2021 Technology & Innovation Expo Themed “Science, Technology & Innovation For Economic Recovery & Sustainability Amidst COVID-19 Challenges On 15/03/2021
ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, MUHAMMADU BUHARI, GCFR, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION EXPO, HELD ON THE 15th OF MARCH, 2021, AT EAGLE SQUARE, ABUJA.
It is a great pleasure to be here to represent His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari and what I would be reading in the next few minutes is the President’s speech.
I also bring his personal greetings and felicitations and a special congratulatory message to the Ministry of Science and Technology and to all the participants at this very important event.
So, it is a pleasure to be here at this Technology and Innovation Expo, which is aimed at showcasing Research and Development results and the products and services of inventive minds in the country.
The expo is particularly important to us from the policy and practical perspectives especially as we pivot towards innovation as a key driver of economic diversification and recovery.
The theme, “Science, Technology, and Innovation (STI) for Economic Recovery and Sustainability Amidst COVID-19 Challenges”, is particularly relevant given the new challenges and fresh opportunities presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
No nation in the world has ever developed without proper utilization of Science, Technology, and Innovation. And we are fully committed to the belief that this must be the path for Nigeria as well. We have some of the brightest and best minds in the world in the innovation economy and I am convinced that this cohort can and should be at the vanguard of our efforts, to not only foster economic recovery but to reposition Nigeria entirely as an innovators’ haven.
I am aware of the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, in its contribution to the provision of home-grown solutions especially those to prevent and/or minimize the effects of the pandemic on the healthcare system of the nation, by constituting a Ministerial Committee on COVID-19 Herbal Remedies and Natural Compounds to authenticate claims of anti-COVID-19 products produced by Scientists, Researchers, and Traditional Medicine Practitioners in Nigeria.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has asked tough questions about our national capabilities in the area of research and innovation. I am gratified to report that we are competently answering these questions through the commendable efforts of our researchers and scientists.
It will be recalled that the first recorded case of COVID-19 in Sub-Saharan Africa was reported on February 27, 2020, and this was an Italian man living in Nigeria, who had just returned from Milan in Italy. What is less well known is that shortly after the patient was identified, a sample of the virus was sent to the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), at Redeemers University, Ede, Osun State.
There, a team led by Professor Christian Happi, analysed the sample and was able, within 48 hours, to share the very first genome sequence of the severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) from Africa with the global science community. This finding was shared faster than what was being done in many developed countries of the world. More importantly, it was also much faster than sending it to a laboratory overseas.
That last bit is very important as it is ground-breaking. Not so long ago, test samples had to be flown out of the country for examination. This is no longer the case because thanks to the efforts of our medical scientists and agencies like the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), we now have the capacity to process samples internally.
Last December, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), launched a new set of COVID-19 test kits that can produce results in 57 minutes. The new kit was designed by Joseph Shaibu, a molecular virologist at NIMR.
These are a few examples of how Nigerian scientists and technologists are answering the demand of the present moment and providing solutions to our problems. As a Government, we are committed to providing an enabling environment for the Science and Technology Sector in order to unlock the enormous potential for innovation, for wealth creation, and economic growth.
We are currently working to bridge the digital divide by increasing access to broadband connectivity with our National Broadband Plan with was launched this year. The plan is aimed at achieving 90% broadband penetration by 2025.
The plan will give special attention to the unserved and underserved areas when deploying telecom services. To achieve this, the Federal Government has also engaged with the State Governors at the National Economic Council level on the right of way charges for laying of broadband infrastructure such as fibre-optic cables, this reduces the initial cost for broadband service providers in order to lay the infrastructure needed to provide broadband services. Many States have already complied and reduced the rates to as low as N140 per meter, while some States have completely removed the charges. We are pursuing this cause because we recognize that internet access and broadband penetration are pillars of the innovation economy.
In the past few years, we have also made considerable improvements in the budgetary allocation to the Ministry. This has helped increase research and innovation with the aim of achieving sustainable development. We are happy that this has been achieved in line with the decision taken at the African Union’s Executive Council in 2006 to establish a target for all member States of 1% of GDP investment in Research and Development (R&D), in order to improve innovation, productivity and economic growth.
We are aware that only a few African countries have met this target, but as a result of the challenges of this critical sector of the economy, we will allocate a minimum of 0.5% of our GDP to research and innovation as a way to fast-track meaningful development.
In February 2018, I issued Executive Order No. 5 (“EO5”) by which all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (“MDAs”) of government were directed to engage indigenous professionals in the planning, design and execution of national security projects and maximize in-country capacity in all contracts and transactions with Science, Engineering and Technology components.
Executive Order No. 5 was inspired by the recognition of the vital role of Science, Technology and Innovation in national economic development, especially in promoting domestic goods and services.
In a statement of our strategic intent to the presidential order for planning and execution of projects; promotion of Nigerian content in contracts in Science, Engineering and Technology, to harness domestic talents and develop indigenous capacities in Science and Technology and to promote national competitiveness and productivity across all sectors of the economy.
This administration will continue to support the Science, Technology and Innovation Sector by expanding the opportunities open to those working in those fields. This Expo is a practical demonstration of this commitment.
Today, I urge all the Researchers, Inventors and Innovators who are participating in this Expo to be steadfast as the government has confidence that your results, products and services will help make Nigeria a truly great nation respected all over the world for its exploit in Science and Technology.
I am confident that through hard work and determination and by effectively harnessing our potential in Science, Technology, and Innovation, we will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and build a nation that meets the aspirations of all our citizens and earns the respect of the world.
It is therefore my very special pleasure to declare open the 2021 Technology and Innovation Expo.
Thank you and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.