The Role of Engineering Professionals in Rebuilding Nigeria’s Economy by Titi Omo-Ettu
Text of a Speech delivered at the NSE, Lagos Branch, ONLINE 2020 ANNUAL PUBLIC LECTURES, AWARDS AND INDUCTION CEREMONY.
I thank NSE, Lagos Branch especially my Chairman, Engr Dr Musliudeen Agoro, and for that matter Engr Ayo Ogunnoiki, Vice-Chairman and Head, Planning Committee for this invitation. I apologise if I did not indicate all along that I am joining this discussion online. I have been within the premises of my house for five months and I am still counting. Please forgive me if I was expected to be physically present in Lagos for this discussion.
To the extent that this topic of discussion is development focused, I doff my hat to the authors of the text we are using as guide to discuss.
I also express my unreserved respect to the authors because of the consciousness that engineering is seen as a profession that is practiced as a family of professionals and the recognition that technologists, technicians, and artisans are also regarded as professionals.
COVID-19, however, to me is only symbolic and a mere reminder to us that there is a job to do, a huge gap to fill. COVID-19 did not destroy Nigeria’s economy. The economy had long been destroyed before coronavirus emerged. If I were 30 years younger than my true age, I would have said we had never seen an economy. But I am aware there was one. When I graduated there was an economy although that was about the time its destruction started.
An environment that has no thriving manufacturing is certainly not an ECONOMY but at best a MARKET.
But all the above are by way of introduction of the topic of speech.
NOW THE SUBJECT MATTER
The role of engineering professionals in rebuilding an economy is a straightforward, unambiguous matter.
Engineering professionals are to provide SOLUTIONS that are APPROPRIATE and AFFORDABLE. It could be more, but no less.
Perhaps the COVID-19 phenomenon can supply a good case scenario to build a discussion on, and I will do just that.
The pandemic has brought out several UNIDENTIFIED REALISATIONS.
The first is the fact that we can be productive even when we choose to operate remotely and yet collectively. Especially for those whose works do not involve turning the wheels of factories, run machines in farms, or assemble parts in construction sites, we have now known that our brain, especially for the engineers, do not need to co-locate to deliver solutions.
The second is that some normally required solutions did not appear to us as needs until COVID-19 came calling. That is to say, we have always required VENTILATORS and IR THERMOMETERS for Medicare. We have always required to wash our hands.
And I bet you these solutions will continue to be required in industrial proportions POST COVID-19. Something tells me we have known that now and it remains that we go into business.
What we should therefore turn our attention to is how we are going to build production processes that will make engineering professionals turn all of these into industry level production lines and to also domesticate our solutions.
For me, that is what makes an ECONOMY and plenty and enough of it makes a STRONG ECONOMY.
I will start by arguing that there will be a set of things, attitudes and code of conduct that must kick in now that the pandemic is, hopefully, showing traces of recession.
We must work in teams: engineering professionals, doctors, pharmacists, bio-medics, etc. must think, work and provide solutions TOGETHER for us to build an industry around the solutions which we did not take as serious until COVID-19 came.
We must coordinate our efforts and promote business. I play in the Nigerian Academy of Engineering now I can tell you that we have started a process of Engineering Business Promotion which, as we speak, is linking centres and spots of engineering solutions to manufacturing opportunities.
We must kill corruption before corruption kills us. If we are producing and our counterparts in government and in the industries continue to prefer importation because of ‘what is there for them’, then society will remain destroyed.
We must coordinate our efforts. I play in the Nigerian Academy of Engineering now I can tell you that we have started a process of Engineering Business Promotion which, as we speak, is linking centres and spots of engineering solutions to manufacturing opportunities.
We must work with the realisation that those who supply solutions today will be around tomorrow to stop our own solutions from thriving. That is the REALITY and we better be PREPARED.
Having said all the above from the point of view of COVID 19 imperatives, we should add that rebuilding an economy starts from here but does not end there.
To build a strong economy is a huge engineering endeavour that extends to building agriculture, transportation, communications, health, education etc. infrastructure.
That is to say, the above principles must be applied as fundamentals to build sustainable and enduring engineering culture and systems.
THE GOVERNMENT PERSPECTIVE
However, if we must involve Government responsibilities in this discussion, we must expand the requirements to
First, prepare for the NEXT PANDEMIC
Deliberately pay attention to MANUFACTURING
FUND production of young engineers’ solution ideas
Take RESEARCH results to INDUSTRY
Bridge the digital DIVIDE
Titi Omo-Ettu. FAEng ; FNSE.
August 25, 2020.