Given the critical role of Science, Technology and Innovation in all facets of human endeavour as well as its importance to the transformation of the Nigerian economy from a resource -based to knowledge-based economy, Precious Ugwuzor reports on the recent drive by the Federal Institute of Industrial Research to adequately harness it and put the country among the top 20 economies of the world by 2030
The world is fast paced, and so also is the priority to offer timely innovations that will efficiently impact various segments of living, industry, and enterprises as solutions to personal, communal, and even societal needs of the people.
In a world where the growth of developed and developing economies are tied to efficiency in Science Technology and Innovation, STI, a mono- economy country like Nigeria must not be left behind in accelerating its technological development potentials to sustain its growth.
As oil price needs recede in importance and global alternatives being scaled up to replace fossil fuel in favour of green and safe energies, Nigeria has identified the need to diversify its economy from mono dependency on oil with bias to engineer a digital and science-propelled economy for industrial development. In this direction, policymakers have agreed that the principle of comparative advantage dictates that Nigeria cannot afford to neglect its agriculture sector but also the engineering sector for the purpose of easing utility, creating jobs and growing its industrial base.
As the population soars, so also is the exploration of natural resources becoming insufficient for wealth creation; as such, it has become imminent that Nigeria embraces measures for values addition to practices by employing science and technology with creative ideas to transform raw materials into valuable goods and services; economic development and improved quality of life.
Volume 1 of the National Development Plan, NDP, 2021 – 2025 was explicit in building a strong nexus among Science Technology and Innovation as three intertwined concepts that underpin the development of products, processes and systems to ensure human progress and wellbeing. However, despite the crucial role it plays in industrial development, Nigeria still ranks low in this although gradually embracing the STI innovation to change its industrial phase.
Available statistics indicate that the world average gross expenditure on research and development as GDP stands at 1.68 percent, while the figure for Nigeria is 0.13 percent in 2007 (we should have data that is more recent).
Minister of Science Technology and Innovation, Adeleke Mamora is however optimistic that Nigeria’s STI potential, when adequately harnessed, can put the country among the top 20 economies of the world by 2030.
Mamora, at a stakeholders’ meeting to inaugurate the planning committee of the STI 2023 Expo in Abuja, noted the critical role of STI in all facets of human endeavour as well as its importance to the transformation of the Nigerian economy from a resource -based to knowledge-based economy.
The Minister identified the role of STI which cuts across every sector of government with expected value addition to human and societal endeavours. “It spans through all the Ministries, Departments and agencies such as technology science, agriculture, aviation, industry, energy, health, space education, entrepreneurship, military amongst others,” Mamora observed.
Challenges Facing STI
Although much is desired to see speedy transformation of the STI, especially towards meeting the immediate and long-term development for economic and industrial revival of the country, experts have however identified that there are obstacles to surmount in the sector. Among them inadequate funding, lack of research, poor education and improper coordination have been identified as factors limiting deployment of STI in Nigeria.
Lookman Adahunse, a Lagos based IT expert, advocated massive public and private sector funding of research and development of the STI, saying: “For Nigeria to build a fundamental innovation paradigm that will give it incredible economic growth, it has to pump more money in research and development. The investments in research and development by government and private sector players must be consistent and not faltering.”
Political economist and former Presidential aspirant of the Young Progressive Party, Kingsley Moghalu, believes Nigeria is yet to have a truly innovation-led economy because there is still little or no policy and financial support for moving the products of innovation into the mainstream marketplace through mass production and marketing distribution.
Moghalu, in the same vein noted that investment by companies and government on Research and Development, R&D, are still relatively low even as Nigeria’s current dire economic situation and foreign exchange crisis in particular provides it with an opportunity to scale up innovation. “It is only innovation that can break the Nigerian economy’s structural dependency as an import- and consumer-driven one,” he noted.
FIIRO to the Task
But all hope is not lost as the Federal Government, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has in the last five years invested no fewer than N924bn to revive the science, technology and innovation sector in the country.
The National Development Plan 2021-2022, Volume I, disclosed that the funds were devoted to priority projects in the sector, as well as others that are similarly crucial to its operations.
Recently, the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, FIIRO, at the 2023 Technology and Innovation Expo, showcased some of its technological inventions and research products as outstanding feats capable of attracting investors to the sector.
Among the exceptional innovations displayed by FIIRO at the Expo held in Abuja are mechanized processing technologies for cassava, ceramics, legumes, bread and confectionery baking technology. Others are roots processing technology, oil seed processing technologies, beverage drinks production and preservative technologies, livestock nutrition/poultry feed, among others
The Technology and Innovation Expo which had as its theme: “Actualizing Effective Diversification of the Nigerian Economy through Science, Technology and Innovation,” was organized to unveil the products to showcase the mileage that have been recorded so far as well as offering solutions on the way forward.
FIIRO, an agency of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, is the foremost centre for Science and Technology-based research and development for the industrialization and socio-economic advancement of the nation.
At the 2023 Expo, Dr Mamora who was impressed with the innovations however charged the research institute to engender the means through which these valuable products would find their way to the Nigerian market by improving on its research and marketing strategies. “The major challenge is how do you get this major research out to the market because it’s like you are winking in the dark, and when you wink in the dark, nobody can see you. You should light up your candles so others can see it,” the minister said.
The Director-General/CEO of FIIRO, Dr (Mrs.) Jummai Adamu solicited the support of all stakeholders to invest in the cutting-edge products, goods and services of the Institute towards aiding the economic diversification of Nigeria’s government.
Dr Adamu also solicited the collaboration of investors to support the nation in achieving its diversification agenda of moving from a consumption to a production economy through effective STI utilization in the shortest possible period.
She said the expo had presented itself as a clarion call for serious commitment by stakeholders and investors to move the economy from consumption to production for the purpose of stimulating economic growth, liberation and self-reliance for the nation and the Nigerians.
The FIIRO boss noted that the mono-economic dependence on oil and gas, which is non-renewable, has kept the nation far away from meaningful development that would have made her respected among comity of nations.
“This is attributed to our inability to properly utilize STI as the fulcrum for modern development. It is to be noted that all developed and developing countries all over the world are where they are today because they realized that it is only through Science, Technology and Innovation, that all our problems can be tackled.
“It is an established fact that Science, Technology and Innovation holds the key to the present and future development of any nation as it plays a fundamental role in wealth creation, improvement of quality of life and real economic growth and transformation in any society,” she said.
Dr Adamu submitted that STI has impacted many economic areas, reducing poverty, promoting healthier and more productive lives, rapid improvement in agriculture, energy, environment and economic growth.
By bridging the technological power vacuum, she observed, more Nigerians can be adequately mobilized as needed human resources to tackle the challenges confronting the nation, especially towards arresting the menace of poverty, youth restiveness, terrorism, kidnapping and banditry currently ravaging the country.
“As you may be aware, one of the key components that aid economic diversification is technology transfer, which is the innovation capabilities of any organization that wants to thrive technologically.
“Increase in economic diversification will expose us to opportunities to utilize our technological prowess and become more capable to generate new technological solutions due to cross-fertilization of ideas among different knowledge areas of diversification, thus producing positive effects on our innovation performance,” the FIIRO boss said.
On the importance of the STI, she noted that a diversified economy has the capacity to support multiple businesses, increase sustainable circles of economic activity where businesses continually feed from one another and grow larger as the economy grows.
“Worldwide, it is an established fact that economic diversification brings about stability, improves standard of living, minimizes the use of potentially underutilized resources, creates jobs and generates wealth for the teeming youth, considering the depletion nature of the oil that we have been depending since time immemorial,” she explained.
The representative of the organized private sector and business community, at the Expo, Victoria Akai urged FIIRO to explore partnership opportunity with the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry on business entrepreneurship, skills and technology to enhance productivity, especially among the youth and women.
She also lauded the institute for its various research outputs which have strengthened the technological innovation sector in the country. Her words: “The value of your achievement in the area of various commodities including motor, processed and bottled palm wine, cassava bread, fish feeds, ceramics, textile design product, pepper grinding machines and other related machines for small and medium enterprise agencies as well as entrepreneurship training and technology transfer cannot be overemphasized.”
As Nigeria continues in this steady move to turn around its economy driven by science, technological and innovation, FIIRO has sufficiently demonstrated its capacity to support, not just the diversification of the economy away from the overdependence on oil, but has also proven, that with required support by investors and adequate funding by government, the revitalization of the Nigeria’s economy is nearer than before.
It is an established fact that Science, Technology and Innovation holds the key to the present and future development of any nation as it plays a fundamental role in wealth creation, improvement of quality of life and real economic growth and transformation in any society