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Interview with H.E. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology

Posted by: CT Productions
Category: Interviews, News

“This event organized by CT Productions based on the EIU research is very important…We can help evolve technology in Nigeria and this will transform Africa.”

 

What are the key motivations and concerns of investors (focusing on private equity and venture capital) in fintech? What role are accelerators playing? How can the incubators you announced link into the needs of this sector best?

H.M. We are very concerned with the level of unemployment in the country.  We are also concerned with poverty levels. That is why President Buhari has promised Nigerians that in the next ten years he will be able to move as many as 100 million people out of poverty.  We believe very strongly that we need to use technology, we need innovation to help achieve this very noble objective. There is so much great technology being developed in our research institutes.  We have a system with which to commercialize these research findings. The incubation centers which we now have in all 36 states of the federation help with this. What we do is firstly to protect intellectual property.  That is done normally through patenting. One of our agencies is tasked with assisting any research institute to patent. Once that is done, you take the research findings and give them to an incubation center. This is where we provide people with what they can’t easily get themselves, facilities, research assistance, electricity, water, office space and of course mentors.  So they spend time within these centers because we believe that this is the best way to transfer technology or help it be acquired. This is how we build up entrepreneurs. Often they start from one person, a friend, your wife maybe but they grow into small enterprises or family businesses. We have many great examples of such success stories.

You recently said that Tech Incubation Centres the Ministry has established across the country, will help produce the next generation of strong businessmen. Are there concerns over a skills gap in Nigeria? How active are women in fintech? You urged young scientists representing Nigeria in the upcoming International Junior Science Olympiad, IJSO, holding in Qatar to strive to win the Gold medal for the country. Are there any initiatives in place to address this? 

H. M. Spectra in Lagos already have five products dominating the market.  They started using the technology from one of our research institutes, the Federal Institute for Industrial Research.  The man is a graduate in Food Science from one of our leading universities.and the technology was incubated in Lagos in one of our centers.  From there it went on to become such a successful company. You can see the transitions in practice in a real-world scenario. Now they are doing well and have hired a lot of people.
If you visit our incubation centers you will see a lot of young people and many of them are women.  We are very happy with the gender balancing there. In Abuja there is a company that blends natural honey with products such as ginger and they can’t even meet the demand for their products.  Our system with research and incubation will produce the next generation of businessmen and women.  

What are some of the most important regulations in place to facilitate the expansion of the fintech sector and how will science and technology lift millions out of poverty as announced by the President?

H.M. Nigeria has so many very intelligent people.  In all the international exhibitions we have participated Nigerians excel, very often taking the top position in competitions.  There is nothing that can stop us if we put our minds to something.  
There are some areas that we need to work on.  Firstly we must find a way to assist all those that need help starting a business, particularly with funding.  Finance is the big initial challenge for start-ups. We want to use platforms such as the Bank of Industry, our Central Bank and so many others since there are some very unique platforms operated by banks.  We want to see how we can channel funding with particularly low interest rates to support startups or ventures that need to upgrade from micro to small business or from small to medium. We are doing a lot of work to encourage women and girls to get involved, particularly starting from school with science and technology.  

How important is the Fintech event for Nigeria?

H.M. This event organized by CT Productions based on the EIU research is very important.  I have always believed that the world should show a special interest in Africa.  Particularly at this point in time when African economies are moving away from their reliance on commodities and towards knowledge, innovation. This is vital because Africa has a lot of resources, both material and human. Many of the minerals that the world needs are here but so are many great minds.  If we successfully navigate this transition it is going to help solve a lot of problems. Nobody is happy with the levels of migration from Africa to Europe. We now have a free trade area.  We can do a lot for the world, not just in economic terms or technology and innovation but also in terms of prosperity and peace. I am very happy to see a private organization showing interest in research.  We can help evolve technology in Nigeria and this will transform Africa.  

 

Camelia O. Tsar, managing director CT Productions & H.E. Ogbonnaya Onu, Minister of Science and Technology