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Are Nigerian manufacturers ready for Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is an era of development characterised by digitisation and disruptions.

It is a new chapter in human development, enabled by extraordinary technological advances corresponding with those of the first, second and third industrial revolutions, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Adoption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution has fostered significant changes in the activities of human beings, fuelled by elements such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, genetic engineering, quantum computing, and other technologies.

Since the beginning of technological and digital disruptions, Nigerian manufacturers seem to be losing out on the opportunities it presents as well as the support it provides for businesses.

This is understandable given the challenges faced in the economy: Poor infrastructure, high cost of credit, multiple taxation, insecurity and poor port system. But the level of disruptions coming from China, India and developed countries show that everyone must be ready for it.

Industry captains and stakeholders discussed the impact of the slow adoption and its impact on the industry at the 5th edition of the Nigeria Manufacturing and Equipment expo organised by the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) co-located with the Nigerian Raw Materials Exposition (NRME), themed ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Nigerian Manufacturing sector.’

Mansur Ahmed, president, MAN, said in his address that in line with development practices, the trend among developing countries had been to use industrialisation as a growth tool to drive and transform their economies as well as improve their standards of living. This, he said, had functioned as expected.

 “The emergence of new technology, changing markets and the upcoming African free trade market call for stakeholders’ collaboration to anticipate and respond appropriately to the evolving manufacturing eco-system which is been ushered in the rapid adoption of these new and innovative technology,” Ahmed said.

During the stakeholders’ forum, Frank Onyebu, chairman, MAN, Apapa branch, said change was a constant activity and the power of technology had continued to change into more advanced accomplishments, with Nigeria lagging behind.

“Right from the First to the Third Industrial Revolution we have lost out as a country and we could not do anything about it. The Fifth Industrial Revolution is on the way and we are still not prepared to adopt it. It will be unfair and irreversible for us not to get a hold of the Fourth Industrial Revolution before the Fifth,” Onyebu said.

He said the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) remained one of the most thriving sectors due to its increased use of technology and digitalisation process, adding that the manufacturing sector ought to take a cue and follow through as it would improve and foster a seamless process for businesses.

DanAzumi Ibrahim, director general, National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), said the manufacturing industry was based on foreign technology which Nigeria paid heavily to access, and improved the quality of life, economic and business activities.

He stated that to improve the sector, there was a need for heavy investments in research and development which would translate into the products and services rendered. “As a nation, we cannot develop as we want if we do not fully optimise the different industrial revolutions before pegging onto others,” he said.

“We should leverage on what people have done and engage in various research and development if we want to remain afloat with other countries,” Ibrahim further said.

Jean Bakole , regional director, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), represented by Lola Odebiyi, said it was important for Nigeria and Africa generally to incorporate elements of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as it was critical for sustainable growth and development.

“UNIDO’s industrial development report 2020 suggests that advanced digital production technologies associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution are critical for inclusive and sustainable industrial development. Thus, Africa and Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind,” Bakole said.

Gbemi Faminu

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