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Nigeria’s Tech innovators and threat of poaching

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Team Save-a-Soul. PHOTO:Twitter/Osinbajo


The feat, last week, at the World Technovation Challenge in the Silicon Valley in San Francisco, United States of America (USA) by five Anambra girls from Regina Pacies Secondary School Onitsha, who represented Nigeria and Africa at the global contest and emerged top has reopened debate on the need for creating enabling environment for the budding stars to reach their full potential.

The gold medalists, led by Uchenna Onwuamaegbu Ugwu of Edufun Technik STEM defeated representatives of other technological giants including the USA, Spain, Turkey, Uzbekistan and China to clinch the top-notch prize. Members of the team are Promise Nnalue, Jessica Osita, Nwabuaku Ossai, Adaeze Onuigbo and Vivian Okoye.

The world champions won the Challenge with a mobile application called the FD-Detector, which they developed to help tackle the menace of fake pharmaceutical products in Nigeria.The golden girls spent five months researching and developing FD-Detector which swept through over 2000 competing applications to get to the finals in San Francisco. Technovation is a programme that offers girls around the world the opportunity to learn the programming skills they need to emerge as tech-entrepreneurs and leaders.

Every year, girls are invited to identify a problem in their communities, and come up with a solution by developing Andriod applications that would address the problem. A total of 115 countries participated in the qualifiers but only 12 teams from all over the world were selected as finalists for the pitch in Silicon Valley.

Interestingly, the euphoria of the Anambra girls’ feat has been bolstered by the exploits of another team of Nigerian technology innovators that has emerged the top 20 shortlist of $1 million Hult Prize, making them the only African team still remaining in the competition.The 2018 Hult Prize theme on ‘Harnessing the Power of Energy to Transform Ten Million Lives’, began from the campus level to regional level until it got to the global stage, while hundreds of participants/teams from many world class universities participated.

Speaking on their chances and challenges in the competition, the prime mover of the innovation, Faisal Sani Bala, said their work was a technology that boosts irrigation farming like never before and also provides light for rural communities without electricity.

He said together with his other colleagues they formed the ImpactRays enterprise and their projection beyond the competition is to impact over five million lives in three years, pointing out that their technology is already being piloted in Waya Dam, Bauchi State, where local farmers have started to enjoy the irrigation technology, which also provides for their household lighting.

Bala, a graduate assistant lecturer at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Bauchi, who is currently pursuing a degree in Mechatronics Engineering in Malaysia, however, stressed that the challenges they are having in the competition is finance, and that the other teams were being financed by their governments while theirs was from their personal pockets which has not been easy.

He explained that the Malaysian government almost took up sponsoring them in the competition but later withdrew owing to the realisation that the beneficiaries of the technology would be Nigerians and not Malaysians.

Another challenge again, he said, was that he and one of the team members were yet to obtain their UK visas to attend the final 6 shortlist event, of which the programme is coming up in about two weeks’ time.

“Some of us have engaged in dry season farming as students, and have been faced with the challenge of manual flooding irrigation, high cost of fuel, high cost of labour involved in watering, fertilizer wash-off and water shortage. These problems motivated myself and Aliyu Dala Bukar to design, implement and patent a smart Solar-Powered Irrigation System to ease irrigation farming through cutting the cost of labour and eliminating the use of petrol.

“Regarding the Hult Prize competition, the ImpactRays won the 1st position at the campus level and proceeded to the regional finals in Kuala Lumpur. At the regional finals, there were 60 teams and 200 participants from some of the best universities across the world, including Canada, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan among others. We still scale through at the regional level to make global level, upon which we are among the 20 shortlist and the only African team remaining in the competition,” he said.

He added that the Hult Prize Competition is about creating market ready solutions to pressing needs of humanity, while maintaining balance between profit and social impact, and that the competition goals are in line with the sustainable development goals of the United Nations.

While Nigerians have been in celebration mood over the victory of these Nigerian technology innovators, there is palpable fear and worries that developed countries could poach them for keeps at to the detriment of Nigeria. This has been a source of concern to relations of these innovators who have been in euphoric mood. It was discovered that these innovators could easily be lured with mouthwatering package like good working condition, conducive environment and others as it has happened in some cases.


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