or eliminates negative impacts on climate and natural environment, preserving precious natural resources and improving quality of life.
Therefore, the next set of leaders in Nigeria, including local government chairmen, state governors and the president, should have it at the back of their mind that infrastructure is the backbone of the economy and that any step towards building same means a journey towards economic prosperity and sustainability.