FULL TEXT OF THE KEYNOTE ADDRESS ON SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION: THE WAY FORWARD DELIVERED BY DR. OGBONNAYA ONU, MINISTER OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ON THE OCCASION OF THE 2016 FOUNDERS DAY CELEBRATION OF THE UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA, NSUKKA HELD AT THE PRINCESS ALEXANDRIA AUDITORIUM ON THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2016

PROTOCOL:

I am happy to stand before you in this beautiful auditorium on the sacred soil of Nsukka as I deliver the keynote lecture on science, technology and innovation: the way forward on the special occasion of the 2016 Founders Day celebration of your university: the one and only University of Nigeria which is the proud den of Great Lions and Lionesses. May I use this opportunity to thank the Vice Chancellor for inviting me as guest speaker. As this great institution of higher learning celebrates its fifty-six years of existence, I specially salute the founder of this great university, Rt. Hon Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the First President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Owelle of Onitsha, a man of great learning, a foremost nationalist, a visionary leader, the philosopher king, the one and only Zik of Africa. I salute him for conceiving this great idea. I also will like to thank the entire community of academics, administrators, staff and students who through hard work and dedication to their duties are keeping alive the lofty dreams of the Founding Father of this great institution-very aptly captured in its motto: “To Restore the Dignity of Man”.

Your university, as the first indigenous Nigerian University, has made important contributions to nation building. World acclaimed writer and author, Chinua Achebe held research and teaching appointment in the University. Renowned astrophysicist Sam Okoye founded the Space Research Center. The university has the first and also the oldest law faculty in the nation. Professor Njoku Obi, a professor of virology developed a cholera vaccine that was approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The first open heart surgery in Nigeria took place in the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital. Recently reports show that a new agent against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) virus derived from a local plant source is undergoing initial clinical trials. It is important to mention that the international award winning Novelist, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose literary prowess has grown to become a global brand, is a distinguished alumnus of this institution. I want to very specially acknowledge Professor Francesca Okeke of the department of Physics who won the UNESCO Science Award for Women in science in 2013 for her research on climate change. In the same vein, we owe a great deal of gratitude to the lecturers and professors who dedicated their talent and professionalism to ensuring that the tradition of excellence upon which the University of Nigeria was founded was sustained from generation to generation. Indeed, on the contribution of these distinguished lecturers, an event like this brings to the fore the age long saying that a student can only be as good as the quality of the instruction he received from his teachers.

The contributions of your university to the search for knowledge, particularly scientific and technological knowledge, is highly commendable. I have come to speak to you on this special occasion so that we can collectively examine what is it that is preventing our dear nation from developing to become a truly great nation. In history, both in ancient and modern times, no nation has ever become truly great without science, technology and innovation. Indeed, developed nations are those that embrace science, technology and innovation, while others that do not, remain undeveloped. Hence nations, both big and small, know that knowledge, particularly technological knowledge, is central to development, social progress and human freedom. Such nations invested heavily in the pursuit of knowledge, particularly scientific and technological knowledge. The problems that confront a nation are usually numerous and diverse. However, with hard work and determination, when such problems are subjected to the searchlight of knowledge, solutions are found. It was the renowned Prussian military strategist, Carl Van Clausewitz (1780-1831) who, after studying the numerous problems that confront a people, observed that “all military problems are political, all political problems are economic and all economic problems are scientific and technological”.

The United States of America which, under 170 years, between 1776 when she became independent and 1945 when the Second World War ended, had become a super power, attached a lot of importance to scientific and technological knowledge. The USA not only had and still remains the largest economy in the world, but also dominated the globe militarily and culturally. Most of the scientific and technological inventions that shaped the 20th century were discovered in the United States.

At the beginning of the 20th century in 1903, the mass produced automobile, the full length motion picture and the air plane made their debut in the USA. The spacecraft which landed a man in the moon and safely brought him home, the personal computer with its software and the silicon processor which is its brain, are all American inventions. Even the nuclear bomb, which put a lot of fear into the hearts of men and women all over the world, was also an American invention. The American attitude to knowledge was shaped from the beginning of the republic. Bernard Cohen in his book: Science and the Founding Fathers showed that the founding fathers of the USA were men who were seriously influenced by the science of their days. Three out of them became president. Science influenced their political thoughts both in and out of office. George Washington, the first American president, in his farewell address at the end of his presidency strongly advised his fellow Americans to support “the diffusion of knowledge”.

I will like to use this opportunity to state that the change which the APC has brought will help to transform Nigeria into a truly great nation. Nigeria is a nation of destiny. From the very beginning of her history, it is very clear that the hand of God has remained in the affairs of the nation. Nigeria has successfully survived many very challenging circumstances which had brought some other countries to their knees. I am convinced that if there had not been a country like Nigeria, the world would have needed one. We must all work together to build a Nigeria that is united, strong, stable, peaceful and prosperous.

The Japanese miracle gripped the world in the second half of the 20th century. Japan which was essentially a developing country by the end of the Second World War in 1945 had, under forty years, transformed herself then into the second largest economy and later was overtaken by China to become the third largest economy in the world. The root cause of her spectacular rise was traced to the acquisition of knowledge.

Even countries, small in population and land mass, have attained greatness by embracing knowledge. Only few people gave Singapore, one of the smallest countries in the world much chance of survival when she gained independence in 1965. Thirty-five years later, at the end of the 20th century in 2000, the former British colony’s trading post became a thriving modern Asian metropolis. Singapore then had the world’s number one airline, best airport and busiest port of trade. The people of Singapore then enjoyed the world’s fourth highest per capita real income. Today, her gross domestic product (GDP) has continued to grow.

Lee Kuan Yew, the acknowledged father of Singapore, in his book: From Third World to First: The Singapore Story; 1965-2000, explained how by integrating technology into the country’s businesses, government and homes, he used the power of the internet to position Singapore for survival and success in the knowledge economy. Being fully aware, the people of Singapore effectively deployed technology to transform their country from a poor dilapidated colony to a rich, modern and prosperous nation.

Political leaders and scholars do know the importance of knowledge in the developmental process. Winston Churchill, one of the greatest Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, in his broadcast of 1943 remarked that: “the future of the world is to the highly educated races, who alone can handle the scientific apparatus necessary for pre-eminence in peace and survival in war”. Also it is remarkable that Israel based her national development plans on the prediction of Charles P. Steinmetz (1865- 1923) that: “there will come an age of independent nations whose frontline of defence will be knowledge”.

Many developing countries, between the last two decades of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, made remarkable progress in their economic development. Such development was sustained over a long period of time. In every case, technological knowledge was employed to start and in most cases helped quicken the pace of economic growth and development. Notable among such countries, were those with large population such as China, India and Brazil.

China, though with a history of great achievements was once a poor country, but recorded an unprecedented high rate of economic growth averaging more than a per capita GDP growth rate of 8 percent over a period of more than three decades, stretching from 1979-2013. Within this period, China, with slightly less than one fifth of the world’s population, doubled her economy three times over to become the second largest economy in the world. This spectacular growth has no equal in modern history. China feeds 1.4 billion of her citizens. This is a major achievement. Do we imagine what would have happened to food prices in the world if the rest of the world had to feed 1.4 billion Chinese people?

India, with one of the oldest recorded civilizations in the world, entered the 21st century with a population of more than a billion people. She embraced technology and witnessed a high economic growth rate which was sustained for many years. Her achievements in so many areas were spectacular. She became a net exporter of food, a very impressive achievement in view of the huge shortage of food which India experienced in her immediate post-independent period. India built a strong industrial base, modernized her military and became both a nuclear and a space power.

Brazil is the most populous country in Latin America. She is also the industrial giant of the region. By utilizing the enormous power of science and technology in exploiting her abundant natural resources and a huge labour force she, in the 1970s, became the leading industrial power of Latin America. Agricultural production, scientific research, innovation and technological development also improved considerably. By the 1990s, Brazil had one of the world’s largest economies. Though Brazil currently experiences enormous challenges, yet her achievements through the effective utilization of science and technology for nation building is impressive.

Nations that are anxious to develop have long known that if they desire to modernize and be competitive, the only road to follow is that of knowledge, particularly scientific and technological knowledge. It is important to observe that just as the acquisition of knowledge helped many countries attain very high standards of living, so also its neglect inevitably result in the decline of the influence of those nations. Arnold Toynbee in his monumental work: A Study of History where he studied twenty-one great civilizations and Jim Nelson Black in his book: When Nations Die are both in agreement that intellectual apathy and lack of vision led to the disintegration of the structures that made civilization possible.

Nigeria, in her post-independence history did not pay sufficient attention to the crucial role which science and technology plays in nation building. The impact of this trend in development on our economy can be better appreciated if we can examine the nature of our exports within the past fifty years for both Nigeria and South Korea.

In 1962, Nigerian exports comprised of green groundnuts (16%), palm nuts and kernels (11%), natural rubber, latex and gums (7%), sawlogs and veneer logs of non-coniferous nature (5%), raw cotton (4%), crude petroleum (15%), raw and roasted cocoa beans (19%), oil cake (2%), palm oil (5%), peanut oil (3%), unwrought tin and alloys (4%), etc.

Also in the same year 1962, South Korean exports comprised of vegetable origin materials (7%), animal origin materials (4%), flora in pharmacy (3%), other non-ferrous base materials (10%), semi or wholly milled rice (11%), unprepared rice in the husks or husked (7%), raw silk (10%), clay and refractory minerals (4%), fresh chilled, frozen or salted crustaceans and mollusks (11%), swine, pig (4%), unbleached cotton wool (4%), quartz and mineral (2%), salted, dried or smoked fish (4%), etc.

It can be seen that in 1962, both Nigeria and South Korea exported essentially unprocessed commodities, with little input from science, technology and innovation. Nearly fifty years later, the situation changed completely. The technology content of the exports of the two countries differed considerably.

In 2011, South Korean exports had transformed to industrial products and already processed commodities comprising refined petroleum (8.69%), integrated circuits (8.5%), broadcasting equipment (4%), wholly manufactured cars (not assembled) –(6.5%), passenger and cargo ships (4.5%), special purpose ships (3.38%), vehicle parts (3.08%), LCDs (4%), others were hot-rolled iron, cold-rolled high tensile iron, broadcasting accessories, hydrocarbons, chemical products, vehicle tyres, ethylene, propylene, polyesters and polyethylene, telephone and telecommunications, equipment and machinery etc.

Also in 2011, on the other hand, Nigerian exports still remained as nearly unprocessed commodities, although there was a shift to crude petroleum (78.41%), petroleum gas (9.12%), refined petroleum (6.69%). Hence, as high as 94.22% of exports became petroleum based. The traditional non-oil unprocessed commodities were virtually no longer exported.

It is clear that in 1962, both Nigeria and South Korea exported nearly unprocessed commodities. Nearly fifty years later in 2011, Nigeria still exported nearly unprocessed commodities. Though Nigeria exported commodities in 2011, the situation had become so bad such that she had become essentially a mono-product economy, as virtually all her exports (94%) were petroleum based. On the hand, South Korea had between 1962-2011 become an industrial power exporting broadcasting equipment, wholly manufactured cars; passenger, cargo and special purpose ships. What is most interesting is that though South Korea does not produce crude oil, but she exported refined petroleum products. This should not be surprising because while South Korea paid a lot of attention to science, technology and innovation, Nigeria did not. No wonder data from the World Bank on Investments in Research and Development (R&D) between 2005 and 2014, the expenditures for R&D as a percentage of the GDP for South Korea was as high as 4.15% while that for Nigeria was as low as 0.22%.

Perhaps, for us to properly understand the enormity of the damage that the neglect of science, technology and innovation has done to our national development, it has become necessary to start with a review of Nigeria’s standing in current global comparative statistics on the contribution of scientific innovation to national development. The Global Innovation Index 2016 (www.globalinnovationindex.org), published by the Johnson Cornell University in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) ranked Nigeria 114 out of 128 countries of the world on innovation. Nigeria stands behind such sub-Saharan African countries as Mauritius (53rd), South Africa (54th), Kenya (80th), Rwanda (83rd), Mozambique (84th), Botswana (90th), Namibia (93rd), and Malawi (98th). The critical indicators used for ranking, include human capital development, Research output, Development funding, university performance and international dimension of Patent application. For me, it is a matter of grave concern that of the countries ahead of Nigeria in Sub-Saharan Africa, only South Africa can compare with Nigeria in terms of economic resources and science and innovation potential. Therefore, why other countries which are less endowed than Nigeria actually performed better confirms the fact that we have not considered science, technology and innovation as a critical component of our economic growth strategy. It is important that we appreciate that we risk being left further behind. This is sad, if the trend continues.

In another related Report, the World Economic Forum’s 2015/16 Global Competitive Index ranked Nigeria 106 out of 140 countries on technological readiness and 107 out of 140 countries on innovation. The indicators for Technological Readiness include availability of latest technologies (99 out of 140); firm level technology absorption (91 out of 140); foreign direct investment and technology transfer (71 out of 140). On innovation, the indicators include capacity for innovation (82 out of 140); quality of scientific research (129 out of 140); company spending on research and development (108 out of 140); university – industry collaboration in R & D (122 out of 140); government pro – industry collaboration in R & D (122 out of 140); government procurement of advanced technology products (117 out of 140) and availability of scientists and engineers (98 out of 140). If we critically compare these two reports, it will be obvious that the position of Nigeria is quite unenviable, given the size of our economy and the potential of human and natural resource endowment at our disposal.

It is important to point out that when I became the Minister of Science and Technology in November 2015, this was the state of science, technology and innovation in our dear country. I decided to stand up, fold my sleeves and go to work to rapidly improve our technological readiness and level of innovation in the country. I know that the journey ahead is filled with a lot of challenges but I am confident that the work can and will be done. Nigeria cannot continue to be a mono-product economy where our export consists of essentially unprocessed commodities. This makes our economy very vulnerable and hence unable to withstand shocks that arise whenever there is a sharp decline in the prices of commodities in the international market. It also makes us almost completely reliant on imports to meet our national needs. This has made our dear nation essentially a consumer nation that produces very little but depends on imports for majority of our needs. This has many adverse effects as it creates very serious unemployment problems, aggravates poverty and puts very serious pressure on our currency. Imagine that thirty-five years ago in December 1981 when I returned to our country from my studies in the U.S.A., N1 was worth US$ 1.72. Many people, particularly those who had not been born by then, may have difficulty in believing this but be assured that it is true. What do we have today, thirty-five years later? It is very disturbing that with the huge and abundant human and material resources available in the country, one would have expected our currency to either appreciate or maintain its value relative to the reserve currencies in the world, but rather it depreciated to such a level that it is not even at par with the dollar.

This situation calls for a very serious work, it calls for us as a nation to start doing what is right. We have to carefully look at the road we have travelled so far and find out if it is the right route. I am happy that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is willing and ready to reverse this for the good of the nation. We are currently working on how to increase funding for research and innovation in the country. Our current level is too low and has not helped us so far. We are also working to ensure that our research is market driven. We are identifying areas we have comparative advantage so as to channel our resources to those areas. We are encouraging the organized private sector to come in and take advantage of the work we have done in our research institutes, so as to commercialize our research findings. We have to make available the outcome of the research works we do in the market place so as to be of benefit to our people. We have to start producing the things we need. We have for the sake of love of country to start consuming what we produce locally. We must protect our local industry so as to help them grow. The taste for foreign goods that we developed over the years, can no longer be sustained. We must be satisfied with the things that we produce locally. They need not be the best, but they will be safe enough for our needs such that by patronizing them, we thereby encourage our entrepreneurs such that over a period of time, they can improve the quality of their products. I am confident that by doing so, the nation will be the better for it.

In order to achieve this, we have to transform our economy from being resource based to become a knowledge based, innovation driven economy. This is the only way that any diversification of the economy can be inclusive, sustainable and competitive. In order to ensure that this is achieved, as the Minister of Science and Technology, I have embarked on very serious reforms involving the strengthening of institutions, improving coordinating and supervisory capabilities, strengthening the linkages between research institutes, universities and industry, protection of intellectual property, commercialization of research findings and effective mobilization of Nigerians on the relevance of science and technology to nation building.

It is our desire to make science and technology relevant to the lives of ordinary Nigerians. We are using science, technology, innovation to support the nation’s quest for food security, so that we can in the shortest possible time be in a position to feed ourselves. Through the production of high yielding and disease resistant seedlings, improved planting methods, better use of fertilizer and pesticides, improved harvesting, storage, preservation and processing techniques, science, technology and innovation are of critical importance in the food farming chain. It is science, technology and innovation that can reduce the labour content and hence help make agriculture a business. Science, technology and innovation can also play very important roles in mass education, good healthcare delivery system, protection of the environment, disaster monitoring and control, water resources management, effective communication, infrastructural development, defence and national security, etc.

We must aim to use science and technology to create jobs and wealth for our people, reduce poverty and work towards eliminating abject poverty, build an inclusive, competitive and sustainable diversified economy. We want to produce people like Bill Gates in Nigeria. We want our young people to know that they can become rich and wealthy through science and technology. Using NOTAP, one of the agencies under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, inventors can be assisted to secure patents to protect their intellectual property. We are working hard to establish a National Research and Innovation Fund which will assist researchers to do their work and a Technology Bank to provide venture capital to assist inventors.

Our aim is to make Nigeria the technology hub of Africa. In order to achieve this, we must develop the appropriate technology to add value to the abundant material resources in the country. We must efficiently deploy science and technology to harness and convert our abundant natural resources into the products we need in our homes, offices, schools and hospitals. In the past, we did not do well in this direction but the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is determined to change all these. Imagine what we have been losing in revenue by not processing our abundant natural resources.

It is important to point out that one ton of dry cocoa beans cost US $3,079. Just by roasting and grinding it to a cocoa paste/liquor, the cost of one ton increases to US $5, 000. If further pressed and processed to cocoa butter, the cost further increases to US $8,000 per ton. In the cocoa value chain analysis, whereas the farmer who grows and harvests the cocoa gets 6.63%, the manufacturer who converts cocoa to chocolate gets as high as 35.19%.

This is also true with crude oil refining. In 2012, the price of crude oil was US $95.28/ barrel. By refining it, the following were produced: gasoline, distillate fuel oil, kerosene, residual fuel oil, liquefied refining gases, asphalt and road oil, petrochemical feed supplies, lubricants, waxes, aviation fuel and others at a total value of US $152.29. Hence changing from crude oil to refined products represent a 60.47% increase in value. Hence through crude oil refining, Nigeria could earn an extra 60% of value per refined barrel of crude oil. This explains why the biggest refineries in the world are located in countries that do not even produce crude petroleum such as India, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Italy and Germany.

Mr. Vice Chancellor, most distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I have gone this far to show that if we can deploy science and technology through research and innovation, we can make Nigeria one of the very top economies in the world. I have come to urge you, staff and students of this great university to start thinking big and dreaming dreams. We at the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology are thinking big and we will help you to transfer your dreams to reality. We are probing the secrets of our plant life, studying the very basics of life itself. We are doing research in very exciting areas like biotechnology, space science and technology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. Our space programme has a roadmap which when properly funded will join other notable space programmes in the world to have a better understanding of space. The present recession has come with its own difficulties and challenges but definitely our future is bright. The Federal Ministry of Science and Technology will support this great university in some of its research efforts.

May God bless you all and bless our country.

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