Prof. Adesugba’s speech at ‘National Colloquium and Achievers Award for Science and Technology’
National Colloquium and Achievers Award for Science and Technology.
Theme: Accelerating Economic Growth & Competitiveness through Science Technology and Innovation Strategy.
Topic: Science and Technology the Basis for Economic Development.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honor for me to be invited as a guest speaker to this maiden edition of the National Colloquium and Achievers Award for Science and Technology Strategy: STRIA Award. For a good reason, no other venue would have been most suitable for the hosting of this remarkable event, rather than the Raw Material Research and Development Council. As we all know, scientific advancement in modern age is significantly dependent on the tools at the disposal of researchers. In essence, our economic development as a nation is not about the raw materials/resources that were deposited in our land by nature, but our ability through research and development to harness those resources for our economic growth.
The Director General of RMRDC; Dr. Ibrahim Doko, your presence at this event demonstrates the priority you place on the role of science, technology and innovation strategy in accelerating economic growth and competiveness in our country Nigeria. I applaud your efforts in sustaining the core mandate of RMRDC, which is promoting the development and utilization of Nigeria’s Industrial raw materials.
Until recently, economists considered land, labor and capital as the only important economic factors. Even elementary economics taught us that, there are four main factors of production, namely; land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship. To this end, intellectual pursuits and knowledge were seen as unrelated to and without any utility for concrete things.
However, it is now recognized that scientific knowledge is more essential for wealth creation of nations today than either capital or land. The unique property of knowledge unlike physical resources like energy and material is that knowledge is inexhaustible, the more people have access to knowledge the more knowledge is produced.
That a relationship between scientific research and economic growth exists has long been part of conventional wisdom, articulated first by Adam Smith.
However, it is one thing to argue that science affects growth and another, to establish that a relationship exists between R&D and profitability.
Science and technology accelerates the standard of living of a nation whether in agriculture or infrastructural development. During the growth of US economy in the first half of the century, technological changes were more significant than changes in capital and labour. In the 1940’s and 1950’s, 20% of US economic growth stemmed from research and development. Through the application of science and technology, 3.5% of the labour force in the country were in food production. In Africa, on the order hand, due to lack of scientific and technology input, 70% of the labour force are in food production and yet cannot produce enough. The widening gap in the economy between the developed and developing countries is essentially a manifestation of science and technology gap.
The economies of fast developing Southeast Asian countries or Tiger cub economies of Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, had the same economic conditions as many African countries. Thailand and Nigeria in the 1960’s had per capita GNP of $93 and $100 respectively. Today Thailand is now three times more prosperous than Nigeria.
The big question is why is Thailand more successful than Nigeria? Taking a cursory look at the literacy rate of both countries; according to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), Thailand is 96.7% while Nigeria is at 59.6. The low literacy rate in Nigeria and that of other sub-Saharan Africa explains the poor agricultural and industrial productivity, lower standard of living, and lower life expectancy in the region.
One can see why, Africa even with 6.4% of global higher education enrollments, has less than 1/3 that enlisted in science and technology, engineering and mathematics fields. Majority of African countries are literally in a crisis, according to AESA 2017, Africa accounts for 15% of the world’s population and 5% of the world’s GDP but accounts for a meagre 1.3% of global investment in research and development.
In the context of the fourth industrial revolution, with rapid growth in artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, biotechnology, genetic engineering, and big data analytics, it’s clear that Africa needs to do more not to be left behind.
The role of basic sciences; physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics cannot be deemphasized, due to the fact that they form the foundation from which applied sciences, technology and engineering are built. Without a proper foundation in basic sciences, it is very difficult if not impossible to achieve a sustainable scientific development.
Therefore, what are the ways we can better support science, technology and innovation in the future.
Let me quickly proffer a few:
First, we must lay strong foundation in basic science, as it is essential for all research in the applied sciences and for long-term support.
Second, we must detect the budding scientist and mentor them, very early
Third, we must promoting development-oriented research in all our tertiary institutions.
Fourth, we must formulate or advocate for a better national and regional science and technology policies.
Fifth, we must have adequate funding for science, technology, and innovations; funding for research should not be regarded as cost but as an investment.
Sixth, international donors should minimize funding for food aid and subsidy for arms but increase funding for education, science and technology. I must commend Bonny Alaneme for the STEP-A Project, for promoting science and technology as the key to our country’s economic development. Bonny and I are longtime members of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) and he can attest to our investment in human capital development, especially in science and technology. Through the Chamber’s capacity development unit; ACCI BEST, where I happen to be the Provost, we launched BEST1000 on the 3rd of this month. BEST1000 is a program we initiated in partnership with an international donor to train 1000 youths on ICT and other vocational skills before the end of next year. Our aim is to training these youths, mentor them, pick the best of the BEST and invest in whatever project or idea that they come up with that generate more employment for the teeming youths in Nigeria.
In conclusion, without any doubt, we all have recognised that huge benefits abound from scientific and technological advancement. The only way we can experience accelerated economic development is for Nigeria us to imbibe a culture of innovation that promotes science and technology, and this culture is going to be driven by our teeming youth population, who are the country’s sovereign wealth. With youth population of about 87 million, it is our collective responsibility to prepare Nigerian youth with requisite skills for a future that is already here.
At ACCI BEST Centre, we have started ours and I hope you too can start yours by preparing our youths through science and technology.
Thank you very much!