There is one factor many commentators seldom associate with China – the fact that most Chinese women are well educated. We always discuss their manufacturing prowess and the brutal state capitalism that is taking other economies by storm. Yet, we fail to understand that China has become a pillar of the modern world simply on the basis that it has both the men and women in the labor market. In most African economies, only half of the population makes it because the women are not educated. Strategically, it means that the nation is simply not positioned to use the skills of the whole citizens to grow the economy. You leave half out of the process and that hurts your overall competitiveness.
The progress in China is partly associated with high women literacy. Most parts of China have got the women educated. India is not that lucky. Brazil has a solid undergraduate degree holders, not just the primary education. Between Brazil and China, the education of the citizens have helped to push technology adoption at the scale that got them into the BRIC club.
Though India continues to be hurt by its unfortunate caste system that lives many without opportunities, present reforms are geared to improve education attainment not just for boys but also the girls. We understand that South Sudan has illiteracy rate of more than 80%, Nigeria, for all its money, is not that really rosy. Most women in the nation do not participate in creative economic process because they are not educated. Of course, some are artisans, but lack of education hurts their effectiveness.
As the government pushes for technology adoption and penetration, it is very imperative that it understands that without higher literacy rate, the nation cannot easily absorb some technologies. How can people use mobile devices for text and business when they are not educated? The business of apps will not work because only the educated can actually use them. These are the problems and challenges that will continue to undermine policy and plans to move the nation forward in these areas.
Tekedia recommends for the nation to move fast and improve its primary education and get boys and girls into schools. In the Northern part, this is even more urgent. The business of mobile Internet and indeed others technologies will not succeed without a very solid literate populace.
Doing that is not just good policy, but also helping to grow the economy. Because when they can read and write, they will not just use these technologies, they can help to create them in the future. Nigeria must educate the girls just as we make efforts to send the boys to schools.