By Dike Aguonye
On December 10, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari took a crucial step to launch Nigeria on the path of technological and innovative ascendancy. He inaugurated a presidential implementation committee on execution of the Nigeria-Czech Republic effort on investment in the provision and maintenance of technological infrastructure. Two agencies from both countries, the Czech Republic Trade and Investment Council (NCTIC) and Nigeria’s National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), are the focal partners of the initiative.
However, the scope of the implementation covers the Presidency, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning as well as the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment. Dahiru Muhammad, chairman of the Presidential Implementation Committee, is a banker and chairman of the Nigeria-Czech Trade and Investment Council. He brings to the table the long history of his business dealings with the Czech Republic as well as his pedigree in years of private sector leadership in Nigeria.
The journey into this national aspiration for technological ascendancy in partnership with the Czech Republic started in November 2013, when Muhammad led his trade and investment team in company of some officials of the Nigerian embassy in Prague, to an interactive visit with the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) to explore areas of mutual investment interests in line with the objectives setting up NASENI. This resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding between both organizations on May 15, 2014.
President Buhari’s inauguration of the PIC, according to Muhammad, “signalled Nigeria’s readiness to move away from sustained political sound bites and platitudes in policy circles to the real and practical initiatives of walking the talk.”
Members of the PIC which include the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment Ambassador Mariam Katagum, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, and agree that, to fully rev up Nigeria’s economic productive potential, the tools of technology and innovation would be fully deployed.
The PIC is already sketching a comprehensive partway to landing Nigeria on the fold of the technology enabled nations of the world. The comprehensive plan includes the creation of new and strengthening of existing technology skill centres in a way that escalates and regulates the acquisition of cutting-edge innovation skills. The committee will also work with relevant agencies and corporate organizations to grow more tech hubs across states and to plug the outputs from the hubs into the local and international innovation market.
Accordingly, it is envisaged that, by this, more Nigerian tech creators and programmers will receive encouragement to participate in design, development and deployment of soft and hardware products able to stand their own in the international market. Already, the initiative that plugs the research journeys and solution outputs of the tech hubs into the competitive economic sphere is envisaged to widen and energize the tech ecosystem. Part of the process of arriving at this is that the relevant Czech Republic tech and innovation institutions will have direct training and internship protocol with Nigerian creators, programmers and potential inventors.
The PIC is believed to be considering a sustainable and justifiable grant system that would be channelled to tech start ups as a major and long-term economic strategy to institutionalize profitable tech driven economic competitiveness across sectors in Nigeria. Already, the idea of using technology as a tool to scale up Nigeria’s industrial competitiveness in agriculture, manufacturing and innovation has since caught up with other sectors. For instance, the Federal Executive Council, chaired by President Buhari recently released a framework for the National Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Centre (NDIEC).
The initiative shall culminate in the building of national ICT park, which insiders within the PIC acknowledge aligns with its mandate of boosting the digital economy, revolutionizing the agro-industrial space, and wide ranging impetus for the growth of innovation driven enterprises that must serve as incubators of cutting edge national tech economy ascendancy.
President Buhari, while inaugurating the PIC, stated that the objective of the initiative was to actualize the core targets of the bilateral agreement on transfer of technology, information sharing between Nigeria and the Czech Republic in relevant areas of need. The President who spoke through Prof. Gambari enjoined the Committee to swing into action by swiftly translating the vision contained in the agreement into tangible positive daily reality for Nigerians.
He expressed the hope that the impact of its work would soon show in reversing the already dire needs that reflect in the myriads of socio-economic challenges facing the country. Nigeria, according to the President, needed a sustained productive economy propelled by technology and new innovative capacity. He said that as part of government’s response for wealth and job creation through technology transfers and adaptation from advanced countries, it had become necessary to revive the implementation protocols of the Nigeria and Czech Republic agreement.
He extolled Nigeria’s potential strategic positioning as a global market destination. Czech Republic, on the other hand, being a formidable technology and innovation provider makes the partnership between both nations the envy of other African countries. The the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure is positioned to serve as a step down agency for the technology interactions that will be activated with the Presidential PIC.
Mohammed, who chairs the PIC, is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Loans and Risk Management, Nigeria, a member of Technical Working Group, Vision 20.20, recipient of an award for Entrepreneurial and Economic Development as well as several other awards and recognition on cost, profitability and business development.
•Aguonye, media and
consultant, lives in Abuja