Experts Harp on Investment in Agriculture, Technology to Bridge Poverty Gap

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Raheem Akingbolu

If 65 per cent of people that work in Nigeria earn their income through agriculture and if they double their earning power by improving their yield, the level of poverty in the country will be reduced drastically, Prof. Ndubuisi Ekekwe has said.

Ekekwe, who spoke at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) Alumni Biennial Lecture on ‘The Pursuit of Exponential Development’, argued that for Nigeria to experience exponential economic system, the country must develop knowledge for national development. The lecture which was held in Lagos, became necessary to unlock the potential in Nigeria’s business environment as well as achieving exponential development for the country.

 According to the organisers, most countries in Africa, including Nigeria are struggling to catch up with fast paced development in the rest of the world. 

This had been daunting with increase in poverty level in spite of the availability of the elements that can trigger exponential growth in Nigeria.

To build capabilities, competencies and invest in R&D for the future, Ekekwe suggested a $10 billion yearly for Nigerian university system.

But he said the money does not necessarily have to be provided by government. Citing examples of other countries, especially USA, he advocated for a review of Nigeria’s tax code which will allow individuals to enjoy tax break for donating money to universities for knowledge building and R&D.

“In America and Western Europe, there is clever tax system that stimulates rich people to give money to schools because the more money they give; they are offsetting their tax obligation in other places. 

“Nigeria does not have that system because when a rich man donates money to school, he is Father Christmas.  If there is such tax policy, people will inject capital into university system which will make universities competitive”, he said.

Ekekwe who specialises in Microelectronics and Medical Robotics Engineering also underscored protection of intellectual property as a tool to achieve exponential economic growth.

He said: “In an economy where there is rule of law and respect for intellectual property, innovators will be encouraged to innovate more, He commercialise and benefit from them. “The propensity that someone can invest all his resources for an idea and somebody else steals it yet nothing happens to the pirate does not encourage the innovator to do great things.”

To demonstrate how technology and innovation drive growth, Ekekwe, whose inventions focus more on modernising agricultural techniques and improving the continent’s healthcare system, showed how China and USA that once had flat GDP growth over long period of time leveraged knowledge, technology; focus on agriculture and attention to education to ramp up their GDPs.

Also speaking, the chairman of the occasion, Henry Macauley, the immediate past minister of Energy for Sierra Leone and former Sierra Leone High Commissioner to Nigeria, said Nigeria is presently positioned to take advantage of its population and all the resources it has not only mineral but human resources which is huge.

In his view, National President of FUTO Alumni Association, Ndubuisi Chijioke, said development deficit in most sectors is monumental that a progressive development will not get the country out of the quagmire except exponential development.