Yaba College Of Technology N50Billion Endowment Fund Launch

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Institutions of higher learning are to all intents and purposes designed to guide and nurture a society’s pathway into the future. They are the proving ground for our best ideas, the birthplaces of innovation, and groundbreaking research.  But research and inquiry may lead to revolutionary discovery or lead nowhere at all. Either way, the process is expensive and can only depend on large sums of patient capital.


The problem always is how do you fund world-class, relevant, cutting-edge higher education sustainably? The question has even greater resonance in Africa where public resources are low and the poverty levels put access to quality education beyond the reach of many. Right from the moment our government assumed office in 2015 we resolved to increase education funding.


So, year on year we increased budget allocation to the sector in a way no government before us had done. We took capital allocation for education up to N35.99bn in 2016 and stretched it further to N56.81bn in 2017. By 2018 we had increased capital budget allocations for the sector to N102.9bn and the trajectory has remained upward up until 2022. (In 2019, N620 billion was allocated to education, in 2020, N671.07billion was allocated and in 2021, N742.5billion was allocated to education).


But clearly, these allocations are not enough and they cannot be. It is unrealistic to rely on public finance alone for higher education, especially in a country the size of Nigeria.


Wealthier countries than ourselves do not leave funding for higher education to the government. There must be robust private sector interventions that are visionary in their approach. It is no mistake that one of the largest economies in the world and arguably the most technologically advanced, the United States of America also has some of the best and most prestigious universities.


American colleges and universities have been sustained and supported by endowments for over 200 years.


In 2021, on the back of one of the most economically challenging years in recent history, the total amount that accrued to US colleges and universities in charitable giving was $52.9billion, 5.1% higher than it was the previous year. This was driven largely by an understanding of the value universities hold as centres of research and innovation, more so in a time of crisis.


The total value of Harvard University’s endowment in its 2020 fiscal year was $42 billion, Yale University’s was $31billion, Stanford University’s, was $29billion. These endowments have been at the heart of some of the most important discoveries in Science and Medicine, Education and Arts.


Yaba College of technology is in my view one of the best institutions to use as proof of the concept that we can indeed develop world-class higher institutions for innovation, and research using both private and public sector finance. This is a great institution, imagined to be at the forefront of producing the technical talent needed to drive the industrialization of a nation confidently coming into its own. This is a responsibility that Yaba Tech has shouldered admirably for decades, equipping thousands of young people in Engineering, Applied Sciences, Fine Art and Performing Arts.


Many of her alumni have gone on to attain local and international recognition. It is also perhaps the first tertiary institution to deliberately establish the crucial link with the innovation and commerce ecosystem with its creation of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development.


Indeed, a connection which is not often made but which I believe is valid is the success of the Yaba Technology and Innovation Community in Lagos widely known and referred to as the Silicon Valley of Nigeria due to the concentration of tech and innovation companies within the environment.


I think it is the case that the Tech start-ups from that vicinity have grown and flourished into highly profitable businesses, with some of these businesses attaining the status of unicorns—which are companies worth over a billion dollars because of the highly skilled graduates in modern technology, management and other fields of study that have come out of Yaba Tech.


The N50 billion ambition of this endowment fund mirrors your vision for this great institution and demonstrates your keen awareness of what is truly at stake.


And we must approach this with a sense of mission and duty. We must augment the government’s finest intentions with our individual and collective desire to see us do better, to see Africa do better, and to see our children step into global arenas of enormous and unprecedented opportunities.


One thing is clear, young Nigerians will always rise to the stature of the challenges the world presents them, and even beyond, so long as we continue to provide a platform for them to stand on.


This is the opportunity to reach across our extensive alumni networks and rally the best of us together for the achievement of this vital cause. This is the time to demonstrate our commitment to succeeding generations and our sense of legacy.


The truth is we can completely transform our nation’s education sector with radical, long-term commitment and investment from the private sector, a win-win situation for all of us eventually. And I trust that this will be a solid start and step in that direction.


Before I end, let me add a word of advice. All institutions the world over that have successful endowments have very well-resourced endowment offices. The best skills in investment and management must be recruited. Endowment funds are to be invested wisely with the best professional guidance. A university that has a N50 billion endowment has more money than many States have at any point in time. Compensation for the high quality of personnel for the job may mean going outside the government salary structures. And it will be well worth the trouble.


I commend the governing body of the Yaba College of Technology, and the administrative and teaching staff for this initiative. Like many others, we are confident that Yaba college of technology given its track record and the support that this endowment will bring will be one of the frontline institutions that will determine the future of technology, innovation and creativity in Africa and the world. I invite all our friends and partners in the private sector and individuals to commit generously to this endowment not just today but on an ongoing basis.


Thank you very much. God bless you.