Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, has advised the Federal Government to set up a National Science and Innovation Fund, devoting about 20 percent of its oil earnings to driving innovation for a fast-paced tech-enabled growth of Nigeria, to power the country of the future.
“Nigeria needs to set up a National Science and Innovation Fund, devoting about 20 percent of its oil earnings to driving innovation for the faster tech-enabled growth of Nigeria to power the Nigeria of the future,” Adesina said.
The AfDB President has also called on universities in the country to shift away from rote teaching into allowing students to experiment and innovate.
Adesina, who is running for a second term as President of AfDB, made the recommendations at the 13th Bowen University Convocation, where he was the guest lecturer.
“Universities should shift away from rote teaching into allowing students to experiment, try things, put ideas to work and innovate,” Adesina said at the convocation.
“To do this, universities need to have structured institutional arrangements for supporting innovations. In the US, universities set up offices for innovation development and commercialisation of innovations developed by universities.
“Developing patents is not enough. Patents must lead to business and that can only happen through supportive environments for them to thrive. Setting up university foundries is a good way to achieving this.
“Take Purdue University; it runs a foundry that supports its students to turn their ideas into businesses.
“Stanford University has programmes in entrepreneurship for students, start-up garages where ideas are tested and venture studios that it uses to connect graduate students to a world of ideas, other innovators, community of entrepreneurs, including its own alumni.
“How many students here have taken courses on entrepreneurship? How many even know about venture capital or angel investors?
“By the way these are not angels in the Bible, just so we are on the same page!”
The AfDB President advised the students to work towards being employers of labour, warning that, unlike their days when one was employed immediately after school, out of the 13 million that enter the job market on the continent annually, only three million get employed.
“The graduate today is graduating into a world of uncertainty. Over 13 million young people enter the job markets each year but only three million get jobs. Africa will have the largest number of youths joining the labour market by 2030 than all the world taken together,” he said.
The AfDB President stressed the need for young people to embrace agriculture, noting that agribusiness in Africa by 2030 will be worth $1 trillion.
According to Adesina, “one of the young people in Nigeria I am very proud of is Dr Tope Aroge. I met him when I was Minister of Agriculture and provided him a grant of N5 million. He is a medical doctor, now farmer. You may say wow! Yes, go ahead.
“You are wondering why did he change from being a medical doctor to farming? That’s because you do not know that the size of food and agribusiness in Africa by 2030 will be worth $1 trillion. Yes, you heard me right: $1 trillion dollars.
“I did not say naira. Today, Tope has a 300 hectare farm, and he has set up a high quality cassava flour/ industrial starch processing factory which has a 6,000 tonnes capacity. He is an agricultural entrepreneur. Some of you should be like him. Here is why: The future millionaires and billionaires of Africa will not come from oil and gas, but from agriculture sector. So, universities should move beyond agricultural science, to agriculture as a business.”
Adesina also noted that no African university is ranked among top 100 most innovative universities, advising that they borrow a leaf from those that the need to partner with private sector to drive technologies, innovation and entrepreneurship to meet opportunities in the sector.
He said: “The ranking of the 100 most innovative universities is instructive. US universities have 45; African universities have none. Stanford University for the past several years have consistently ranked number one. Others in top ranks are Yale, Harvard and MIT. In the UK you have Imperial College.
“Listen to a quote on Stanford by David M Ewalt published just few days ago: ‘Located in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, Stanford University has played a key role in the development of our networked world. In the early 1970s, Stanford professor Vint Cerf co-designed the TCP/IP protocols that became the basic communication standard for the Internet; and in 1991, physicists at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center deployed the first world wide web server outside of Europe. The university’s faculty and alumni have founded major tech companies including Google, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems.
“’A 2012 study by the university estimated that companies formed by Stanford entrepreneurs generate so much revenue that if they formed an independent nation, it would rank among the 10 largest economies in the world.’
“The lesson is clear: universities must understand the needs of the private sector and look for how to drive technologies, innovation and entrepreneurship to meet those opportunities. That’s the kind of win-win partnerships that the private sector is looking for from universities.
“The world today and more so in the future is and will be dominated by science, technology and innovations. With the fourth industrial revolution, there is rapid advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, automation and quantum data analytics.
“It is not data that will control the world, it is those who control data. Think of it: every time you use Google, WhatsApp a friend, post on Instagram or Facebook your data has been collected.
“While they offer you nice networking social media they are mining your data. Chinese universities are surging forward in the field of artificial intelligence, with rapid research in medical sciences, neurosciences, machine learning and big data analytics. Listen to a recent piece by Sawahel and Sharma: ‘Chinese universities make up 17 out of top 20 academic players in artificial intelligence’”.