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Imperial College London: ‘Nigerian Students Key To Sustainable’


Guest speakers: Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, left; Mr Tonye Patrick Cole, Dr Omobola Johnson and Mr Toyosi Olawepo-Hashim.

Guest speakers: Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, left; Mr Tonye Patrick Cole, Dr Omobola Johnson and Mr Toyosi Olawepo-Hashim.

THE Imperial College Nigerian Society on Friday, November 20, 2015 played host to distinguished Nigerians, students and Africa-focused corporate investors at its 4th Annual Symposium, held at the Great Hall of the prestigious Imperial College London, under the theme: ‘Sustainable Development And Development And Socio-Economic Diversification In Nigeria’.

The Imperial College Nigerian Society (ICNS) founded in 2012, aims to empower her members towards giving back to Nigeria intellectually, economically and especially in proving effective leadership in all facets of human endeavour. In the ICNS quest for a better Nigeria and particularly for youth participation in the path towards rapid industrialization, the 2015 Symposium was focused on highlighting the role key sectors of the economy must play in boosting their contribution to the national GDP and socio-economic development.

Leading the ICNS debate, the current Chair of the Society, Ms Joan Omeru who is a third Year PhD student of Imperial College London, majoring in Computational Finance and Derivatives Pricing in the department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering, ushered in the special guests and distinguished speakers before the proceedings commenced for the evening.

The event which has since been tagged the “Youth Event of the Year 2015,” was attended by special guests including His Royal Majesty, Ukori 1, the Ovie of Agbon Kingdom, other distinguished guests and students. The special guest speaker and Chairman of the event was the President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. Other guest speakers included Mr Tonye Patrick Cole, CEO of Sahara Group, Dr (Mrs) Omobola Johnson, immediate past Minister for Communications Technology and Partner at TLCom and Mr Toyosi Olawepo-Hashim, CEO of Bresson AS Ltd. Also in attendance was the representative of the Nigerian British High Commissioner, Mr Solomon Fehintola.

In delivering her welcome address the President of the Imperial College Nigerian Society, Ms Omeru called for Nigerians to take a closer look at the landscape underpinning Nigeria’s economic growth as home to the largest economy in Africa. She stressed that in reaping the benefits provided by the crude oil exploitation in past years and many more years to come, Nigerians must be wary about its sustainability, in delivering uninterrupted growth to the Nation’s Economy. She went on to highlight that the recent decline in crude oil prices caused by major supply and demand imbalances in the global oil commodities markets, causing major oil glut across the world, must be taken as a heed to bolster diversification of the economy.

“To keep pace with change, Nigeria’s numerous industries may need to be reawakened and pave the way for new opportunities with a promise of sustainable growth standing tall against developed economies striving for the top as the largest economy in the world, “ said Ms Omeru.

Taking lead of the discussions, the President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede in his keynote speech on the role of financial institutions in sustainable development, enlisted the three pillars and drivers of developments as “EXPORTS, PRODUCTIVITY and SUSTAINABILITY. “Power of exports is a zero sum game,” explained Mr Aigboje. “But the benefit of exports is that you can create jobs in your own market.” The president of the NSE noted that key factors of productivity lie in the quality of labour, which must be brought to impeccable standards. He emphasised that the measure for sustainability will be the development of our nation in such a way that the future is better than the present. Mr Aig-Imoukhuede also mentioned the need to innovatively develop new mechanism and new markets that focus on sustainable investing, citing schemes such as the novel malaria bond and the carbon credit initiatives. He further stressed that investments in sustainable development infrastructure must be proven profitable for private sector engagement.

Mr Aig-Imoukhuede stressed that the new administration must lead and most importantly be seen to lead, invite, encourage and support active participation of key sector stakeholders, leaders and investors in this path towards socio-economic diversification and sustainable investing. Also that greater collaboration between private financial institutions and policy makers must be upheld to enable financing of development. He maintained that a strong capital market and a viable financial exchange is vital in developing the economy, also honing that many institutions in Nigeria’s private financial sector have since adopted the Nine Nigerian Sustainable Banking Principles. “The issue of strong institutions is very relevant if it must lift the nation out of poverty”, added Mr Aigboje.

Speaking on the status of the energy sector in today’s economy, Mr Tonye Patrick Cole beckoned on the youths at Imperial College London and the wider diaspora community to take on the challenge of bringing their outstanding knowledge and expertise home to boost the quality of graduates in the sector. He called for the greater inclusion of practical content in the curricular of Nigerian universities, especially within the power engineering, stressing that home grown talent possessing strong background knowledge of both theory and practice is essential in order for innovation, local manufacturing and management to thrive.

Dr Mrs Omobola Johnson paper was titled, ‘‘Technology as a Catalyst for Sustainable Development.’’. In her speech, Mrs Johnson called for widespread adoption of digital payment as a key facilitator for growth which is already being aided by government policies in strengthening this trend, noting that the Information and Communication services contribute 19% to the services sector.

Mr Toyosi Olawepo-Hashim, speaking on “Facilitating Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructural Development,” called on the nation’s financial institutions to lower interest rates for infrastructural development, particularly in the power sector, citing that lower interest rates will give the nations manufacturers a better competitive advantage in the international market. He mentioned that that the country’s GDP exceeded that of South Africa to become Africa’s biggest economy, due to the hard work of the ordinary Nigerians who are the nation’s greatest assets.

An Alumnus of Imperial College London, and founding president of ICNS, Dr Gbeminiyi Onabanjo, was also available to give his presentation as the 2014 Harambe Pfizer Fellowship Award winner. Dr Onabanjo’s award was with respect to his role as the CEO of Mitera Health, a healthcare company which aims to provide Nigerians with qualitative healthcare. The flagship product of the company is a maternity savings card designed to work in conjunction with FirstMonie mobile money and Etisalat mobile network, and aims to encourage flexible savings and payment for antenatal and childbirth costs.

The symposium was brought to conclusion with a panel session, headlined: “The path to rapid industrialisation and a leap into a developed economy,” moderated by Mr James Houston, Chairman of Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC). The panelists, Prof. Chris Imafidon, Mrs Kate Anolue and Mr Godswill Umunakwe of Lagos Business School, joined the guest speakers on the podium to take on questions from the audience. The event was lauded and applauded by attendees who were impressed by the focus and interest of the students in propelling our great nation towards sustainable development. The students were tremendously enlightened and thankful to the guest speakers for delivering thought provoking and challenging messages.

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