OLUGBENGA SALAMI writes on the latest focus of the Bank of Industry, BoI on technology development in Nigeria and notes that it would further help the country to key into the new trend, which many have described as the bedrock for global development.
In recent times most of its policies of the federal government are tilted towards technology as the main driver of economic development. One major policy statement of government lately is to make Nigeria a destination ground for Business Process Outsourcing, BPO, as well as position the country to be among the first 20 economies of the world in the year 2020, through the vision 20:2020 initiative.
There is no doubt that technology helps in building a nation effectively and efficiently. Besides, it helps in opening business relationship with other friendly nations as well as helping the educational programmes of any country more productive programme more productive effective. Unfortunately, all these laudable initiatives lack technology investment and drive.
It is against this background that the BoI may have developed interest in indigenous technology development of the country. It is a known fact that there is no meaningful development without investment in technology, and the bank seems to get it right because Nigeria must begin to invest in technology education among the youths in order to reduce youth unemployment, and advance the country technologically.
When management of BoI, led by its Managing Director, Mr Rasheed Olaoluwa visited some federal government agencies in Abuja recently, the bank expressed its willingness to collaborate with them to promote indigenous technology in Nigeria. The first point of call was the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, NASENI where he said that BoI was prepared to support and encourage small and medium-scale Enterprises, SMEs that were ready to patronise NASENI’s products.
According to Olaoluwa, there was a direct correlation between technology and the nation’s development, adding that it had been proven that no nation could develop without technology.
“BoI will be prepared to support SMEs that are ready to patronise NASENI’s technology. We are also willing to collaborate with the agency on many of its products like the solar panel and agricultural processing machines.
“A nation that wants to develop must pay attention to technology because it has been proven from the beginning of humanity that technology controls the economy. No matter how hard we try, unless we are able to achieve some form of independence in terms of technology, we are only scratching the surface,” he said.
The BoI boss said the bank’s role was to serve as an active link between centres of innovation such as NASENI with its affiliate institutes and industries, because BoI was seated at the centre of industrial development.
He urged NASENI to get its technology products patented to be able to get returns in form of royalty from its users to sustain the agency.
Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NASENI, Dr. Muhammed Haruna, said the agency was determined to own its technologies locally to drive the nation’s industrialisation. He said that NASENI had launched made-in-Nigeria motorcycles, tricycles, and many other technologies, which included cassava and grain processing machines and solar panel.
He said that BoI’s support for the agency’s innovations would help increase its capacity to produce more. According to him, the possible areas of collaboration expected from the bank include training and capacity development for new and existing SMEs.
Haruna said the agency also needed the bank’s collaboration in the provision of appropriate technologies for entrepreneurs, indigenous industries, SMEs and industrial parks around the country.
“We also need collaboration in technical support and extension services to sustain the growth of new and existing indigenous industries and the development of off-grid electricity generation to support indigenous industries,” he said.
The NASENI boss said the agency had launched five kilowatts of kinetic turbine in Mada River in Nasarawa State, while currently working on 2×35 kilowatts in Ikeji in Osun State.
At the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion, NOTAP, also in Abuja, the BoI signed a partnership agreement with the agency to promote development technology for national development. Olaoluwa, signed the partnership agreement with the Director-General of NOTAP, Dr Umar Bindir.
The BoI boss noted that the impact of the fall in crude oil price had made a lot of Nigerians sensitive, adding that the need for diversification had brought about thinking towards innovations in technology. He said the bank intended to link the centres of innovation to industrialists, small and medium-scale enterprises, SMEs to prevent wastage of ideas generated in the laboratories.
Olaoluwa, however, urged NOTAP to make technologies in its data base available to the bank to enable it to share with its customers. He said the report of the United Nations Commission for Africa in 2013 advocated for commodity-based industrialisation for the continent, adding that most African countries derived their revenues from products.
According to him, agricultural products, crude oil and solid minerals are the major products that Africa rely on, adding that there is a need to add value to the products through technology. “We want to link the centres of innovation like yours, like NASENI and FIIRO to industrialists, SMEs; otherwise the ideas will die in the laboratories. We are interested in assisting the Nigerian companies in leapfrogging because the rest of the world are moving at a fast pace in technology with a lot happening on a daily basis”, he said.
Olaoluwa added, “A Chinese company called “Chao mi” that started only in 2010, about five years later, is now the third largest phone maker in the whole world after I-phone and Samsumg. That tells me that if we can work together and put the right elements in place, we can actually leapfrog and become frontier in the next five to 10 years.”
NOTAP Director General said that Nigeria had many innovations that had been on the research table for some time without further development and utilisation. Bindir said that most of the technologies in the country today were foreign, using local products which “have not added value to the country’s economy”.
According to him, technology is not just about the product, “you must understand the industry and the packaging because technology is all about patenting and Intellectual Property Right, IPR issues’’.
During the BoI’s visit to the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA in Abuja, the managing director disclosed the plan of the bank to establish a venture capital fund to support information and communication technology, ICT development in the country.
Olaoluwa explained that the venture fund would be administered through partnership with relevant government agencies. According to him, the bank is in discussion with some interested parties on the fund with a view to identifying Nigerian companies that have the capacity to support the innovations.
“We want to work with a number of interested parties to set up a venture capital fund. We know that the Ministry of Finance is putting one together and we will consider the possibility of participating in that.
“But beyond that, we have also reached an advance stage in our discussions with another interested party to support the small Nigerians that really want to create and add value”, he said.
Olaoluwa said that the fund would also focus on providing support for those with ideas that could be developed into job creation in the country.
The BoI boss pledged the bank’s commitment to partner NITDA to support technological innovations in the country, adding that no nation would have meaningful development without technology.
He argued that Nigeria was sharing her crude oil proceeds with foreign companies like Shell, Chevron and others, because they had the technology for exploring it.
Director General of NITDA, Mr. Peter Jack commended the bank for its interest in collaborating with the agency to promote investment in technology.
Jack said that the agency was currently involved in a number of initiatives to support small businesses in information technology. He said that Abuja Technology Village was an investment opportunity to explore, adding that efforts were on ground to relocate the GSM village to the area for investment gains.
Today, a good number of technologically backward countries are poor, unable to feed their teeming population, are debtors, have low life expectancy figures, and to a large extent have inept leaders. They are unable to exploit the natural resources within their domain on their own.
All developing nations in the world should strive to quite the stage of dependency to an industrialised dependent nation. This will help the citizenry.
The federal government should give more concern to technological advancement to our country, Nigeria. They should bring new modern technological equipment for school and trained qualified personnel who can make good use of it in impacting or using it to teach the learners effectively and efficiently. Because new technological equipment has opened up new opportunities for developing countries like Nigeria, which possess the required skills to provide expert-oriented service such as data entry, data processing and software development.
Achieving all these technological equipment it will provide job opportunities for many Nigerians for the economic and social development of our nation.