This week we celebrate Nigeria’s Independence Day. And today, despite coming Federal elections that may divide us, a united battle against militant insurgency, efforts to contain and quell the Ebola virus and the struggle to stifle the spread of bureaucratically admitted corruption, it is important to recognize that Nigeria is far from a pariah state. In fact, ours is a nation undergoing an intricate yet highly visible period of socioeconomic revitalization.
What is leading this drive and encouraging attention, interest and subsequently integration in to our budding jewel of the ECOWAS, in lieu of this challenging climate? Innovation. This is especially true and no doubt relevant, given the coming second edition of the Grassroots Technology Innovation Conference, to be held at Ajegunle-Apapa in Lagos on October 4th.
The entrepreneurial spirit is what separates Nigeria from not only Africa, but from much of the rest of the world. The unbridled opportunity to succeed in flourishing formal and indeed informal marketplaces has drawn innovators from in-country and abroad to the shores of Nigeria, each with a distinct vision and hopefully each bringing with them opportunities for mutually-beneficial growth.
What is clear is that technology will play a lead role in every walk of Nigerian life. It will elevate production levels for the pursuit of greater autonomous agribusiness and pivot from trade dependency. It will empower and educate our students, granting for them a platform for discourse, better connecting them with the world and enhancing our academic curriculum by providing the ability to share intelligence, opinion and insight.
And it is technology that will even assist in taking the fight to Ebola. Representatives of the Africa Emergency Technology Response Forum (AETRF), an informal network of African technology professionals, are presently engaged in attempting to find a lasting solution to the disease and have been tapped to make more concerted efforts to bring robust, technology-driven responses to the table in order to tackle the virus’ potential for outbreak.
Innovation will also deter misconception. The country’s present reputation, in light of the diverse, malleable and persisting hurdles that hinder our trajectory, is in dire need of revision. It is only through promoting the opportunity for individual competition and accomplishment that Nigeria will be able to pull itself up by its bootstraps and away from the low-rung of the prosperity index for which it is presently pigeonholed.
Indeed one of the greatest opportunities lies in connectivity; enhancing communication for Nigeria’s 170 million-plus citizenry.
Nigeria is Africa’s largest mobile market, with more than 125 million subscribers and a commercial penetration of approximately 80% as of 2014. Each year, network operators are investing billions in additional base stations and fibre optic transmission in order to buttress and supply the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth. And this is but an example.
There are, however, great hurdles to innovation’s potential for prosperity in Nigeria. Recently in ThisDay Live, in an article entitled ‘The Cost of Doing Business in Nigeria’, Angela Adeboye suggested that despite the huge opportunity for growth, “…one can scarcely forget the high cost associated with running businesses; physical infrastructure is being improved around the country, but still remains inadequate for businesses to fully rely upon. Protections are abysmal, the regulatory framework is uncertain and the risks of doing business are compounded by [the fact that] the Ease of Doing Business Report of June 2013, ranked Nigeria 147th out of 189 countries globally”.
I believe that Nigeria’s problems, much like its opportunities, can be handled, checked and accomplished in large part by Nigerians. Tapping in to a highly-competitive but nonetheless budding market with a wholly autochthonous product or service is the next step in our drive to elevate from within and play a role in Nigeria’s revitalization intercontinentally and on the world stage as the economic powerhouse it is and will remain. Leveraging human capital while better connecting our citizenries from all walks of life is a leap forward, for which we are glad to play a part.
Ahead of and following the Grassroots Technology Innovation Conference, I look forward to the innovative breakthroughs founded from or excelling within the Nigerian marketplace. For despite the products we provide and the discoveries we together revel in, as writer Elbert Hubbard once stated, “…one machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man”.