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‘How innovation will assist Nigeria to diversify away from crude oil’ 


Diversification has been the subject of numerous plans and initiatives of the Federal Government of Nigeria since the fall in crude oil prices.

It is noteworthy that oil accounts for more than 80 per cent of the nation’s earnings, and a cut in its supply invariably affects the economy.

Consequently, stakeholders at the 2017 WordStage Economic Forum, which took place in Lagos last week, believed that any diversification without innovation by businesses and government may be tantamount to running on the same spot.

Speaking at the event with the theme: ‘Transforming Business and Economy Through Innovation,’ the President/Chief Executive Officer of Worldstage Group, Segun Adeleye, said diversification into non-oil sectors may not be enough to sustain the nation’s economic development without adapting new ways of doing things.

According to him, “while we are still lamenting the lost opportunity to have developed with our oil wealth in the past, we can see the future unfolding before us, just as how the internal combustion engine is projected to die and the oil business, is to become obsolete in the very near future.

“With the calls for Nigeria to diversify its economy from oil after several missed opportunities in six decades, the new question begging for answer is, how fast and far can diversification solve economic problems in the short, medium and long terms?”

Also, an expert in Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation Economics, Department of Economics, University of Lagos, Dr. Ayodele Ibrahim Shittu, said commitment, consistency, and sincerity of purpose on the part of the business and political leaders and followers is required to transform Nigeria’s business environment for greatness and prosperity.

According to him, Nigeria’s business environment is yearning for innovation in order to fulfil its potential of stimulating economic prosperity, noting that if the educational system is not prioritised, there would be a reduction in future human capital.

“The available evidence, in this regard shows that the score of the skills of the future workforce sub-pillar is lower than the score of the current workforce by 10 per cent or more.”

He said the task of creating an enabling business environment for the purpose of promoting national prosperity in Nigeria remains a mirage, adding that there is a glooming perception of the country’s business confidence index among leading firms in selected sectors of the economy.

“Since the first quarter of the 2016 through the second quarter of the 2017, Nigeria has witnessed negative perceptions of business activities in the country. While the level of pessimism is declining, common constraining factors cited among the firms surveyed include financial barriers, unfavourable political climate, competition, and insufficient local demand,” he said.

The Director General, Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, (FIIRO), Prof. Gloria Elemo, said for innovation to be effective, it has to be simple and it has to be focused.

She said innovation that creates new users and new markets should be directed toward a specific, clear, and carefully designed application. “Effective innovations start small. They are not grandiose,” she said.

“It may be to enable a moving vehicle to draw electric power while it runs along rails, the innovation that made possible the electric street car, or it may be an elementary idea of putting the same number of matches into a matchbox from the erstwhile 50 match sticks.” This simple notion made possible the automatic filing of match boxes, and gave the Swedes a world monopoly on matches for half a century.

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