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Knowledge-based economy: FG urged to set up special innovation centres for youths

Knowledge-based economy: FG urged to set up special innovation centres for youths

A Niger Delta-based oil and finance expert, Leesi Gborogbosi has urged the new administration to set up special innovation centres for youths in all the 774 local government areas.

Gborogbosi, an ex-finance staff of Shell Nigeria, also suggested a name for the scheme as the ‘BAT Centre for Innovation and Creativity.’

He told BusinessDay in Port Harcourt that the centre would focus on the youth and would be a knowledge-based centre promoting open innovation, creative thinking, value-based solutions, research, and development.

On how the centre would operate, the corporate budgeting expert said it would adopt open innovation.

“Youth can collaborate with other graduates online across Nigeria to develop new products, services, and processes,” he said.

Gborogbosi, who was also a member of the corporate strategy, planning, budget, and reporting team, said the centre would also encourage young graduates to share knowledge and avoid a silo mentality.

“Open innovation shortens the time it takes to bring innovative outcomes to the market. The centre will have high-speed internet, secured access, and a sitting capacity of one thousand stations. The centre can be used for the creative industry, academia, research, product development, service innovation, market development, and global competition,” he said.

According to the expert whose doctoral dissertation focuses on strategy implementation, collaboration, the role of middle managers, and the dynamics of host communities, the construction of the centre will be based on the same unique architectural design.

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“It is an open innovation centre for knowledge-sharing and training. Each centre will act as a Silicon Valley-like ecosystem in that LGA. Innovators’ mentors will be resourced to manage each centre,” he said.

He further said that there would be a framework for the protection of data rights, intellectual property rights, patents, and innovation outcomes.

Gborogbosi said that the ‘BAT Centre for Innovation and Creativity’ would be one of the ways of fulfilling Tinubu’s promise to the youth of Nigeria.

“Youth can now have a structured platform to push the limits of their creativity. A fallout of the BAT Centre for Innovation and Creativity is that the youth will have a platform for developing Nigerian solutions to Nigerian problems. Open innovation allows young graduates to come up with solutions to societal problems in a competitive manner while helping to situate Nigeria as Africa’s hub for innovation.

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“The centre will inspire young graduates to push the boundaries of their creative and intellectual minds to find solutions to everyday problems, encourage entrepreneurial spirits, stimulate rural economic development, and motivate global competitiveness.”

On examples of potential innovation solutions expected from the centres, the expert said that recent examples show that innovation can help solve problems of energy, agriculture, emergency, financing, and health, among many others.

These, he said, include developing solutions for energy-efficient lighting in communities to overcome low energy penetration in rural communities; derivatives of cassava such as ethanol fuel to provide cleaner cooking fuel to minimise deforestation and the use of trees for fuel in rural communities; and technology-driven irrigation to help rural farmers to grow crops out of season to overcome climate and resource constraints.

He also mentioned mobile applications that can link local manufacturers of emergency relief materials to government and donor agencies. This is to make Nigeria self-sufficient in emergency relief supplies to increase the response to yearly emergencies, especially during the rainy season floods; mobile programmes that mop up small venture capital and make the same available for equity investments in SMEs in rural communities, especially SMEs that do not have collagenised access to financial institutions; and easy to share stories, mentoring, and songs to youthful populations living in rural areas struggling with depression and mental health problems.

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By decentralising the innovation centres in the 774 LGAs, Gborogbosi, a University of Nsukka Accounting graduate, a certified management consultant, and a Fellow, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), said young graduates can now stay in their villages and local governments to grow and compete with the world.

“A silicon-like ecosystem will be established and nurtured in all local government areas across Nigeria. The centre will act as one of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s social contracts with the youth of Nigeria to promote innovation and creativity. President Tinubu will be the first President to have a presence in 774 Local Government Areas across Nigeria. No former President has a lasting presence in all LGAs in Nigeria. President Tinubu put his name and memory in every LGA in Nigeria. The BAT Centre for Innovation and Creativity will be a signature project across Nigeria to achieve that and it will have historical significance.”

Further benefits, he said, would be that Nigeria would become an innovation hub in Africa.

“It will attract Nigerians with innovative minds back home. The innovation and creativity ecosystem will be developed. There will be a push for rural economic development. Nigeria will have global competitiveness in innovation. The new paradigm is that Nigerian Youth will be developing Nigeria solutions to solve Nigeria’s problems.”

On implementation and next steps, Gborogbosi said once the review of this concept by the federal government state government and local government councils is found to be useful, “Our consortium is available to undertake opportunity framing and concept selection to operationalise this concept of BAT Centre for Innovation and Creativity. The scope will include formulating a national innovation strategy, mapping local innovation activities, and defining the innovation ecosystem.

“This concept is developed and brought forward by a consortium of Rivers of our Dreams Initiative, Gborogbosi Foundation, and Gabriel Domale Consulting.

“Rivers of Our Dreams Initiative is an NGO that promotes good leadership, economic development, peace, and social cohesion. Gborogbosi Foundation promotes economic improvements, develops sustainable and equitable communities, builds human assets, enhances educational opportunities, and broadens the knowledge base. Gabriel Domale Consulting is a management consulting firm that helps companies in Africa to grow, provides insights to leaders, and transforms institutions.”