STI Can Take Africa Out of its Development Problem –Professor Okojie
Given the right environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) can provide solution to the myriad of problems responsible for Africa’s underdevelopment, the immediate past Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie, has declared.
He made the declaration on Thursday, July 20, 2017, at the 2017 Convocation Lecture of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, where he was the Convocation Guest Lecturer.
Professor Okojie, delivering a lecture titled, ‘Research and Innovation: Panacea to Africa’s Economic Underdevelopment’, said that Africa is a continent of great contrasts considering that despite the immense land mass, including the human and natural resources that abound in the continent, it is inhabited by some of the poorest people in the world.
Affirming the underdevelopment status of Africa, the Convocation Lecturer, with the aid of statistical data, illustrated how most African countries fall into the medium and low human development category, using the various indices for assessing the level of growth and development of any nation, which include the Human Development Index, Global Competitive Index, and the Knowledge Economy Index.
“In fact, Nigeria is in the low human development category and ranks 152 position out of the 188 countries listed. Obviously, the HDI categorization places a very significant number of African countries in the low human development category. I therefore submit, and it is obvious, that Africa is economically underdeveloped,” said Professor Okojie.
While revealing that the title of the convocation lecture was designed to attract the attention of the African Union Commission’s (AUC) efforts at improving the wellbeing of the African people, he said that the African Union (AU) had at its recent meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, addressed the issue of youth development and leadership, and the issues involved in the reforms designed to address the challenges to Africa’s development efforts.
According to him, a multi sectorial approach is required for effective collaboration involving innovation and entrepreneurship to achieve the knowledge economy and sustainable socio-economic development in Africa.
The professor of Forestry Resources Management averred that a Pan-African solution to the economic underdevelopment of the continent was unfolding, albeit slowly, as the African Union, in its quest for economic development in Africa, had established a protocol on the relationship between the African Economic Commission (AEC) and the continent’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs).
He said that the 23rd ordinary session of African Union Heads of State and Government Summit in 2014 adopted Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA-2024) to address the desire to move towards an innovated knowledge-based economy, to achieve collective self-reliance and sustainable development of Africa.
“STISA 2024 is part of the long-term AU agenda 2064 which is people centered with emphasis on Science, Technology, and Innovations. The agenda also lays emphasis on diversification of the economy within its first 10yrs of operation. If the right environment exists, STIs will take Africa out of its development problem,” he stated.
On the role of education as one of the international indices for assessing the level of economic development, the guest lecturer said that many African countries had by 2015 failed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for education and some other critical sectors in the economy.
He said that the universities and the private sector are expected to play a leading role in quests for economic development for the continent through research, innovation, development and entrepreneurship. “The strategy is to enhance the effectiveness of science, technology and innovation in implementing the priority areas as specified by STISA-2024. They include: Eradicate hunger and ensure national security; Prevent and control diseases and ensure wellbeing; Communication (Physical and intellectual mobility); Protect our space; Live together – build the society; Create wealth; and Energy and youth development (Suggestion).”
Professor Okojie opined that Strong University-Government-Private Sector relationship will guarantee the desired results from research, innovation and development efforts at the national, regional and continental levels, and it is hoped that at all such levels, an enabling environment will be created to benefit the efforts at addressing research, innovation and entrepreneurial endeavors.
Congratulating Covenant University, its graduating students and their parents on the University’s 12th Convocation Ceremony, Professor Okojie said that the University had adequately prepared the graduands for the world of work as they have been given the Eagle leadership training.
In his remarks, the Chancellor and Chairman, Board of Regents, Covenant University, Dr. David O. Oyedepo, described the lecture as insightful and intellectual. He said that the minds of pre-independence African leaders were fertile and boisterous and all they needed was to deliver.
However, according to the Chancellor, the underlining factor is that Africans have their destiny in their hands. He stated that, “We need to wake up and take responsibilities; lots of things have gone wrong on many platforms. Africa has to search for indigenous solutions to her problems and the private sector must take responsibility in dealing with the problem”.
Dr. Oyedepo, who said that he was not surprised by the depth of the lecture, charged faculty members of Covenant University to buy into the concept and build the capacity of students with a view to building a life with unlimited possibilities. “I won’t expect any product of Covenant University to look for job or depend on parents. There is job in you, let it manifest,” he said.
Earlier on in his opening remarks, the Vice-Chancellor, Covenant University, Professor AAA. Atayero, acknowledged that the African continent has very great potentials for economic advancement, but her Human Development Index was very worrisome. He said that calls for innovative paradigm to reverse Africa’s underdevelopment status were crucial, which was why the title of the convocation lecture was very apt.
Noting that as powerhouse of knowledge and innovation, African universities and other tertiary institutions must proactively transfer knowledge and turn innovations into practical use, Professor Atayero reckoned that Universities can make a difference as catalysts of economic development and research-oriented educational systems that engender economic innovations.
“Higher education in the 21st Century must address shift in political, social, economic and environmental aspects. Our universities are obliged to be involved and be responsible in evolving paradigms and prepare their graduates for the changes on the landscape and the challenges posed by advancement in technologies,” said the Vice-Chancellor
Restating Covenant University’s commitment to the economic development of the continent by raising well-rounded graduates that are fully equipped in changing the destiny of Africa, Professor Atayero appreciated Professor Okojie for accepting to deliver the lecture, and all the guests for gracing the event.
Also present at the occasion were the Vice-President (Education), Living Faith Church Worldwide, Pastor (Mrs) Faith Oyedepo and other members of the Board of Regents; members of Management of the University; Principal Officers; Professors, faculty, staff and students.
Others included the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Landmark University, Professor Aize Obayan; the incoming Vice-Chancellor, Professor Adeniyi Olayanju; and other distinguished guests among which were the Vice-Chancellor, Bells University of Technology, Professor Jeremiah Ojediran; representatives of the Vice-Chancellors of Federal University of Agriculture Abeouka and Afe Babablola University; and the immediate past President of the Nigeria Society of Engineers, Engr. Ademola Olorunfemi.