The newly appointed Special Assistant to Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, on Innovation, Science and Technology, Engineer Elvis Obi-Nwankwo, has shown stakeholders in the ecosystem glimpses of what to expect from the all-important office.
Working innovatively with the Commissioner, Enugu State Ministry of Science and Technology, Sir Carl Obi Kama, the SA to Governor Ugwuanyi on IST, recently convoked a meeting the high and might to brainstorm, and develop an understanding of innovation, the traditional context where it occurs, and the challenges faced by corporations trying to build innovation capabilities in the State.
Engr. Obi-Nwankwo’s appointment couldn’t have come at a better time. Recall that earlier in the year, the State Government, commenced the process to actualize its policy on skills acquisition and youth empowerment.
The administration of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State, then called for applications from qualified candidates for appointments as General Managers of the newly established Enugu Tech Hubs and Youth Innovation Centres in Enugu Urban and Obollo Afor, Udenu Local Government Area.
The government is not stopping then hence the moves to incentive the existing innovation ecosystem to become more robust and attract more investors.
Setting the ball rolling, the Commissioner, Sir Kama, welcomed all stakeholders to the inaugural meeting and thanked them for keeping in and joining the meeting on a short notice.
He expressed that the essence of the roundtable was to network with all stakeholders, introduce the strategy document, deepen and strengthen relationship between the tech leaders in the science and tech industry and the Enugu State government.
He encouraged all to be positive and open minded.
The host, Engr. Obi-Nwankwo, presented the Crosscutting Strategy of Science, Technology And Innovation (SSTI-2023), a 7-point focus of the Office of the Enugu State Governor on Innovation, Science and Technology in partnership with the Enugu State Ministry of Science and Technology.
The 7-point SSTI-2023 aims to strengthen the relationship between the Government and business leaders within the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) sector through a quarterly forum for interaction, planning and evaluation to make strategic choices to solve challenges in Enugu State.
The meeting also looked at how Government can deepen relationship with the major STI players and the Enugu tech community to increase knowledge, effectiveness and capacity for collective action by compiling an annual calendar of tech events and hosting a yearly tech and social media week in Enugu.
The discussants also pointed out the urgency of revamping ICT/STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, and Mathematics) curriculum for the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in Enugu state by training 5,000 school teachers in STEM through primary to tertiary levels and rejigging the curriculum to prepare young people for the future of work.
They also considered developing an innovation master plan for Enugu state by deploying a systems thinking approach to innovation that will cater to funding, infrastructure, access and talent.
“We also discussed about designing a policy and operational framework for the development of a funding structure for science, innovation, research and development in the state through the establishment of the Enugu state Science, Research and Innovation Agency (ESSRIA).
“The stakeholders point out the need to develop a database for the Enugu State government to adopt personal identification systems that collect and manage personal information on residents for convenient government services and efficient government information management through the establishment of the Enugu state Resident Registration Agency (ESRRA)“, Obi-Nwankwo told me.
The stakeholders unanimously agreed that steps should be taken to create an Enugu State Project Indexing Platform (ESPIP) by designing an online based “LIVE” digital projects mapping platform that will display all the laws passed by the Enugu State House of Assembly (ENHA) and all the public projects executed by the Enugu State government (ENSG) with pictorial evidence, project status (ongoing or completed) and video testimonies from the community people where the projects are sited.
At the end of the general overview, the host, Engr. Obi-Nwankwo invited participants to make comments on the SSTI-2023 presentation.
There are other key issues highlighted by stakeholders as it relates to the presentation. For instance, they believe that as the former capital of the Old Eastern region, Enugu State must show leadership capacity to lead the tech vanguard in the Eastern region.
The stakeholders clearly stated that the availability and accessibility of the government should be a priority.
“The need to make Enugu State the talent capital of the South East.
“Define the extent of the collaboration between stakeholders and the government, and how this collaboration can utilize tech to enhance ministries or sectors and not just building talents.
“A periodic roundtable discussion will present a veritable platform to review the STI journey and roadmap, its gains and challenges in Enugu State and create a synergy between stakeholders and government on implementation.
Obi-Nwankwo also explained to those present at the meeting that tech space is not a body but an ecosystem that thrives on collaboration.
“There is a need to create a middle ground between the ENSG and stakeholders in the STI space to co-create strategy documents as this will engender the confidence of stakeholders, encourage Public Private Partnership (PPP) and accelerate the actualisation of the SSTI-2023,” he said.
“The importance of additional engagement to review and harmonize the SSTI-2023 strategy document and its actualization, with an emphasis on the quick wins and next steps within the available timeframe.
“The next sequence of things should be engagements, set up focus groups to distill the SSTI-2023 reports in order to determine milestones for the long term, midterm, and short term plans.
“Call on government to create awareness and capacity building to harness the skill of its youth population and provide strong financial support and Investment in tech to create foreign labour and internal development and uniquely position Enugu State for the digital economy.
Stakeholders present at the meeting also agreed on setting up sub-teams (focus groups) to review, harmonize and create an implementable document from the SSTI-2023 on the basis of long term, mid-term and short term plans.
“Setting up a central committee to see to the implementable document and a database for input from the tech community.
With this move, it is important that Enugu State Government is taking a reflection on the roles that corporations play as stakeholders in an innovation ecosystem, and explore their links to the innovation-driven entrepreneur, university, risk capital, and government stakeholders.
And as the Special Advisers to Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, on Innovation, Science and Technology, Engineer Elvis Obi-Nwankwo, told stakeholders, he needs all hands on deck to move the State tech eco-system forward.
The nature of startups in Nigeria is influenced by location. Back in 2017, a report by Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC), indicates that at US$2 billion, the Lagos startup ecosystem is the most valuable in Africa.
In Lagos, most of the startups are focused on the commercial product and service sector. Engr. Obi-Nwankwo and other stakeholders understand this.
In the other notable startup cities of Abuja and Ibadan, startups are primarily linked to the government and agriculture respectively.
The Nigerian tech ecosystem is in transition as different factors are playing up which further gives credence to the Enugu State tech stakeholders meeting.
The growth in the number of internet users and the revolution of the startups across different value chains in Nigeria has birthed a new wave of marketplace platforms that have the potential to change the course of the country.
This opportunity is contingent upon addressing the bottlenecks that plague the ecosystem through continued innovation and policy implementations.