Limit Not Nigeria’S Industrialisation

Some months ago, this writer read in one of the papers a suggestion by one of our highly revered economists, Prof. Pat Utomi, that Nigeria, rather than continue research and development work on the Nigerian car (where, he alleged, she doesn’t have comparative advantage) should concentrate on developing and supplying high quality rubber parts to the auto industry.
On the surface, the suggestion makes sense but to those who understand the underlying issues, the professor was just treading the well-beaten path of the World Bank and other multilateral institutions on science and technology research and development in the third world.
They say it as if some countries were born with the said ‘areas of comparative advantage’ in manufacturing goods and provision of sophisticated services while the rest were destined to be mere suppliers of raw materials to the industrialised world.
The truth is that the rich countries of the world are the industrialised countries, while the poor countries are those who produce and export raw materials only. So the choice is there for you as a country either to remain poor or to strive to be rich.
Prof Utomi is no doubt a brilliant person but by dabbling in this area, he missed it. In science and technology, there are two kinds of research—basic and applied. Basic researches are mainly undertaken for the sake of knowledge which results may not be applicable immediately. Applied researches are those which results are geared towards solving identified problems.
If researches are sometimes undertaken for research’s sake or a particular kind of research is undertaken for the sake of knowledge acquisition, why would Utomi, being an economist and a professor—a ‘knowledge master’— be campaigning against acquisition of knowledge?
Anyway, that is just by the way. The truth is that politics of science and technology is at play here. As I mentioned earlier, no nation was born with comparative advantage: every developed country deliberately invested in it to create it, for instance, in the area of industrialisation.
A former minister of science, the late Prof Gordian Ezekwe, laid the foundation for a sound industrial base for Nigeria when, during the Babangida Administration, he led 150 other Nigerian scientists and engineers to create what is today known as the National Agency for Science & Engineering Infrastructure(NASENI).
Just before writing this piece, the same NASENI in a momentous occasion, reached an understanding with Coscharis Motors to produce, en mass, tricycles designed and constructed by National Engineering Design & Development Institute (NEDDI), Nnewi, Anambra State, thus tearing to shreds the ‘bad news of ‘area of comparative advantage!
Now that NEDDI has finally broken the jinx, it is right to remember those who tried to reach the market place with laudable innovations but were prevented by contrary powers.
Between 1992 and 2000, Centre for Automotive Design & Development (CADD), Zaria produced her seven prototypes which include two tricycle models — commuter and pickup — four four wheeler models and a four-stroke, 800cc automotive engine. But the initiative was severely pressed down by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and other forces, in and outside of Nigeria.
Thank God, CADD still exists and it is making efforts to commercialise its innovations too.

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Ihesiulo Grace

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