Kenya beats sub-Saharan Africa peers in World Bank global human capital index

A Kenyan born today is likely to achieve at most only 52 percent of his or her potential if they survive to adulthood given the inefficiencies and shortfalls in the education and health systems.

This is according to the World Bank’s new Human Capital Index (HCI), which measures human capital of the next generation.

The amount of human capital that a child born today can be expected to deliver as an adult is as a result of the state of health and education currently prevailing in a country where that child lives.

The index, therefore, gives what a generation’s output will be compared to what it could have been.

Using health, survival and education data, the index combines five indicators, which are child survival, school enrolment, quality of learning, healthy growth and adult survival into a single index ranging between 0-1.

The World Bank puts Kenya’s HCI at 0.52 — the highest in sub-Saharan Africa.

The economy loses 48 percent of human capital due to stunting of the children, lower adult survival rate and incomplete education (less than 14 years of high-quality school by age 18).

“Health is an important component of human capital. People are more productive when they are healthier. .. In Nigeria, a programme providing malaria testing and treatment increased workers’ earnings by 10 percent in just a few weeks,” says the report.

“A study in Kenya showed that deworming in childhood reduced school absences while raising wages in adulthood by as much as 20 percent, all thanks to a pill that costs 25 cents to produce and deliver,” the report further stated.

However, as Kenyans fail to realise up to 50 percent of their potential, all sub-Saharan African countries are performing poorly in the index .

Children born in Chad are likely to realise only 29 percent of their potential. The West African nation with a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $215 sits last on the list, losing up to 71 percent of its capital if a child survives to adulthood.

Nigeria, the most populous country in the continent, reported a HCI of 0.34 (position 152/157). A 15-year-old in Nigeria has a 65 percent chance of surviving up to 60 years old against a 15-year-old Kenyan who boasts of a 79 percent probability of survival to adulthood.

A South African child (HC1 0.41) will only deliver 41 percent of full potential once one grows into an adult.

Thirty-one percent of children under five years are stunted, 68 percent survival rate to adulthood only 4.2 years of quality learning in school makes the nation lose up to 59 percent of its capital potential.

On the eastern Africa front, Tanzania came close to Kenya with a 0.4 score, Uganda, Ethiopia and Burundi 0.38, Rwanda 0.37 and South Sudan 0.3.

Globally, Singapore had the highest score with a HCI value of 0.88, South Korea 0.84, Japan 0.84, Hong Kong 0.82 and Finland 0.81 make the top five in the list.

Ensuring access to a quality education closes early gaps in cognitive and socio-behavioural skills.

By the age of three, children from low-income families have heard 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers.

As children turn into teenagers, interventions to close these gaps become more expensive.

This becomes more and more difficult for developing countries to bridge the gap with the developed countries.

“The benefits of human capital transcend private returns, extending to others and across generations.

Deworming one child decreases the chances of other children becoming infected with worms, which in turn sets those children up for better learning and higher wages,” said the report.

The case is similar for all diseases if the health system manages diseases well then the economy will be healthy, wealthy and prosperous.

Countries become richer as more human capital accumulates.

Human capital complements physical capital in the production process and is an important input to technological innovation and long-run growth.

The HCI is part of the World Bank’s Programme on nurturing and building human capital by exploring solutions for the ever developing and evolving challenges that face humanity such as resource challenges, adverse population dynamics, governance challenges and fragility, conflict and violence.