Our method is simple: Harness the innovative spirit that propelled many inventions during the dark days of the Nigerian civil war to grow our faltering economy. The inventive minds that pushed us to make big things out of nothing are still alive and well. All we need at this time is for both our political and business leaders to buy into this redemptive idea.

It is the day that we as a people, have elected to leapfrog the effort in transforming this nation from a beggarly produce-based monolithic economy, exclusively reliant on crude oil revenue to a technology driven, knowledge-based one with limitless potential. If we as a people will thrive in a restructured Nigeria, there is a need for new sets of revenue streams that do not depend on the monthly allocation from the federation account. If Nigeria will survive in the 21st century, it has to be weaned off overdependence on crude oil which is fast being replaced by more environmentally-friendly energy alternatives. This is very crucial to our survival.

In January last year, I wrote a widely circulated open letter to the South-East governors. In the letter, we bemoaned the fact that Ndigbo, with all our famed ingenuity and spirit of enterprise, are punching way below our weight. We reiterated the fact that as a people, based on our current socio-economic realities, we are not just ill-prepared but poorly positioned to function in the present or take on the future.

In addition to widespread insecurity, poor and decrepit infrastructure, the lack of access road between our sister states continues to hamper what should be a seamless movement of goods and services across state lines. Our region has consistently lagged behind others in terms of being a favoured destination for new investment capital. We argued that to survive in a post-oil Nigerian economy, our people need to massively invest in science and technology, so as to transform our nation, in general, and the South-East in particular, to an innovation hub that will spur various economic activities.

Our method is simple: Harness the innovative spirit that propelled many inventions during the dark days of the Nigerian civil war to grow our faltering economy. The inventive minds that pushed us to make big things out of nothing are still alive and well. All we need at this time is for both our political and business leaders to buy into this redemptive idea.

Identify local technology startups with great economic potential and provide them with seed money or capital to grow their initiatives. In this regard, we are happy to partner with a reliable start up incubator called Hardware Garage. This company, domiciled in Enugu and run by young hardworking Nigerians, has successfully midwifed a few local technology companies…

In line with our vision, there are a few steps we believe should be taken to make progress in that direction:

1. Create a conducive environment for innovative minds to develop and thrive. We do not need to be importing toothpicks from China when we have young brains that build drones (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) in our backyards.

We recently completed a N150 million Enugu Tech and Innovative Centre along Enugu-Abakaliki Expressway. It is a 4000 square-metre built space, where innovators or would be innovators have a space to explore their skills. We have approached local colleges and also reached out to the Federal Universities of technology throughout the country in the effort to identify brilliant scientific minds and get them to partner with us and train in our center. This is not a matter of doing the talk, we are actually walking the talk. But we can do a lot more with support.

2. Identify local technology startups with great economic potential and provide them with seed money or capital to grow their initiatives. In this regard, we are happy to partner with a reliable start up incubator called Hardware Garage. This company, domiciled in Enugu and run by young hardworking Nigerians, has successfully midwifed a few local technology companies, all the way from product development to commercial success. We need more of this.

3. Entrench the Annual Enugu Technology and Innovation Fair. This brings together innovators and business people in one place yearly, in a symbiotic relationship that is critical to our effort. The innovators will help develop the parts and equipment needed to service local industries, while business people will help the startups by investing in product research and development. Such an event will also position Ala-Igbo, in particular, and Nigeria, in general, as a technology hub within the West African sub-region.

Not too long ago, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) listed two out of the five South-East states among those with a poverty rate that is higher than the national average. Not only do I feel highly embarrassed walking around with such an unflattering label on a place I call home, but I am seriously troubled by it. I am sure many also feel the same way.

The foregoing are our goal and we are open to collaboration with anyone who is willing and able to complement our effort.

Not too long ago, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) listed two out of the five South-East states among those with a poverty rate that is higher than the national average. Not only do I feel highly embarrassed walking around with such an unflattering label on a place I call home, but I am seriously troubled by it. I am sure many also feel the same way. What that means is that with all the song and dance we make about the Igbo spirit of enterprise, many of our people still manage to find themselves living as the poorest of the poor. Of course, this is not just from the action or inaction of one administration, past or present. It’s a culmination of decades lost to the locust. Things are not looking good my people.

As Ndigbo, our history need not be that way. We are still the same people with an indomitable can-do spirit that defiles all odds. We are still the same people who rose from the ashes of war to build the strongest middle class in sub-Saharan Africa. And yes, we still have what it takes, today and even tomorrow. All that is required is to do away with the toxic mindset of self-defeatist crass individualism that elevates the primitive accumulation of wealth to the detriment of all.

Dr M.I Okpara, the man in whose memory the hallowed ground of the Fair is named after, committed his life fully to the service of our people. It is therefore not surprising that many decades after his demise, his name continues to ring a bell and inspire awe in all of us. I can assure you that M.I was not the richest man of his generation. The task before us is therefore very simple: Be the change that you want in our society and hope to be remembered like Mike.

Osmund Agbo is the CEO of the Enugu Technology and Innovation Centre.

This is excerpted from the speech given during the maiden Enugu Technology and Innovation Fair held on Thursday, August 21 at Michael Okpara Square, Enugu.

Source

Click for More News



Tell us your view below: