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Nigeria must build a culture of innovation for long-term growth- Report

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Nigeria must embrace and build a culture of innovation in critical sectors if the country must move forward and achieve long-term economic growth, according to the recommendations of a report presented on Monday.

The report titled “Imagine Nigeria” is an initiative of the Federal Government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is billed for launch on Wednesday, August 10, 2022.

Lead advisor, Imagine Nigeria, Olugbenga Adesida while presenting the abridged version of the report in Abuja, said Nigeria was at a turning point, explaining that the challenges from COVID-19 and the nation’s socio-economic difficulties call for a national conversation on how to build a desired future for all.

According to him, “there is no better time to think about the future of Nigeria than now”. Adesida explained that constructive consultations involving 300 people from all over the country and abroad were held at various levels to reflect on Nigeria’s future, imagine new possibilities, and propose a portfolio of big ideas that could lead to a sustainable and prosperous nation for all, which resulted in the Imagine Nigeria report.

The report, he informed, argues that three main policy interventions are required to push Nigeria towards a brighter future which can be summarised in three words: innovation, green economy and regional leadership while two additional recommendations, building trust and articulating the national narrative, are the foundations on which these policy interventions must be built to ensure success.

“Its findings suggest that an economic, social and political revolution built on the culture of innovation would enable Nigeria to leap into the 21st century, transforming human capital and underpinning a fast-growing economy. Building on this, the report argues that a push to go green is the right option for Nigeria, resulting in faster growth and better outcomes across the board, for businesses and communities alike. As well, strong regional leadership, particularly in trade, is the key to Nigeria’s growth,” the lead advisor said.

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“In exploring the future, the Imagine Nigeria report highlights the critical importance of the nation’s need to domesticate and democratise technology as well as govern itself in a way that prioritises the population at large. Critical issues include the need for trust and dynamic government as well as the need to forge an ‘Africa narrative’ led by Nigeria through strategic use of its soft and hard power to foster collaboration across the continent and the emergence at the global level,” he further said.

He noted that the Imagine Nigeria report was, therefore, not the end of the process but the beginning of a national conversation on the future.

The report was led by a high-level panel and its members include Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Zainab Ahmed, minister of finance, budget, and national planning; Ibrahim Gambari, chief of staff to the president of Nigeria; Clem Agba, minister of state for budget and national planning; Mohammed Yahya, resident representative of UNDP Nigeria, among others.

Lanre Shasore, coordinator, Imagine Nigeria Secretariat, and senior special assistant, planning and coordination, office of the vice president, explained that Nigeria expanded the proposed innovation fund to drive innovation across all critical sectors of the economy.

“To build a culture of innovation, we may want to establish an innovation fund. And as a matter of fact, work is being done to establish a $500 million dollar innovation fund, but this report recommends that we may want to make that fund bigger,” she added.

Shasore said the world was going green with the goal to achieve net zero, hence, Nigeria must begin to prepare for a zero oil future. She also said Nigerians needed to facilitate a national narrative, stressing that “it’s whatever we (Nigeria) say we are that we are”.

Simon Ridley, chief technical adviser, UNDP, noted that the report sampled opinions from hundreds of Nigerians across the country to include business owners, students, among others. He, therefore, urged the Nigerian government to take ownership of the recommendations and should rise above politics.