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Nigeria lags behind in research & development

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By Mercy Kelani

Successful economies in the world have heavy investments in research.

Despite Nigeria’s ample manpower supply, experts said it has failed in its contribution to global research regarding tropical diseases and medicine. A professor at Rutgers University, United States, Olabode Ibironke, said that Nigeria should have improved in significant domestic research for the benefit of citizens owing to the rise in tropical diseases in the country. In her words, “Nigeria should be to sub-Saharan Africa what the US is to the western world.” Although leading in culture, Nigeria ought to be leading sub-Saharan Africa in research, innovation and culture.

A French-Belgian online resource platform, Cairn Info, asserted that while research and development is employed for social responsibilities such as health care, pension schemes, education and others, governments also use it to secure long term competitiveness which engenders economic growth and employment. As a result, successful economies around the world invest heavily in research. In most cases also, research funding received are diverted to social, health and economic sectors that pose threats to the society — an act practiced by the US government.

Science and technology are essential for national development.

The inability of Nigeria to prioritize R&D has contributed to the persistence of malaria, leprosy, Ebola, Marburg virus disease, schistosomiasis, tuberculosis, Lassa Fever and other tropical diseases in the country. Still, Nigeria has produced skilled researchers that have been incredibly benefitting to other countries of the world. The Nigerian government is therefore advised to invest massively in R&D, implementing the knowledge of its innovators to ensure development in every sector. Science and technology are key to national development and improvement of the quality of life, economic growth and wealth creation.

In the ‘80s, Nigeria attempted deployment of financial resources to develop a national strategy on scientific research. However, the strategy has been abandoned for many decades now by successive governments. President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015, pledged to multiply investment in science, research and technology but the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) stated that the country only invests 0.02 percent of its revenue in this sector. Following this assertion, in January 2023, the government pledged to dedicate 0.5 percent of GDP to hasten development.

Giant of Africa, absent from list of 90 top research spenders.

As it is expected, top R&D investors in the world are also the richest countries in the world, they include the US, Japan, France, China, Germany and the United Kingdom. On a list of 90 top research spenders arranged by Britain’s Royal Society, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Russia, and Brazil were respectively ranked fourth, sixth, ninth, tenth and eleventh. South Korea and Taiwan were able to retain their status as leading export economies with the help of R&D, while the remaining three are among five emerging economies, known as BRICS. Of all 90 top research spenders, the Giant of Africa is nowhere to be found.

Some African countries have realized the significance of R&D and have thereby increased their R&D expenditure. According to UNESCO, South Africa increased its gross R&D expenditure from R35.6 billion to R38.7 billion, between 2017 and 2018. In the same year, Nigeria’s Ministry of Science and Technology received an allocation of only $175 million as its overall budget — a token of 0.757 percent of the federal budget. In 2020, the global economy ranking of 67 countries saw Israel as the country with the highest value of expenditure at 5.4 percent.

Partnership with private sector would revive Nigeria’s research institutes.

To birth a change, federal and state governments are urged to divert their resources into agriculture and science industries. The government should also learn proper utilization of its manpower the same way other countries benefit from the intellects of abroad-based Nigerian researchers. Likewise, Nigeria is advised to ensure removal of bureaucracy from its public research institutions. A synergy should exist between universities, research institutes and the private sector. Close partnership with the private sector would awaken the country’s comatose research institutes, encouraging positive impacts to national development.

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