Senior Special Adviser to the President on Industrialisation at the African Development Bank Group, Prof. Oyebanji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, said Nigeria and Africa must develop robust technological capabilities to effectively engage in global markets.

Oyelaran-Oyeyinka, who also serves as a Professorial Fellow at the United Nations University in the Netherlands, made these remarks during his address at the third International Conference of the Faculty of Management and Social Sciences at Lead City University, Ibadan.

The theme of the conference was ‘Digital Transformations in Economic, Business, and Socio-political Outcomes in the African Continent’.

He noted that in assessing Nigeria’s readiness for digital transformation, he utilised data sets such as the Network Readiness Index and Global Innovation Index, which gauge countries’ preparedness in industrial and technological sectors.

He explained, “The Network Readiness Index ranks 134 economies across 60 variables, categorised into four pillars.”

He then elaborated, “According to the Network Readiness Index, the top 10 countries are Sweden, Denmark, Singapore, Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, United States, Germany, and United Kingdom. No African country is found among the top 60 countries in terms of NRI, nor among the top 51 countries using the Global Innovation Index. These top-performing countries in the GII include Switzerland, Sweden, the United States of America, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Singapore, Germany, and Republic of Korea.”

He further highlighted, “Nigeria does not rank among the top ten African countries due to its low scores across the four pillars: Technology (88), Knowledge (96), Governance (114), and Impact (116).”

Oyelaran-Oyeyinka added, “Clearly, meaningful participation in global markets, including the high-tech sector of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, requires a strong technological foundation capable of integrating digital technologies. Manufacturing forms the backbone of the infrastructure and systems driving the Services sector, to which digital transformation is integral. Without achieving a certain level of developmental transformation, full participation in the new knowledge economy is nearly impossible, relegating countries to peripheral roles.”

He stressed the critical importance of industrial policy, which involves government interventions to achieve outcomes that surpass what the market alone could achieve.

“Governments must invest in human capital and infrastructure to foster the development of industries and advance technologies that drive economic growth,” he remarked.

He illustrated this with a recent example, stating, “President Biden’s White House has recently implemented one of the most ambitious industrial policy programs in decades. The strategic goal is to revitalize manufacturing sectors that have lagged in the US, largely due to international competition.”

Oyeyinka also said that Nigerian and African governments were currently focused on buying electric vehicles. He, however, advised Nigeria to rather leverage its own and Africa’s vast resources to establish manufacturing plants for EVs.

“In other words, there has been a shifting pathway from manufacturing to ‘smart’ manufacturing as an evolutionary strategy, not a leapfrogging strategy. African countries will do well to study how successful industrial policies adopt features of smart manufacturing activities to reboot their industrialisation processes,” he concluded.

In addition, Prof. Kabiru Adeyemo, the Vice-Chancellor, highlighted the significance of digital transformation in Nigeria, noting its potential to catalyse rapid economic advancement.

He explained that the conference would initiate further discussions on digital transformation and implementation.

Adeyemo said, “However, to harness the full potential of digital transformation, we must address issues such as digital literacy, infrastructure development, and regulatory frameworks. Ensuring that our educational systems equip the next generation with the necessary digital skills is paramount. Similarly, investing in robust digital infrastructure and fostering an enabling regulatory environment will be crucial in supporting the growth of digital economies. 

The digital transformation of economic business governance and its impact on socio-economic outcomes in Africa is a complex yet exciting journey. It requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders, including governments, businesses, civil society, and academia.”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Omolara Campbell expressed appreciation for Oyelaran-Oyeyinka’s insightful lecture.

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