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Like China & Japan: NASENI, Path To Nigeria’s Industrial Economy

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Nigeria cannot achieve real development without sustainable industrial growth and manufacturing capacity, essential to addressing poverty, unemployment, and insecurity. Establishing a robust industrial goods production base and a competitive industrial economy is crucial to reducing Nigeria’s dependence on imported goods, technologies, and services.

What is an Industrial Economy?

An industrial economy is characterised by the prevalent use of machines, equipment, or technologies in industry and business. This involves combining various factors such as innovation, production, facilities, supplies, work, and knowledge to produce material goods or services for the market. The presence of sophisticated infrastructure and investments in science, technology, and innovation systems drives a nation’s industrial production and manufacturing capabilities. This determines the nation’s competitiveness in producing processed and manufactured goods, linking industrial activities with the primary sector, local or international trade, and services.

When a nation lacks these factors, it faces industrial underdevelopment, leading to poor social and economic conditions. Countries like Japan and China, which were initially not part of the European nations that experienced the first and second industrial revolutions, have rapidly advanced to join the League of industrialised countries by investing in research and development (R&D), innovation, science, and technology. The Asian Tigers—Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and others—discovered the importance of substantial investments in science and innovation much earlier than many African nations, including Nigeria.

The Importance of Science and Technology

Science, technology, engineering research, and innovation are essential for meaningful industrialisation. For Nigeria, prioritizing these areas in economic recovery and growth plans is crucial. Without this focus, any achieved success will be short-lived or unsustainable. Countries like Japan, the USA, China, Germany, and Indonesia have gained their reputation as economic giants due to their leaders’ previous commitments to R&D investments, earmarking 5-6 per cent of their gross domestic products (GDP) for developing science, technology, and innovation (STI). Investment in STI is a core development factor and the secret behind advanced nations’ leadership and commitment.

NASENI: The Foundation of Nigeria’s Industrial Growth

The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) was established in 1992 to build a robust science and engineering infrastructure base for Nigeria. This base aims to support home-initiated and home-sustained industrialisation through the development of relevant processes, local machine design, and machine-building capabilities for capital goods and equipment manufacturing, thereby guaranteeing job creation, national economic well-being and progress.

Past R&D efforts within NASENI’s mandate have resulted in various technological interventions, leading to capacities in local mass production of capital goods, tools, and equipment across critical sectors such as agriculture, power, water resources, automotive industry, ICT, health, aviation, education, transportation, scientific equipment and manufacturing, and chemical and other engineering materials.

NASENI’s Challenges and Transformation

NASENI was strategically established to produce relevant technologies, set up industrial plants, and stimulate knowledge-based entrepreneurship for Nigeria’s socio-economic advancement. However, its major challenges in the past included a lack of patronage of its products and technologies by local entrepreneurs or businesses, and low commercialization attempts of its R&D results, leaving most of them unused.

With the appointment of a new chief executive, Mr Khalil Suleiman Halilu, there has been a significant shift towards full commercialisation of NASENI’s resources, making them available to the market and end-users of its R&D products, machines, and other equipment to boost the economy. NASENI is a beacon of indigenous technological advancement, aligning with its core mission of fostering dynamic Science and Engineering Infrastructure for national progress.

Under Halilu’s leadership, NASENI has embraced a bold vision to fuel Nigeria’s innovation for a sustainable future through the 3Cs principle: Collaboration, Creation, and Commercialization. This approach has opened more doors to result-based partnerships with national and international communities.

NASENI’s Recent Achievements

NASENI has recently unveiled several branded technological products manufactured in collaboration with its partners, including solar irrigation systems, electric vehicles (from tricycles to motorcycles), home solar systems, animal feed milling machines, laptops, smartphones, solar streetlamps, and lithium batteries. These efforts aim to create jobs and reduce import bills.

The agency is also promoting the development of digital technologies such as mobile financial transaction platforms to integrate more people into the formal economy. It is engaged in additive manufacturing, using 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing technologies to produce goods locally. NASENI has developed an electronic voting solution to reduce electoral malpractices and is working on projects such as smart prepaid meters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to promote economic development in Nigeria.

Vision for the Future

NASENI envisions transitioning its domestic products and manufacturing initiatives from “semi-knocked down” (SKD) to “completely knocked down” (CKD) assembly. The agency plans to increase the input of locally sourced materials in all product components and ensure the full transfer of required Intellectual Property (IP) and technology elements, including licensing for domestication and adaptations.

Halilu has pledged to keep the public updated about Nigeria’s industrial transformational journey, which reflects the agency’s principles of collaboration, creation and commercialisation. “As the only purpose-built agency of the Federal Government in Nigeria with a technology transfer mandate, NASENI will always focus on progressively scaling up local content sourcing and strengthening domestic technical and production capacities,” says Halilu.

NASENI will continue to play a crucial role in Nigeria’s economic transformation, promoting science and technology, developing indigenous solutions to foster economic growth, and supporting infrastructure development essential for manufacturing and economic progress. The agency’s initiatives, driven by R&D and other innovative efforts, will help drive technological advancement and economic development in Nigeria.

Let all hands be on deck at this critical time in our nation’s life as NASENI and its team of stakeholders, partners, and collaborators work to pull Nigeria out of its socio-economic difficulties through STI. According to recent statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s investment in science and technology has led to significant growth in sectors like telecommunications, IT, and e-commerce, contributing around 10-15 per cent to the GDP. However, compared to developed nations where STI investment contributes significantly to GDP, Nigeria still lags. For instance, China’s STI investment contributes around 30-40 per cent to its GDP, the UK’s investment contributes around 20-25 per cent, the USA’s around 30-40 per cent and Indonesia’s around 10-15 per cent.

The lasting solution to Nigeria’s economic challenges lies in continuous investment in science, technology, and innovations as we journey toward industrialisation. In this endeavour, the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) is at the forefront, leading the way.

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