UNLOCKING NIGERIA’S POTENTIALS THROUGH TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATION
Part I: Introduction
Nigeria is endowed with abundant human and material resources that she should be able to hold her own in the comity of wealthy nations. These resources are evenly distributed in every region of the country and each region has the potential to stand on its own and contribute to the ‘commonwealth’ of Nigeria. Sadly however, we are still numbered amongst the poorest nations of the world. The rich nations of today are the ones that leveraged on technology and innovation in producing goods and services. Producers of raw goods like us are being left to hold the short end of the poverty stick.
The time is ripe for Nigeria to adopt technology is agricultural production, food processing and even crude oil processing. It is embarrassing that the crude oil we produce contains tar a much-needed material for building roads. The government can unlock Nigeria’s potentials by adopting technological innovation as the central core of its policies and reverse the trend that propels us toward poverty and rut towards a healthy, secure and prosperous nation.
I suggest below institutional measures that will help to harness our rich resources and leverage on the efforts of other nations by ‘standing on the shoulders of giant.’
1. Adoption of technology and innovation as core policy to drive social and economic policy in every aspect of governance in Nigeria; 2. Setting up of Intellectual Property and Innovation Commission of Nigeria as an independent body to regulate and guide the development of technology and innovation drive in Nigeria; 3. Developing and setting up intellectual property infrastructure in order to harness and enhance human and material potentials that exist in Nigeria; 4. Set target and provide support for harnessing potential for national and regional development.
Part II: Adoption of Technology and Innovation as Core Policy for National Development
It is crucial that the federal government adopt technology and innovation as central core of its policy for national development. Studies have shown that more than 50 percent of long-term economic growth stems from technological change (Kim 1977). At present, individual Ministries, departments and agencies are saddled with technology development. However, technology for development is an all-encompassing phenomenon that demands sovereign political will to push through to fruition. The promotion of technology for development requires a collaborative effort among all the departments of governments and partnership between government and the people on one hand and the nation and international community on the other. For technology to serve as a tool for national development therefore, it cannot operate as a stand-alone policy promoted by one department of government but requires a seamless coordination across multiple stakeholders with the federal government of Nigeria as the main driving force.
Another compelling reason for adopting technology as a major policy tool is that technology acquisition partakes of the forces of demand and supply. On the demand side, our quest for the latest technology is almost insatiable and with a population of about 200 million, the market is significant. On the supply side, despite the commendable individual efforts to meet our supply needs (particularly in the areas of information technology), technology supply in areas of processing all primary products requires a paradigm shift. We currently rely on supply on technology transfer through trade and investment, a process underscored by the accumulative theory. Studies have shown that this has limited success in aiding technology transfer to developing countries. On the contrary, many of the Newly Industrialising Economies (NIEs) relied on the acquisition theory which focuses on learning and mastering technologies to achieve success within relatively short term. In our quest for technology acquisition, we can leverage the vast market demand in acquiring technology.
Part III: Setting Up Intellectual Property and Innovation Commission of Nigeria
There is need to design appropriate strategies and formulate policies that form the basis for our innovation and technology development. Technology acquisition is a multi-faceted endeavour embracing skill acquisition, finance, education, social and cultural areas of life. The time is ripe for an independent body – the Intellectual Property and Innovation Commission of Nigeria (IPICN) be established. The functions of the IPICN will include: (i) To work in conjunction with the Federal Government and other stakeholders to sift information and formulate policies and adopt appropriate strategies to guide our innovation and technology acquisition efforts. (ii) To regulate, manage and coordinate the intellectual property and innovation process and Research and Development efforts. The work of research agencies, universities and other bodies will be guided, managed and effectively linked with enterprises and businesses to yield innovative products (iii) Set goals and supervise the attainment of goals (especially on geo-political basis) on competitive and sustainable basis (iv) Modulate and leverage our (almost) limitless demand for technology and our supply needs. This is a complex effort and should form major function of the IPICN.
The idea of IPICN is not new but remained comatose. The existing Intellectual Property Office (a department in the Ministry of Trade and Commerce) is, apart from bureaucracy, constrained in its functions to registration of intellectual property. The nations that succeed in technological development are those that design and actively manage their intellectual property and innovation process. This can best be done by IPICN.
Part IV: Developing and Setting Up Infrastructure
We have Universities and research institutions carrying out research efforts in various disciplines. It must however be noted that technology development actually takes place in the firm. In order to effectively acquire technology, we need to build our absorptive capacity. Developing absorptive capacity is the foundation for technology acquisition. In this regard, there is an urgent need to update our laws protecting, fostering and disseminating technology. In addition, we need the following:
(i) Institutions devoted Train/retraining personnel in technology acquisition. (ii) Effective linkages between our research and development efforts and industry, firms and individuals. (iii) Setting up special courts to determine intellectual property issues.
Multilateral organisations like the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) have tremendous resources to help in this regard.
Part V: Setting Up National and Regional Target
Setting national target for innovation and technology development in the short, medium and long term would be a game changer. This provides a hope and a drive towards which all efforts can be channelled. In addition, every part of Nigeria has a product that can be developed to meet national and international acceptance. In order to ginger innovation and technology acquisition, we can have technology target allocated on geopolitical basis. Each geopolitical cluster can be mobilised with seed money which can only be disbursed according to clearly defined criteria. Efforts should be geared towards achieving results. The hope is that each geo political zone will be focused on achieving results.
The pride of every nation must include economic sustainability and self-sufficiency. The level of poverty and lack of development is one that government in Nigeria, as other third world, must address. There is an urgent need for Nigeria independently start to refine oil, generate energy, turn our raw agricultural and other products into finished goods. Nigeria has the men and the materials to lift her above the poverty lines. It’s time to unluck this potential. Nigeria can build from sustaining our local needs to becoming a force in the international system. It requires hard work, substantial investment and most importantly, political will.
Olusegun Oyedepo LL.M., P.G. IP Cert. (Taught at the Nigerian Law School)