• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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The onward march of innovation runs against growing distrust

Tinubu’s economic Odyssey: From promises to perplexities in Nigeria’s delinquent economy

Nigeria recently declared that it would commit 0.5 percent of its GDP to science, technology, and innovation to boost development and reduce poverty.” Nigeria’s declaration of intent on innovation comes against the backdrop of reducing global trust in innovation, as captured in the annual Edelman Trust Barometer 2024.

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu affirmed the primacy of innovation in an address at the Science, Technology, and Innovation Expo held in Abuja. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. George Akume, represented the president. Tinubu said Nigeria would deploy innovation in science and technology as a fulcrum of economic growth and national development.

Read also: GDP growth hits 3-year low on naira crises, subsidy removal

Curiously, the Federal Government’s point of departure is an emphasis on welding. Reports said the president “hinted that national centres would be established to train, retrain, evaluate, and certify persons in welding practice across the country’s six geopolitical zones. The centres would serve as hubs to unite all the stakeholders in the science, technology, and innovation ecosystem and chart the use of mineral and human resources for global competitiveness.”

Tinubu stated that welding is critical to strengthening the economy through its deployment and utilisation in manufacturing, science and technology, and oil and gas. To this end, he directed the Federal Ministries of Finance and National Budget and Economic Planning to provide the required funds and modalities for the commencement of these centres.

Welding is an old science that has endured many centuries of practice.

Welding is a technique for joining metallic parts, usually through heat application. This technique was discovered during efforts to manipulate iron into useful shapes. Welded blades were developed in the 1st millennium CE, the most famous being those produced by Arab armourers at Damascus, Syria. The carburization of iron to produce hard steel was known at this time, but the resultant steel was very brittle. The welding technique—interlayering relatively soft and rigid iron with high-carbon material, followed by hammer forging—produced a strong, tough blade.

Despite the curious mention of welding in the innovation discourse, Nigeria boasts a vibrant yet uneven innovation landscape. Our many positives include renown for an entrepreneurial spirit, resourcefulness, problem-solving skills, and a thriving start-up ecosystem. Nigeria’s ICT sector has grown significantly with increased internet penetration and mobile phone usage. Several innovation hubs exist in major cities such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, and Enugu, providing support and resources to entrepreneurs. Finally, Nigeria is a leader in African fintech, boasting a rapidly growing ecosystem that offers mobile banking, payments, and other financial services.

Q: “To fully harness its innovative potential, Nigeria needs to address the infrastructure gap, improve access to funding, and retain skilled professionals.”

Nigeria’s innovation ecosystem grapples with many challenges. `They include limited access to reliable electricity, funding constraints with limited access to venture capital and angel investors, brain drain, or the Japa syndrome, and inconsistent policies and bureaucratic hurdles in the policy and regulatory environment.

Read also: Top 10 largest economies by GDP in 2024

To fully harness its innovative potential, Nigeria needs to address the infrastructure gap, improve access to funding, and retain skilled professionals. It should also focus on investing further in STEM education, developing relevant skills for the future workforce, and making Nigeria a central innovation hub for Africa.

The report states, “The 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals a new paradox at the heart of society. Rapid innovation promises a new era of prosperity but risks exacerbating trust issues, leading to further societal instability and political polarisation. While people agree that scientists are essential to progress, many are concerned that politics has too much influence on science. This perception contributes to the lack of trust in the institutions responsible for steering us towards change and a more prosperous future.”

Edelman Trust Barometer interviewed 32,000 respondents in 28 countries, including Nigeria. The scorecard shows more enthusiasm for green energy. Citizens are at a crossroads with artificial intelligence, and they show both resistance and enthusiasm for AI and gene-based medicine. Citizens rejected GMO-based foods.

Generally, citizens see the government as less competent and ethical than businesses. Companies based in Germany (62 percent) are more trusted than those in the USA (53 percent) and China (30 percent).

There are substantial regional variations. SE Asia, comprising Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, scored 58 percent. Asia (Japan, South Korea, India, and China) scored 20 percent. Europe (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, and UK) scored 18 percent. The Americas of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the US scored 32 percent.

Edelman Barometer reports that economic fears persist as societal concerns rise. Citizens’ “personal economic fears” are job loss and inflation. “Existential societal fears” concern climate change, hackers, nuclear, and the information war.

Read also: AfDB report puts Africa’s GDP at 3.8% in 2024

The debacle surrounding vaccines during COVID-19 stoked distrust around innovations. Respondents trust businesses better when they provide information about innovations. Fifty percent of respondents feel that government regulators lack adequate understanding of emerging technologies to regulate them effectively.

People want more business-government partnerships on innovation as a reliable basis for trusting such innovations.