23 April 2008

Nigeria: 50 Years of Technology Transfer - the Journey So Far

Lagos — IT is not often that we encounter a Technology-focused literary work in this part of the world. Indeed, as a nation, our science and technology knowledge contribution to the global body of knowledge in this regard is very low, compared to what other countries of similar stature are doing.

It therefore calls for special attention, recognition and celebration that a book on comprehensive analysis of Fifty Years of Technology Transfer in Nigeria has been written by Dr. David. Akosa Okongwu.

My first encounter with this body of knowledge (book) can be described as digitally magnetic with visible difficulty to disengage from reading it. Paging through the book, I am fascinated by the style David has applied to illuminate and bring back to life, the intricate details of the nation's journey of fifty years in the global human knowledge and civilization adventure. Suffice to state that by the time the book is launched on Thursday 17th of April in Abuja, it may have been sold out through online ordering!

Without any iota of doubt, the Okongwu family from Anambara State in Nigeria can be said to represent a historical academic landmark which translates as an embodiment of Science and Technology knowledge in form and content. Dr. Chu Okongwu was a one time Hon. Minister for Science and Technology, but this write-up is not about Chu Okongwu, rather it is about a member of the family and a younger brother to Dr. Chu Okongwu - who has made his mark against all odds and who can now be classified and refered to a colossus in the science and technology knowledge Domain.

He is Dr. David Akosa Okongwu , B.Sc. M.Met, PhD., the current Director General, National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP). Formally an academia, David Okongwu was at various times Head of Department of Metallurgy and Metallurgical Engineering (1983-1988) and Dean of faculty of Engineering and Engineering Technology (1986-1995) at the Federal University of Technology, Markurdi, which later transformed into the Federal University of Agriculture, Markurdi.

He was a visiting academic at the Department of Metallurgical Engineering, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia (1991-1992) and has been a Consultant to International and Continental organisations, including WIPO and the African Union. He is the Author of many Articles and Publications on metallurgical and materials research, technology transfer and intellectual property.

Excerpts from the book presented some valuable lessons learnt by Nigeria with respect to technology acquisition for national development. Some of these are:

1.Transfer of technology is a complicated process involving a matrix of cultural. Socio-economic. Environmental, intellectual, infrastructural. Political and other related factors.

2. Nigeria's efforts at technology transfer have to content not only with the widening innovation gap between Nigeria and the developed countries, but also with the nation's poor culture of innovation, as well as the rapid changes in innovation and the shortening life span of innovation cycles.3. Review of 1956-1981 era, which saw massive importation of capital goods and establishment of very critical industries shows that although technology inflow was appreciable, the internalization of technology was inappreciable.

3.The trajectory of Nigeria's technological development so far appears to resemble that of the movement of an individual staggering about in the manner of a Brownian motion, or more correctly a sleepwalker on a platform that is moving rapidly in the opposite direction, so that the net motion of the sleepwalker is really backwards.

4. One of the key issues often neglected with transfer of technology if how to construct a receptor to capture the transferred technology and ensure that it is fully internalized to enable it blossom and grow to create similar new technologies on its own within a given time frame without external support. It is only then that technology can be said to be transferred. (But is the innovator willing to kill his/her market and creative power?)

5. Without a deliberate receptor programme, technology transfer will be a chance thing indeed. 6. Nigeria's national R&D intensity under the S&T Ministry is about 0.06% compared to South Africa 0.70%, China 1.40% , India 1.2%. 7.

There must be massive increase in R&D expenditure to yield a national R&D intensity of at least 1.0% within the next six years i.e. by 2014, and to exceed 2% by 2018. 8. Consideration of all factor costs shows that the required increase in R&D intensity cannot be sourced solely from Federal Government annual budgets. Consequently we need to locate extra sources of funding R&D. And these actually exist. 9. Know-How Licenses account for nearly 50% of all technology collaborations involved in technology transfer agreements between Nigerian enterprises and foreign transferors.

10.The predominance of Know-How/Technical Assistance and dearth of patent license agreements reflect the very weak indigenous technological capability in the economy.

11. Between 1983-1992 while the UK and Western Europe accounted for some 70% of all technology inflow into Nigeria, Asia accounted for about 17%. However, between 2001-2006 while the UK and Western Europe accounted for 59%, inflow from Asia accounted for 31%. The indications are that throughout this decade and the next, the upsurge from Asia (mainly China and India) will continue, and the inflow from Europe will gradually diminish to secondary importance.

12. Foreign technology inflow has been at more favorable terms and conditions during 1981 - 2006 when technology transfer became a policy of state compared to the preceding 1956 - 1981 laissez - faire technology transfer of pre-NOIP era.

13. Intervention by NOTAP has led to savings to the economy of over N90billion between 1990 - 2006, representing an average overpricing of 23% in technology fee; cases of 100% overpricing are quite common.

14. Not withstanding the attainment of substantial levels lf LVA and engagement in global competitive export market by a good number of Nigerian manufacturers, as well as some evidence of horizontal transfer of technology, there have been massive technology transfer failures.

15. Indeed it turns out that Nigeria's energy crisis if "scarcity of energy in the midst of energy abundance", a good example of "paradox of plenty", is an epitome of Nigeria's technology transfer problem.

16. A culture that encourages spirit of enquiry, freedom of thought, sound work ethics, discipline, high regard for truth and integrity, reward for hard work/accomplishment, public spiritedness, justice, and the like, would be a "technology-promoting" culture. In such an open virile, just and active society, innovation will sprout and abound technology will develop and blossom entrepreneurialism will flourish and there would be rapid development.

17. For a vibrant technology transfer, it is imperative to elevate Nigeria to the rank of innovation-oriented nations. 18. Consequently, as a prescription, technology transfer strategy capable of making Nigeria a global "hot spot" and "global power house" must embody the following seven operational objectives: Upgrading technological governance; enthroning a culture of innovation and strengthening intellectual property system; development of human capital with strong entrepreneurial base; establishment of strong technology support structures; creation of technology transfer receptor programs; increased R&D intensity; and infusion of a technological culture and a new mindset.

19. Nigeria (Africa) must take her destiny into her hands, create confidence in her peoples, develop a culture of innovation, hard work and public spiritedness, acquire adapt, acquire, adapt, internalize technologies from any corner of the globe for the good of the continent, and innovate aggressively to create new opportunities in order to reconfigure the rapidly evolving global economic landscape to her favor. Nigeria needs to keep a date with destiny this century. The financial cost of doing this is not too high. The funds can be available but have indeed remained unmarshalled all along.

The book is a wake-up call for our nation and the need for all of us to network our heads together to ensure that a vibrant "Creative Class" is established without further delay. One way of doing this is to aggressively establish knowledge and software innovation parks in strategic areas of the country. Time is running out, if indeed we must keep a date with destiny this century the knowledge intensive century.

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