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    Build More factories, stop degrading engineering profession, Be Ambitious and Strategic-Experts Urge African Leaders


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    By Isqil Najim

    The Senior Special Adviser to the President, African Development Bank, Professor Oyebanji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka has has tasked potential political leaders to be more ambitious, strategic and transparent in developing, implementing policies that will foster industrialisation, engineering development and economic growth in the country. This is just as other leaders in engineering warn political leaders in Africa against degrading engineering profession.

    Prof Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, who led others to discuss the theme “Engineering as the Key Facilitator of National Development Policies & Strategies for the Incoming Administration” at the Academy of Engineering Public Forum, in Lagos on Thursday, said the country’s political system has stalled industrialisation.

    He said leaders must realise that engineering and manufacturing are at the base of all wealth creation, adding that whatever happens in the micro-economic space like inflation, wages, interest rate, and employment starts at the factory level.

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    Prof. Oyeyinkan said countries make progress because they build factories, produce goods, add value to their raw materials and employ huge number of people.

    “ln a country where there are no factories producing and adding value, you will necessarily have unemployment because, where will you generate wealth from?. In any country where oil has become the dominant production idea or the only export a country derives its foreign exchange from, they always run into fiscal crisis and volatility. When oil prices fall, they are down and when the prices go up, leaders steal the money.”

    “Any new administration coming in should be subjected to evaluation. So, there is a need for such evaluations so that we can know where we are going. My suggestion is that Nigeria should deliberately enter into long-term strategic partnerships.”

    “ln a country where there are no factories producing and adding value, you will necessarily have unemployment because, where will you generate wealth from?.

    He emphasised that Nigeria should go back to the foundation of wealth creation by strengthening the engineering domain of economic life, promoting and employing young people into engineering-based sectors.

    “One of the things the AfDB is discussing is youth entrepreneurial lnvestment Bank meant for young people, run by them and for young peoples’ business and we are hoping that this will be part of what will solve Nigeria’s problem.” He said.

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    “What l expect from the new leaders is that they will take engineering seriously. We understand that things that grab attention of politicians are the short-term things. But we are saying at the base of the things is that we are not producing and we must move from consumption economy to production economy. Once upon a time, we had Michelin, Dunlop, Bacita Sugar Plant, Savannah Sugar Plant and companies making all our spare parts for automobile sector but today, everything is imported. The rate of import is far more than export, that is the problem, “he said.

    He advised African political leaders to behave properly and stop degrading the engineering profession rather than creating an enabling environment for practitioners to thrive.

    Also Speaking on how to ensure flood mitigation in Nigeria, a past president of Council for Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, Engr Ali Kassim, said Nigeria needs to mobilise its local engineering resources to mitigate, if not completely solve its drainage and erosion problems through designs and construct flood control system during the dry season. He said Nigeria has enough manpower to design and implement mitigation measures for floods and gully erosion. The Federal and State Governments, Ali said need to engage indigenous researchers, and consultants to conduct comprehensive study and review of all watersheds in Nigeria as well as a countrywide programme should be put in place to actualise this.

    He said procurement process for the Dasin Hausa dam located on the River Benue, 30km north of Yola in Adamawa State should be speedily concluded and the processes commenced for the others in Benue, Lokoja and Onitsha. He said flood control measures in other river basins must be similarly addressed.

    President, Nigerian Academy of Engineering, NAE, Prof Peter Onwualu, said the academy’s approach to contributing towards solving the problem is not about cataloguing the problems, trading blames and comparing Nigeria with developed economies.

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    He added, “It is also not about supporting any particular political party towards winning the election. It is not about debating the numerous development policies and programmes over the years and why they have not worked. It is not that these are not important but because as a think tank, we know that information on the above is already in the public domain as Nigerians do not lack expertise in analysing our problems as a nation.

    “Our approach to solving the problem is to provide evidence, data, and knowledge-based advice on how the incoming administration can redirect Nigeria towards the path of progress. We have come to the conclusion that the missing link in Nigeria’s efforts at economic and human development in all sectors is engineering.”

    He disclosed that the academy has established various working committees where fellows with years of experience come together to analyse the development challenges and proffer innovative solutions in the areas of infrastructure.

    “The work of the committees is produced as policy briefs to guide the government toward public policy formulation and implementation. These are available to federal and state governments.”

    A Former President of Nigerian Society of Engineers, (NSE) Engr. Otis Anyaeji, said incoming administration must boost Nigeria’s manufacturing capacity and enforce active manufacturing of products across the country.

    Anyaeji who is also the Obi of Obahu Okija in Anambra State, said sustainable industrialisation requires that the country develop the capacity to produce the necessary industrial machinery and equipment with components, make machines that make other machines.

    He said to achieve this will necessitate the establishment of engineering infrastructure to create a technological base.

    He said: “Benefits to derive include stopping the excessive outflow of resources to other countries, increase of agriculture produce due to availability of food processing and storage capability. We need ability to readily establish home grown small and medium scale industries at affordable costs. “

    A Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, United States, Ayodeji recommended policy that will encourage solar cell manufacture, and ion battery cell manufacture from locally sourced raw materials as the world embraces electric cars. He said Nigeria needs to close the gaps in the energy supply chain urgently.

    According to him, Universities and research institutions should be funded to carry out needed research and development while banks and Venture Capital are encouraged to invest in companies in these areas with high long-term growth potential.

    He also said private companies, currently focused on the assembly end of the manufacturing process, must be encouraged to pursue vertical integration, with the manufacturing process starting from locally sourced raw materials.
    “States should provide incentives in the form of tax breaks, direct investment, and support for foreign Partnerships,” Demuren said.

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