JIMI AGBAJE’S BIG IDEA

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Jimi Agbaje

Saturday Comment1

The PDP governorship candidate pledges to devote half the state’s budget on knowledge-driven economy, writes Adewunmi Olajide

The Lagos State gubernatorial candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took a bold step to do what Lagos has lacked for a while, which is to present a bold, relevant and clearly audacious vision for the state.  The beauty of a vision is the way it defines aspirations for the future, without which the human soul can be rudderless, let alone a city state like Lagos. Truly, without vision, man will perish.

Agbaje in his second ‘manifesto’ document (Re-anchoring Lagos – The Big Idea), moves beyond his well-presented rhetoric of ‘freedom’, to explain, what Lagos needs to do to be free.  Almost like an ‘after freedom, what next?’ response. He has clearly presented what is next. 

Not only is Jimi Agbaje saying that Lagos must in the next 10 years be set on a path of becoming the second largest economy in Africa, he is going to do so by, anchoring the city state on the platform of education, by creating an education economy – a knowledge-driven economy. This is not dissimilar to the path that China took for over 20 years or Singapore or even Rwanda in recent times. Agbaje has ‘threatened’ to devote up to 50% of the state’s budget on creating an education economy i.e. an education ecosystem, an education value chain, creating a knowledge economy and societal physical infrastructure to support it. 

But how does Agbaje want to achieve this? That is what has gotten a few people jumpy!  Agbaje intends to invest as much as 50% (if necessary) of the state’s budget (and therefore resources) on an education economy (a knowledge economy), which implies investing in the whole value chain related to education – from the physical infrastructure that facilitates training to skills development, competence building, knowledge management, fit for purpose curriculum as it relates to executing, sustaining and growing our society’s, businesses and economic communities.  Agbaje will challenge every single ministry, department and agency to dedicate as much as 50% of their individual budget, time, effort and focus of their activities to facilitate the upliftment of education in as wide a sense as possible. 

For example, Agbaje’s strategy implies that for the Ministry of Works, roads that provide access to schools and educational institutions will be given priority but not to the exclusion of other road projects; it means that the Ministry of Health, will pay more attention to education and training  in our health institutions but not to the exclusion of other initiatives on health including the provision of subsidised or free primary health care for students as part of its budget reallocation, prioritisation and adjustments; the Ministry of Trade and Investment in the state, will support entrepreneurship initiatives in all the institutions, whilst still pursuing issues about the ease of doing business, ensuring that any education related business or institution is given priority; the Ministry of Tourism and Culture will allocate significantly more of its budget to the training and facilitation of the entertainment communities to participate and promote the creative arts; The Ministry of Transport will commit more of its budget to provide subsidised or even free transport to all students and anyone still learning with no income; The Ministry in charge of Lands, will allocate more affordably priced land to educational institutions, including land to build accommodation for students at the vocational and tertiary level, and the list goes on and on. 

Agbaje’s vision, once taken on board by Lagosians can be expanded way beyond his own imagination as experts in each ministry begin to see how they can make a huge contribution to the state’s education economy. Agbaje is simply going to challenge each ministry to devote up to 50% of its time, effort, personnel, planning, funding, execution, innovation, manpower to the creation of an education economy. He is not abandoning the rest of the budget, he is going to redirect and shift priorities towards anything that can drive the education and skills development of our people as a huge priority.

 

In Agbaje’s published re-anchoring Lagos on education Big Idea Manifesto, he plans to create five economic zones to represent centres of excellence around which the skills development, education, training and knowledge management will revolve. These zones will create and regenerate, attractive and new urban communities to decongest Lagos City.  However, this initiative will be based on creating a workforce fit for each area’s economic focus based on a planned and aggressive investment in education and skills development and the education value chain.

 

Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment exams for the O.E.C.D.)  is quoted as saying … “knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on their own how much they will print.” Sure, it’s great to have oil, gas and diamonds; they can buy jobs. But they’ll weaken your society in the long run unless they’re used to build schools and a culture of lifelong learning. “The thing that will keep you moving forward,” says Schleicher, is always “what you bring to the table yourself.”

 

By creating this education-linked urban matrix of economic zones, the growth of Lagos State will be much faster than the current and projected future growth rate of Nigeria’s economy, especially because of its focus on education, skills development and health care.

These are what great visions are made of. To question a vision is to miss the point totally, and be comfortable with ‘incremental mentality’, whilst the rest of the world is leapfrogging.

 Olajide is an economist based in Lagos