It goes without saying, that technology is the only language the entire world now understands. Indeed, technology is the single most important factor for economic
growth and industrial expansion. Without technology, no nation can stand, talkless of grow. Technology is what transforms nations from third world to first world.
Technology is the oil that has transformed Asian nations from poverty stricken disease infested ghettos into economic powerhouses and military bastions of influence.
The much talked about diversification of Nigeria’s economy through agriculture can only be possible through science, technology and innovation. We cannot speak of diversification or transformation of agriculture without making huge transition from hoe and cutlass to technology driven farming as is practiced in Israel and other progressing nations.
Building to add value to natural resources is the path to sustainable growth and development. This can only be possible through investment in science and technology through education. In the global economy driven by science, technology and innovation, Nigeria cannot afford to continue to lag behind.
The reality is that Nigeria can never be a technological powerhouse in Africa and the world unless it addresses its infrastructure challenge, especially in the area of electric power. This much was brought to the fore at the 70th birthday lecture and book presentation of the Emeritus Chairman of DAAR Communications Plc, Chief Dr Raymond Dokpesi, in Abuja.
Dr Dokpesi is himself a marine engineer and a doctor of engineering! At the event eminent Nigerians, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Prof. Pat Utomi, and Dr. Ernest Ndukwe, urged the Federal Government to stimulate technology by tackling decay in the power sector. Without solving the power crisis, Nigeria will continue to be relegated to the backseat in a technology driven world.
The theme of the lecture was, “Technology: A Missing Link in Nigeria’s Development.” Speakers at the event expressed sadness that the abhorrence of the federal government to technology was costing the country trillions of dollars in foreign investments.
According to Ernest Ndukwe, Chairman of MTN Nigeria, the world is currently experiencing massive transformations in various sectors which are completely driven by new technologies, stressing that inadequate technology infrastructure was the bane of Nigeria’s development. He pointed out that it is those nations that lead in the development of new technologies that will emerge leaders of the world.
In the same vein, Prof. Pat Utomi opined that Nigeria’s technological backwardness had become an existential threat to the nation.
“Government policies have not enabled technology to advance as it should in our country. We need policy makers who are savvy enough to understand where things are going. There is no area of our endeavour that we don’t require technology if we mean to go far. One of the biggest setbacks in the country is power.
“It is a tragedy and a shame to our country that the power situation is where it is today. We cannot make progress, as a nation, until we deal with power, because it is so fundamental. But we could have solved the problem 20 years ago.”
On his part, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said Nigeria needed a leadership that understood technology and was willing to reform the economy through digital innovation. He added that Nigeria needed a technology enthusiast as president.
In his remarks, founder of DAAR Communications, Dokpesi, said that Nigeria’s growth and development would be realized only if political leaders could create new economic opportunities, and transform the society through technology. Against that backdrop, Dokpesi opined that science and technology held tremendous benefits for Nigeria’s economic growth.
Given the well-known benefits and strategic importance of science, technology and innovation to the development of any nation, budgetary allocation to the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, a ministry that is supposed to drive the technological advancement of the economy has been paltry and pathetic. A few statistics will suffice. From analysis, Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation for the past ten years received an average of 0.76 per cent of the federal budget.
Often, annual budgetary allocations to the ministry only cover staff emoluments and nothing more. In 2018, only 0.01 per cent of the federal budget was earmarked for research and development. This represented 1.87 per cent of the ministry’s budget, as recurrent expenditure accounted for 42.8 per cent of the ministry budget in the same year.
In the 2019 appropriation bill, the ministry with over 17 agencies, geared toward facilitating the development and deployment of science and technology got a paltry allocation of about N66.82 billion. The allocation was less than one per cent of the proposed 2019 budget and was the least in the appropriation bill. Even the office of the secretary to the government of the federation got more funds than Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.
In the 2020 federal budget, the ministry was allocated about N105 billion, while the capital expenditure for the ministry was about N63 billion. Also, in the 2021 federal budget, the ministry was allocated a paltry N50.73 billion amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which had shown the need for more investments in the sector!
How could the ministry that was established with the mandate to formulate, monitor, and review the National Policy on Science, Technology, and Innovation (NPSTI), to attain the macro-economic and social objectives of the Vision 20:2020 as it relates to science and technology be treated this way in budgetary allocations? It shows that we are not serious about developing homegrown technologies and innovations to meet our needs.
It simply means that we will continue to depend on the developed countries to the detriment of our nation.
Annually, the two arms of the federal government – the executive and the legislatures – collude to starve science and technology of the necessary funds needed to make science and technology the catalysts for Nigeria’s orderly and rapid socio-economic transformation. The executive and the legislatures are therefore responsible for Nigeria’s
technologically backwardness. This sad narrative can be changed by these two arms of government by prioritizing investment in science, technology, and innovation. The two arms of government should learn from other countries.
Between 2009 and 2013, allocations to research and development amounted to three percent or more of the GDP in Israel, Japan, Germany, and South Korea. Compare with Nigeria which according to President Muhammadu Buhari will allocate only 0.5 percent of the nation’s GDP to research and innovation. Compare that allocation to that of other countries, you will realize how unserious we are.
The failure of Nigeria to adequately fund research and development is clearly shown by the difference in the numbers of patents applied for in countries such as the China and United States of America. Between 2009 and 2011, the number of patents application in China was 310,330, USA 238,213 respectively. In the same period, Nigeria had 43 patent applications.
Again, between 2006 and 2009, scientists in China published an average number of 50,376 research papers in peer-reviewed journals; Nigerian scientists only succeeded in publishing 440 papers.
It is therefore obvious that unless there is improved funding and encouragement of scientific research, Nigeria will continue to be in the backyard of technology and innovation. And without technology, we will continue to stagnate.
– This column wishes Dr Raymond Dokpesi, a resounding 70th birthday celebrations.