The just-concluded TechMoney Africa and Innovation Summit invoked some thoughts on the minds of speakers and delegates, particularly, in advancing the country’s economy through technology.
TechEconomy.ng as an official media partner brings to you some of the thought-provoking statements and engagements at the two-day Summit.
Organized by the Pan-African company which is focused on tech development in Africa, Unicorn Group, the first great thing about the Conference is that it was hosted by and in a University environment – the University of Lagos (UNILAG).
This strategic decision gives the University a chance to groom, from ‘infancy’, techies for the future. If the foundation is right, the building will be right; building starts from the bottom up.
The students who attended the conference and got inspired, got seeds sown within them, seeds which will germinate in time.
The Conference revealed, also, the possibility of the attainment of excellence; excellence in the organization of events in Nigeria, excellence in ideas and excellence in production and manufacturing. We also saw a glimpse of the fulfilment which comes with such excellent execution of an excellent plan.
However, the conference also revealed our shortcomings as Nigerians, the major shortcoming being our disregard and unappreciative attitude towards Research and Development (R&D).
Considering the number of challenges we have from the challenge of power to that of our health facilities, to that of transportation and many others, the saving grace we have is to research on ways to deliver ourselves from the shackles of technological backwardness we suffer.
The saving grace we seem not to be aware of.
While we can list a number of oppositions against the interest in R&D, I am of the opinion that if we could use what we have, more doors will be opened.
In actuality, different talks, breakout sessions, networking and interaction sessions grew my conviction on this matter, but two major case studies brought me to this conclusion; the success, progress and solutions of the global power-company, Omnicharge as told by its CEO and Co-founder, Mr Jason Wong and the challenges faced, the success gained, and the vision actualized by Africa’s leading Full-service Online Travelling company, Wakanow, as told by its CEO, Mr Obinna Ekezie.
Nigeria has suffered from the issue of power for as long as many of us can remember, and what is technology if not a way of creating solutions?
So, one begins to wonder what we think of, and what our ideas are founded on if we lack solutions for our problems.
A Nation gets advanced when its citizens look at a problem, seek solutions through research and then develop these solutions which then help the country and portray technological advancement.
As Jason spoke, he pronounced, over and again, that the company was an R&D company. The obvious message was that the solutions he presented to the world would not have been possible but for R&D.
His company is research driven on seeking power solutions and that was why it got these solutions. While the argument may come up, about the government doing nothing to support R&D, may I remind us that Jason is not the government, not in his country or anywhere?
The solution to the need for funding, apart from the obvious method of researching, finding a solution, and applying for grants with proof of the working solution, came in something Mr Wong said. He said he always asked himself if people would be willing to pay for the solutions he created and was bringing to the market.
If people are willing to pay, that makes it marketable, if not, he looked for another way. Nigerians need these solutions and are ready to pay.
There is no doubt about the booming market called Nigeria. Just make sure it works and it is safe.
The second part of the solution lies in something Mr Obinna said.
Telling his story about the challenges faced as he tried to set up Wakanow, Mr Ekezie told of a journey where he almost always needed funds. He told of a journey where his vision of creating his solution drank all his funds and that of many others and yet he moved on.
He told a story of how he got the right people by his side in the journey and how he got funded just at the nick of time, but he left one line of thought in my head. He made it plain that people will invest their money in your vision because it will bring them money.
Adding these points from the CEOs we see that Nigerians need to sit up, get researching and find out solutions which are marketable, then they seek funding. The problem, as I said at the beginning, is our lack of interest in R&D.
There are many organizations, within and outside the country ready to fund great dreams, all they need is to know that it is a worthwhile investment. Investors are usually businessmen and women. If you, your idea and your products are marketable, most times, you’ll get a deal.
The root solution still goes back to the schools and the minds of the people. Many Nigerians are doing great things, but I wish many more can focus on creating solutions, as then can they serve the dual purpose of serving humanity and earning.
Many technologies in Nigeria look alike and I suspect the reason is that they are majorly focused on earning, even though they are truly putting in the work.
So, if we can raise our young to focus on solving their own, unique, problems and not just focus on what everyone else is doing, or expecting the government to solve it for them, we will get men and women who would discover solutions, get it to the government as a solution, and earn from it.
It would be a win-win situation.
Also, the older generation needs to lead by example. Organizations may host all the tech summits in all the Universities communities in the country, but these students need mentors, and these mentors need to know what they can offer, based on experience and personal research. You don’t give what you don’t have.
In a mini-survey carried out at the Conference, it was obvious that the presentation, by Omnicharge, of their products and what they can do, was considered awe-inspiring by most attendees. We were shown firsthand how much innovation R&D can bring when focused on and invested in.
More Nigerians need to build a mindset of solution-discovering, an interest in R&D, and a kind of independence which makes them depend less on the government to proffer solutions to the Nation’s challenges.
I write all these not because I think our journey towards technological advancement would be easy or because I am ignorant of the many other struggles we face, but because I know it is possible and because we are Nigerians.