Tech innovation vital to Africa’s global relevance, say dons

Tech innovation vital to Africa’s global relevance, say dons

By AmforGod J. Olisa

Prof. Oyebanji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, Senior Special Adviser to the President on Industrialisation at the African Development Bank Group, emphasized the necessity for Nigeria and Africa to develop robust technological capabilities to compete effectively in global markets. Speaking at the third International Conference of the Faculty of Management and Social Sciences at Lead City University, Ibadan, he highlighted the theme ‘Digital Transformations in Economic, Business, and Socio-political Outcomes in the African Continent’.

Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, also a Professorial Fellow at the United Nations University in the Netherlands, assessed Nigeria’s readiness for digital transformation using the Network Readiness Index (NRI) and Global Innovation Index (GII). He explained, “The Network Readiness Index ranks 134 economies across 60 variables categorized into four pillars.” He noted that the top 10 countries in the NRI are Sweden, Denmark, Singapore, Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom, with no African country in the top 60. Similarly, in the GII, top performers include Switzerland, Sweden, the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Singapore, Germany, and South Korea, with no African nation in the top 51.

Highlighting Nigeria’s low rankings, Oyelaran-Oyeyinka pointed out, “Nigeria does not rank among the top ten African countries due to its low scores in Technology (88), Knowledge (96), Governance (114), and Impact (116).” He stressed the importance of a strong technological foundation for meaningful participation in global markets, particularly in the high-tech sector of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. He noted that manufacturing underpins the infrastructure and systems driving the Services sector, essential for digital transformation.

Oyelaran-Oyeyinka underscored the critical role of industrial policy, which involves government interventions to achieve outcomes beyond market capabilities. “Governments must invest in human capital and infrastructure to foster the development of industries and advance technologies that drive economic growth,” he stated. He cited President Biden’s ambitious industrial policy program aimed at revitalizing the US manufacturing sector as an example.

Addressing current trends, Oyelaran-Oyeyinka advised Nigerian and African governments to leverage their resources to establish manufacturing plants for electric vehicles (EVs) rather than merely purchasing them. He emphasized the evolutionary strategy of moving from traditional manufacturing to smart manufacturing to reboot industrialization processes in Africa.

Prof. Kabiru Adeyemo, the Vice-Chancellor of Lead City University, highlighted the potential of digital transformation to catalyze rapid economic advancement in Nigeria. He stressed the need to address issues such as digital literacy, infrastructure development, and regulatory frameworks to harness the full potential of digital transformation. “Ensuring that our educational systems equip the next generation with the necessary digital skills is paramount,” Adeyemo remarked. He called for investment in robust digital infrastructure and an enabling regulatory environment to support the growth of digital economies.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof. Omolara Campbell expressed appreciation for Oyelaran-Oyeyinka’s insightful lecture, recognizing its value in advancing the dialogue on digital transformation and its impact on socio-economic outcomes in Africa.

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