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Dangote has a private sector proposal to fix Nigeria’s public universities – why it matters

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Dangote has a private sector proposal to fix Nigeria’s public universities – why it matters

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, wants the private sector to do more to improve public universities in Nigeria. He advocated private sector collaboration with government to address the issues affecting the universities, mostly lack of investments in the system due to the paucity of funds and mismanagement.

Backstory: Dangote made the call while delivering his speech at the 41st convocation of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he was conferred with an Honorary Doctor of Letters, on Saturday.

Facilities do not Match Rising Population: Dangote said that Nigeria’s population growth means that there is more demand for education and rise in admissions into tertiary institutions, but the facilities are unable to meet up with this trend.

Dangote offers solutions: To tackle the challenges public universities are currently grappling with, Dangote pushed for more taxes and Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in the educational sector.

  • “We do acknowledge that, the Federal Government alone cannot shoulder the entire burden of funding tertiary education due to competing needs of other sectors that also demand priority attention. This is where Public Private Partnership (PPP) can and should come in to fill the gap.
  • I strongly believe the private sector must go beyond just the payment of 2 percent education levy and be ready to join hands with the state and federal governments in expanded funding for tertiary education in Nigeria.”

Why it Matters: Nigeria’s public universities are in crisis. According to the 2019 Times Higher Education ranking, only one Nigerian public university (University of Ibadan) made the list of the top 1000 universities in the world. The universities are fraught with reports of dilapidated infrastructure, embezzlement and scandals and plagued by recurring union actions.

Funding for Nigeria’s education sector in general is quite low. In 2018, the total allocation to education was just about seven percent of the national budget with over 70 per cent going into recurrent expenditure. Nigeria’s total 2018 education budget of N605 billion ($1.67billion) is just about one-third of Harvard University’s budget ($4.5 billion) in 2018.

Nigerian universities definitely need more funding, and better management. This is what the private sector and industry collaboration could bring to the table.

One Dangote thing: Dangote appears to be passionate about leaving a legacy in tertiary education. He donated a business school to the Bayero University Kano and hostels to the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (both reportedly ‘worth N1.2 billion’ each). News reports have it that the billionaire businessman is developing a similar project at the University of Ibadan. Dangote’s buildings form part of the critical infrastructure required to improve the universities. However, it would take more than physical structures to improve the quality of education especially teaching and research in these public universities.

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