15 November 2012

Nigeria: Adapt, Don't Adopt Technology

International experts have called on stakeholders in the technical education sector to adapt technologies that are relevant to the African scene instead of adopting European technologies that are not suitable for the continent's developmental needs.

Leading this call is Mr. Andrew Thompson, international sales manager, LABTECH International Limited, a 21st century learning solutions provider.

Thompson in an interview with Vanguard Learning, said "We have been supplying technical education technologies to the different countries in Africa through development partners like the World Bank and the African Development Bank. But many of these products are expensive and don't really apply to the African system."

Continuing, Thompson said: "What these development partners want to be done doesn't always match the real needs of the economy. This is one of the reasons why we started our company.

"We are of the opinion that you don't always have to adopt, you have to adapt. What we have seen over the years, especially in Africa, Asia and the Middle East is that a lot of the consultants and equipment are from the US and the UK, but since there are barely any similarities between these countries and African countries, it's like putting square pegs in round holes.

"We have grown to the point where we have over 70 offices all around the world. What we sell is well below 50 per cent of some of these things that developmental partners supply and is more appropriate for the African setting.

Our company is based in Indonesia, a country that is very similar to Nigeria in terms of political, and socio cultural framework as well as developmental needs."

Emphasizing on the need for proper technical education, Thompson argued that the employment triangle today is such that 25 per cent of the jobs available are for those with professional or academic qualifications, while 50-65 per cent are for those with skilled labour.

"Employment driven technical and vocational education is what drives any economy today. This implies that we match the needs of the employers of labour with the quality of technical education provided, and this is what should shape the curriculum.

When you talk about education on the professional level, it's basically cheap; you have to provide some basic infrastructure and books because it is mostly theory. But technical education is a bit more expensive because not only do you need these things listed, you also need practical equipment.

"For example, if you want to show someone how to repair an air conditioner, they have to see it, touch it and smell it. You have to engage all the different senses."

Thompson also advised that to overcome the issue of erratic power supply in the use of technical equipment, the technical education sector should take advantage of other sources of power like wind, sun, etc.

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