With the turn of the century, Nigeria has made great strides in the science, technology and innovation (STI) sector, with several unique inventions and innovations to show off her development. Also, she boasts series of science publications, with the nation coming off as one with fairly the most published writers for various journals around the world.
However, despite the enormous progress made by the nation in the research and development sub-sector in the sector, Nigeria still lags behind other smaller African countries because of her inability to maintain a standard statistic of all her innovative breakthrough, as exposed by the 2021 Global Innovation Index released by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) which saw her coming in as the 117th.
Nigeria, in 117th place, trails Mauritius which ranked first in Africa, with Kenya coming in at 85, Cape Verde (89), Egypt (94), Namibia (100), Malawi (107), Madagascar (110), Zimbabwe (113) and Burkina Faso (115).
The report attributed Nigeria’s low ranking to lack of data on activities in the innovation space.
An overview of Nigeria’s ranking in broadly seven GII areas shows that business sophistication is her forte and STI infrastructure her weakest.
Speaking during the just-concluded National Council on Science, Technology and Innovation (NCSTI), themed – ‘Investment in research and development: a necessary tool to improving Nigeria’s economy’ in Abuja, the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Barr. Mohammed Abdullahi, pointed out that Nigeria has made great strides in inventions and innovations but the data has not been sufficiently captured by relevant institutions in the country.
He called to the various departments of research, planning and statistics of both the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (FMSTI) and the states, research institutes and innovators to rise to the occasion and provide veritable statistics of the various progress Nigeria has made in the sector.
“We need to provide information on institutional performance, human capital research, infrastructure, market and business sophistication, knowledge and technology outputs and finally creative outputs,” he said.
Understanding these challenges, according to him, President Muhammadu Buhari approved the name change from FMST to FMSTI to widen the ministry’s scope.
“The 117th is, therefore, unacceptable and we must justify the name-change approved by Mr. President and ensure that Nigeria gets into the top 100 three years from now and the top 50 within the next 10 years. We must begin to look beyond the Coronavirus pandemic as an excuse for lagging behind. Other African countries have made progress in innovation during the pandemic,” he added.
Abdullahi emphasised the urgent need for the ongoing review of Nigeria’s STI policy to provide elaborate framework for artificial intelligence and robotics (AI&R), Fintech and other disruptive innovations in order to have a robust, flexible, dynamic and all-encompassing STI ecosystem, saying the current STI roadmap also needs to be reviewed as well to accommodate these current and emerging development in the STI space.
Earlier, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogboannaya Onu, said the Federal Government is currently reviewing the nation’s STI Policy to be compliant with the demands of the 21st and, possibly, the next century.
Onu stressed that the world is moving forward with STI and Nigeria cannot afford to compete in the global space with an obsolete policy. To do this, he said, she must review her policies.
According to him, having been renamed the Federal Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, the ministry has been placed in a better position to drive STI development in the nation and is in the process of reviewing its vision, mission and target deliverables with support from the UNESCO.
Onu said Nigeria cannot be left behind as the world moves ahead and the country must do everything within her power to boost investment in research to grow in the [global] competitiveness ranking.
In his goodwill message, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, called STI a “vital instrument for national development”, saying this can be referenced by the level of development attained by advanced countries globally.
He said the development of STI in the world has created a lot of positive changes and has affected the economic, social and political lives of nations and, above all, turned the world into a global village.
“There is need to reposition the delivery of science and technology education in Nigeria to meet the current global technological explosion through an all-inclusive functional policy and the provision of research grants and legal framework to guide the mobilisation of appropriate interventions for the sub-sector.
“It is, therefore, imperative to connect research and national development in order to build society, polity and economy for the eradication of poverty and unemployment in our dear country. One of the ways this can be achieved is to support research and development by providing a strong financial investment to improve growth and increase economic efficiency,” he added.
Similarly, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, averred that all over the world, when properly harnessed, STI has proven to be the key instrument for industrialization and economy growth.
He called for investment in research and development, considering that Nigeria, as a developing nation, is yet to pay the necessary attention to stimulate investment in research and development, stressing that this has continued to manifest in the nation’s persistent monolithic economy that is over-dependent on oil.
Represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Dr. Ifeoma Anyanwutaku, Mohammed also underscored the need for synergy between the organised private sector and researchers to enhance commercialisation of inventions and innovations.
“There is also need for synergy with the organised private sector to translate into goods and services. It is, therefore, imperative for this council to explore effective ways of financing research and development at all levels of government, so that Nigerians can feel its impact in their socio-economic lives. I am optimistic that given the quality of participants at this meeting, Nigerians will soon feel the desired results,” he added.