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What's Needed To Close Nigeria's Technology Gap? - 2003-02-12

In Nigeria, the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure, or NASENI, says it has the potential to move the nation to greater technological heights. The agency says with improved funding its infrastructure, development centers can meet the nation’s technological needs. But a Port Harcourt-based industrialist says currently, Nigerian industries still must import spare parts because the centers cannot meet their requirements.

The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) was set up by the Nigerian government in 1992. Its aim is to meet the nation's technological needs. To achieve this objective, six infrastructure development centers were established in different parts of the country. Tim Obiaga is the chief executive officer of NASENI. He says inadequate funding has hampered the growth of the Agency.

He says, “I must say that the impact we have made so far may be said to be limited. It is limited because truly we have not been given the adequate support, the kind that was envisaged by the founding fathers. In fact the founding father was Professor Gordian Ezekwe, who was once the director of PRODA, then became the minister of science and technology.”

Dr. Obiaga says lack of funds has made it impossible for the agency to translate scientific results and ideas into tangible goods and services.

He says the organized private sector in the country still depends on foreign countries to meet their technological needs.

He says, "The organized private sector, we have tried to relate to them, but you find one thing and that is that the private sector will rather look to outside for collaboration and cooperation. In fact, all their spare parts, they get from outside. So, we have tried so hard to break through, but we haven't quite made it because the eyes of these ones are still outside. But we have a constraint also, until we establish proper engineering infrastructure in this country so that many more companies become involved in the manufacture of quality products, products that have specifications, products that can be used anywhere in the world, products that can interchange with others.”

A Port Harcourt based industrialist Samuel Johnson confirms that many large-scale industries in Nigeria import their spare parts. He says the infrastructure development centers set up by NASENI lack the capacity to meet the needs of the big industries. Mr. Johnson calls on the Nigerian government to create an engineering environment for NASENI and the private sector to meet the nations technological needs. The government says a campaign has been launched to encourage people buy locally made products.

But Dr. Obiaga says Nigerians still prefer foreign technology products. He says Nigerians do not believe in the capabilities of indigenous technologists. However, Dr. Obiaga says NASENI has the potential to meet the nations technological needs.

"No country can make progress by depending on imported products, particularly technology products," he says. "If we are funded, what we should do and what we will do is to break the jinx of this imported products. And begin to make the same technology products in Nigeria. That is help many people to get into making these products in Nigeria, so that Nigerian operators will have the opportunity of ordering their spare parts and equipment from Nigeria.”

The NASENI development centers design and produce laboratory equipment, stabilizers, electronic display boards, materials for foundry equipment, hydraulic and irrigation equipment. The organized private sector liaises with these centers to mass-produce their products to meet the needs of the small-scale industries.