Osinbajo’s Visit To the United States: A Jumbo Opportunity For Nigeria’s Technology And Creative Sector, By Ojooluwa Ibiloye
Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) are important drivers of economic development. The ability to create, exploit and harness scientific knowledge has become a major source of competitive advantage for national wealth creation and improvements in the quality of life. Some of the main features of transforming to good life are the growing impact of technology and creative industries in the economy and on society. The application of science, development of new products and processes, and a shift to more knowledge-driven services and rising skill requirements in the world today, demands holistic response from every national government.
There is a well-entrenched fact that the higher the level of investment in science, technology and innovation in an economy, the higher the growth and development rate. Nigeria is a country blessed with not only natural resources but also human resources. Tapping into these resources informed why the government is providing an enabling environment for the development of science, technology and innovation. A lot has been done to reposition Nigeria’s technology and creative sectors for global competiveness. Technology and innovation are the backbone of economic growth. To develop the Nigerian economy and make it a sustainable one, the viable role of technological development cannot be sidestepped.
As part of the Industrial Transformation Plan of the Federal Government, the Technology and Creativity Advisory Group was inaugurated in June, 2018, to enable stakeholders to contribute directly to policy formulation, articulation and the design of technology and creative sectors. For the sake of inclusiveness and effectiveness, 54% of members of the advisory council are from the private sector. The public sector only accounts for 8% of the national income and this is reflected in the membership of the advisory group. The outcome of the group would be to provide an inclusive and all-embracing roadmap to promote the technology and creative sectors of the economy in order to create more employment opportunities while also improving the economic condition of Nigerians.
On July 9, 2018, in a bid to improve the nation’s ICT and also position the creative industry for profitability and increase its contribution to the national income, the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo led a public-private sector delegation to the USA, for an investment opportunity road show. It is a deliberate attempt to take Nigerian technological potentials to the world.
During his 3 days visit, he was received by Senior Executives of Google led by its CEO, Sundar Pichai, at the firm’s Headquarters in Silicon Valley, United States. His train also stopped at Hollywood in Los Angeles and at the Fireside where he with Allen Blue, Co-Founder of LinkedIn. The visit showcased the steady improvement in Nigeria’s business environment to entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders. The effect of the trip to the US will definitely be an explosive one for our economy, leveraging on technology and innovation, driven by young Nigerians.
The Vice President noted that technology has become an integral part of today’s life and that is why it is important we not only embrace it but put it to use. This is one of the best things transforming the world today and the government is not just investing but making sure young Nigerians are part of it. Nigerians should expect huge benefits from this visit, for the development of our science, technology and innovation. It is commendable that development of technology and creative sectors are happening and being done by harnessing the potentials of young Nigerians. It is indeed a turning point for tech and creative industries in Nigeria.
A collaboration between Nigerian and US companies in the areas of technology and entertainment, and that of Nigerian Nollywood and US Hollywood in the areas of film production, distribution and content protection will be a major boast for both creative and technology outputs. One could expect that the aftermath of this visit would attract foreign investors to mentor and support start-ups in Nigeria.
Prior to the visit to the US, the Nigerian government, through its National Social Investment Programme, had launched two major innovation hubs in the North-east and South-south region of the country, with an expectation to create additional four in the remaining geo-political zones. Each innovation hub would address challenges peculiar to the region where it is situated. Globally, innovation hubs like the ones the government is creating have become practical platforms to explore scalable home-grown solutions to local problems that are obstacles to national development.
The Student Innovation Challenge (SIC) is also in the list of programmes designed by the government in collaboration with the private sector; conceived to discover innovative ideas among Polytechnic and University students across the country. At least one tertiary institution will host an innovation hub in each geo-political zone. Finding well-tailored strategies to transform the noticeable innovative ideas being developed by young Nigerians informed the visit of the Vice President to the United States.
It was an interactive session when the Vice President met with prominent tech investors in Silicon Valley and at the LinkedIn headquarters, making the whole world know that Nigeria is blessed with young men and women who are ready to make their mark by pushing Nigeria forward in the Global ICT Development Index. Some start-ups from the recently launched innovation hubs also made the trip with the VP and were given the opportunity to pitch their innovative ideas to potential investors, fund managers, entertainment and technology companies.
After this, some rising tech companies in Nigeria are expected to receive endless possibilities which would translate into economic development. We should be expectant to have companies like Google coming to invest heavily in Nigeria and support our young tech-preneurs. The visit could be described as one that’s pregnant with landmark possibilities for our economic productivity and expansion. At a critical moment of our national development, Nigerians can have their belief in a well-focused leadership that is in place.
Success indeed, is not by accident. Some Nigerian stars and members of the creative community who have already made it to the world stage like Innocent Idibia (Tuface) and Laolu Sebanjo also joined the Vice President in an interactive investment forum with institutions and individuals in Hollywood, where they met with representatives from Universal studios, Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, IMAX, Disney and a host of others.
The successes and achievements which will be celebrated by the future generations will be credited to the foundation our leaders are laying now. Without harnessing local potentials, there will be no national growth, and without growth there is no way, as a nation, it will be able to compete globally. The visit by the Vice President to the U.S. is well-timed as it would serve as a jumbo opportunity to make our local industries develop creative contents that’d enable them compete with international industries.
It is worthwhile for all stakeholders; both in the public and private sector to embrace science, technology and innovation as the key to improving economic performance and social well-being. However, for Nigeria to obtain the benefits from these key drivers, the government must continue to put the right policies in place. The government must set limits on public spending and utilize young potentials in economic progress and societal change. The government must sharpen its policy tools to improve ease of doing business in the country.
Increasingly, government must become a facilitator, enabling business and consumers to adapt to the demands and opportunities of a digital economy. The active role of government is indispensable in all these aspects. Efforts should continue to be made to develop improved measures of technological advancement, especially in areas relevant to economic growth and development, which will transform people’s lives and culminate to social well-being.
Ojooluwa Ibiloye, a political and economic analyst, writes from Abuja.