VP’s Remarks At The 80th Birthday Of Mr. Pascal Dozie

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Africa is considered the last frontier of global development in the sense that the other regions of Asia, for example, and other continents are, by and large, done much better in terms of structural change and human development.


But this same century has also been described as the African Century. This may mean different things to different people, but one clear notion that is captured in that description is that while Africa may well be the continent with the greatest material challenges, it is undoubtedly the continent with the greatest opportunities and potentials. I think that this stands to reason; earlier on today, I was speaking at an event, and I’m going to mention a few of the things I said at that event because there we dealt with questions on Africa and innovation.


Take population for example, by 2035, Africa we are told, will have about 1.2 to 1.3billion people. Nigeria its most populous country will become the 4th most populous nation in the world. Over 50% of that number will be young persons, some say 60% under the age of 25. Today, 60% of the unemployed in Africa are young people, so the implications for social upheaval are clear.


Aside from that, climate change also poses special concerns, especially desertification, the drying up of, for example, the Lake Chad and its implications for lives and livelihoods, especially of those who depend on that Lake.


And many know that of course, that lake used to be about 35,000 square kilometers. Today, it is under 1500 square kilometers. And of course, there are huge implications for life around it, for those who farm and those who fish. All of those whose lives depend on it.


And then the challenges of healthcare delivery and education for a large population have led in Africa in particular, to one of the worst human development indices in the world. But all of these challenges in my own opinion have peaked at an auspicious time. A time such as we’re in, a time when technology and innovation have begun to disrupt older and slower ways of achieving results.



And for Africa a time when its young innovators, digital scientists and creatives have emerged with incredible creativity and resourcefulness. There is no question that the key to our best dreams for the Africa of tomorrow, is innovation, is technological innovation. With innovation and technology, Africa will skip or leapfrog over many phases of development that other continents have had to go through.


Let me illustrate what I mean with some very quick examples; we are all familiar, of course, with the success of mobile phones in Africa. And I think we all understand that just given the innovation around the mobile phone, there was no other path for Africa to go. We simply moved from the fixed lines to mobile phones system.

There is no way of repeating what had been done between 1950 -1980 in all the other nations, so it was a quick movement for us. But what has that resulted in? On the back of mobile phones, we have seen some of the most incredible developments, especially in digital financial transactions, payments and electronic wallets and other innovative steps that would have required, perhaps a whole banking infrastructure.

So today mobile telephony has opened up businesses in rural areas in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and has led to greater financial inclusion and wealth creation. The Federal Government, for example, have run some of the microcredit schemes, in which we have given so far, about 2.4million microcredit loans to several categories of Nigerians, especially the ones below the pyramid, on the back of some kind of mobile payment system or the other.

And the birth of some of the very exceptionally FinTech companies have also been on the back of mobile telephony. But that’s just one aspect, how about healthcare?

In many other countries in the world, especially in the more developed economies and countries, the desired ratio of patients they say is about 1 – 500, to reach that ratio it would require 400,000 physicians alone in Nigeria.

The only way we will be able to deliver quality healthcare to Nigerians is through a system, where skilled people are augmented with intelligent innovation and technology, including telemedicine, artificial intelligence, etc. We are already seeing those groundbreaking innovations all over Africa.

Today we have indigenous companies in Rwanda for example, and one that started in Nigeria, delivering blood to hospitals in remote locations using drones. But there are even more remarkable innovations. There’s a 28-year-old Cameroonian, Arthur Zang, was featured on CNN for inventing a touchscreen heart-monitoring tablet called the “Cardio Pad” that has the potential to revolutionize medicine, especially in remote areas.

The Cardio Pad provides access to healthcare for heart patients in remote areas who don’t need to take long journeys to the cities where the heart specialists are located. So, the tablet itself is equipped with four electrodes that can be attached to the patient’s chest to determine whether their heart is functioning normally or not. The data is then wirelessly transmitted to the Cardio Pad tablet and sent to a cardiologist who can interpret it and make necessary prescriptions.

A Nigerian, Osh Agabi, was also featured on the same CNN platform. He created a device that can detect cancer cells and even explosives. The system merges synthetic neurobiology with traditional silicon technology. And this system is quite able to quickly and with remarkable accuracy, determine whether cells in the body are cancerous or not. It can also, as I said, detect explosives.

Of course, with the growing threats of security globally, this particular innovation could be revolutionary. The first to fuse live neurons from mice stem cells into a silicon chip.

But for me, perhaps the most remarkable innovation in healthcare is the work being done at our Innovation Hub in Yola, Adamawa State. It is called the Northeast Humanitarian Innovation Hub.

Just last week, a group of interns designed, printed and assembled a  3-D printed prosthesis limb for an assistant superintendent of Police, Mr Tumba James, who lost his arm while on active duty.

Those interns, Bashir Yau, Sulaiman Habib Adam and Kabiru Adamu and their colleagues, were trained in Yola and worked with a number of volunteers with amputated limbs. The equipment and materials required for the process are all in the Yola. And all the work was done in Yola. And they are able to do this time and time again.

Food security is also an area of need. Africa we are told has 60% of the worlds arable land but we still import over 80% of our food. We can only feed our huge populations with improved productivity from our tens of millions of farmers in Africa. This will require access to inputs, but also to accurate information about what to plant, when to plant, and how to cultivate, so geospatial and satellite data and access to mechanization on an as needed basis will be crucial. Also, new ways of increasing productivity will be important.

For example, Nigerian innovator, Angela Adelaja, who was recently featured on BBC World Hacks, runs a farm called Fresh Direct.

The farm uses stacked containers with a focus on supplying premium organic vegetables using hydroponics and vertical farming technology. Angela is solving the problems of traditional farming using technology and bringing solutions right to people’s doorsteps. This is modular farming for African cities.

How about private sector funding for agriculture? The technology-driven crowdfunding options are already taking over. There is Thrive Agric, for example, is an innovative agriculture technology startup supported by a Nigerian early stage Venture Capital fund called Ventures Platform. Thrive Agric was founded by two young men, Uka Eje and Ayo Arikawe, one of them a farmer, the other a software engineer.

The company leverages technology to aggregate finances for small holder farmers. They also provide inputs and farming extension services, so they are able to improve farm yields. And they have been able to do so 4-fold for thousands of ordinary farmers across the country. So, already Thrive Agric is just one, there is another called Farm Crowdy. These are new innovative ways of bringing private capital to agriculture. Most of the investors, of course, never even get to see the farms, what they wait for, of course, is their dividends.

How about Power? It is clear that the power problems we have will be largely solved by multiples of disruptive innovations that we are seeing today. The days of the traditional model, one national grid fed by large power stations are numbered. The smarter and more scalable options are using renewable energy sources, solar power, wind, biomass, and waste to power. And the possibilities are limitless.

Recently, the Nigeria Climate Innovation Center located at the Lagos Business School, jointly owned by the Federal Government and one or two other investors, recently concluded their Climate Launch Pad, and some very innovative ideas were unveiled. One of them is a company called New Digits, which has developed a process of generating power from water; the product uses water and conformed solar cells to generate energy for electricity and cooking. It works by collecting water automatically from any piping channel in the house, breaks down the water into hydrogen, which is used to cook and to power the entire house without the need for batteries of any kind.

Another company called Power Stove Energy, founded by three young Nigerians; Okey, Abdulazzeez and Glory, produced a low-cost, clean, smokeless cook stove. Powerstove Energy is the first clean cookstove to be fitted with self-powered IoT (internet of things) cloud system, to monitor in real time, a single day of cooking, amount of Co2 and biomass that is saved, black carbon prevented and total electricity that is generated, all of which can be accurately done.

Certainly, Africa is leading the way in a number of different innovations, different ways of thinking, as innovators figure out how to produce power in situ; new storage technologies. This, of course, means that soon, power will become portable.

Of Nigeria’s 180 million people, we know that over 20 million households have no power. But as part of efforts to diversify power sources in order to improve access, we started a programme of providing solar power with private sector support in 20,000 homes in rural villages, and that was the first phase. We started in a village just outside Abuja called Wuna.

Wuna is an agrarian community. It is not on the national grid and had no other source of power. To charge their phones, there’s a small entrepreneur with a small generator and he runs a service. So, if you want to charge your phone, you take your phone to his shop once a day or so, you pay a small fee and he charges it. Life in Wuna shuts down at about 7pm until daylight. But working with a PPP model, as I have explained, and the government-owned NDPHC, we partnered with Azuri Technology, a private solar company to provide a domestic solar solution.

Azuri provided the same end-to-end service in East Africa.   A solar home system, including a payment system. The Solar equipment cost under N2,000 and that includes the cost of power for about 8 hours daily.

Every home has one mounted on their roof. For the first time in its existence, the village now has running water solar powered, the school has power and the school hall is now used as a community hall in the evenings, which also has power. Each home has 4 points of light.

Children can now stay up late at night; women can process their millet and yams at night. New jobs have been created, solar installers, maintenance personnel, and the management of the payment system itself. I said earlier today that only one guy has lost his job in Wuna, that’s the phone charger. Every household can now charge their phones.

But on a much larger scale, we have facilitated private solar power supply to markets across Nigeria, using new extra powered lithium cells. In Sabongari market Kano, Sura market in Lagos, in Ibadan the Gbagi market, and Isikan market in Edo, and several other markets, all of these are private sector driven but using solar power. And time and time again, we see these solar innovations not just in Nigeria but also all over Africa.

And it is becoming clearer Algeria is a good example, as it is becoming quite evident with increased innovation especially around solar power, it becomes cheaper, more affordable and of course, more accessible to a large number of our people.

Education perhaps poses the most profound challenge and the best opportunity for innovation. In our country today, our median age is about 18; this means over 100million young people are about 18 or under. They need to get educated, and at a higher quality than we are delivering today. They also need relevant training for the new opportunities being created by technology and innovation.

So, a new curriculum is by itself, an innovation challenge. We are currently working with MIT, Cisco, and a few other technology companies in developing a digitally compliant curriculum for primary and secondary education. The only way to do the massive numbers of young people is through technological innovation that can deliver not just the best curriculum, but also the best teachers to the highest number of students.

We experimented with reaching large numbers of persons with teaching aids and instructional materials with our N-Power programme. The programme has engaged 500,000 graduates some as teachers, extension workers and public health volunteers. Each of the first 200,000 is equipped with a tablet which contains instructional materials and everyone of them has access to an open portal that has training materials on topics from entrepreneurship to code writing, and programming.

All of these half a million beneficiaries were engaged online, trained and paid every month electronically. We are now set to adapt these gains to online teacher training and retraining programme. Training for new jobs in technology and innovation can now be done electronically.

And this is already gaining momentum. Federal Government, for example, is investing in expanding the work of training developers, data scientists and artificial intelligence experts for quality jobs locally and internationally. Andela, a company Co-founded by Nigerian born Iyin Aboleji, pioneered this. A technological innovation fund from AfDB, BOI and the recently announced CBN Bankers Committee N200billion fund will focus on funding some of these training initiatives.

It is very clear that is so much that is being done and there is so much opportunity to do even much more. And I say for good or for ill because any or either scenario is possible. Given the chequered history of Africa’s development, it is not always the case that you follow the glaringly obvious path to progress and development. If Africa fails, the global impact will be unimaginable. And of course, if Africa succeeds that impact in itself will be something we’ll be talking about for generations to come.

But I am completely confident especially because the future belongs to the young, for the youth of today that Africa will for certain success. And we are already beginning the signs today.

May I again congratulate Mr. Pascal Dozie on his 80th birthday. Unfortunately, you cannot rest just yet. For two reasons; the first is that your experience, influence and wisdom is needed now more than ever. But if you are not persuaded by that the second reason is a scriptural one. At 90, God gave Abraham a new mandate, God said to Abraham that he should now begin his work anew and I paraphrase that scripture.

So, in your case Sir, you’re only 80 and you have 10 more happy healthy years before you get to Abraham’s age of 90. So you have no excuse whatsoever.

I pray that you will see many more years in peace and joy, as your days, so shall your strength, wisdom and favor with God.

Happy birthday Sir!