Why Nigerian Universities cannot drive Innovation in Nigeria



Poor funding, brain drain, Infrastructural deficiency, knowledge gap, poor ethical standards and different levels of malpractices are some of the reasons Nigerian Universities cannot drive innovation in Nigeria.



The triangle of innovation around the world is held together by the cooperative endeavor of the Government, the Academic Community, and the Industry. A deficiency in any of these key drivers of innovation will definitely bring an imbalance in the innovation ecosystem. This makes the role of the academic community in driving innovation very critical; many nations are maximizing their ivory towers by creating superb technology institutes and centres focused at grooming a generation of innovators for the future. In Africa, the African Union and other relevant stakeholders are beginning to take several African innovation initiatives seriously. Innovation is now like a major Sport with each country running their innovation Olympiad.

While many universities around the world are at the centre of innovations, Nigerian universities are yet to realize how important their role is in driving innovation in Nigeria. It gives me great concern seeing how innovation around the world are been driven by the intellectual prowess of the academics and the academia while in Nigeria universities have been reduced to a derelict and a contraption for just issuing certificates and grooming half-baked graduates who are considered misfit by most organizations when it comes to employment and creating value in the society.

The problem isn’t from these young people who study in Nigeria, the government and the academic community is to blame. This is something to worry about especially if Nigeria wants to be relevant in the future. I remember vividly reading a report that says Nigerians are one of the most educated people in the US,I don’t know how true that is but am aware that many young Nigerians are excelling and becoming recognized  abroad as university dons. And these Nigerians in the US also contribute their quota in driving innovations over there.

Poor funding of the universities in Nigeria, brain drain, Infrastructural deficiency, knowledge gap, poor ethical standards and different levels of malpractices are some of the reasons Nigerian Universities cannot drive innovation in Nigeria. These factors has continuously brought with it decay of the higher education sector. They have become very incapacitated and redundant as the years grow by. It leaves no option than to think and ask where the future is and hope for Nigeria without a good and healthy educational system. Can there be sustainable development through innovation without the good knowledge-force?

After 53 years of the existence of Nigeria as an independent entity, one would actually think that with the exposure our leaders are getting traveling around the world, that there should be a change from what it used to be in terms of making education a top priority and as an ingredient for economic development. Am sure they hear and also see how other nations are driving technology development and innovation with the academic community contributing their own quota through research and commercialization of researched works.

For Nigerian universities to be on an industrial action for several months now with no way forward in resolving the dispute affirms the fact that Nigeria really has misplaced priority and is not willing to move forward. Such ugly characteristic of the higher education sector in Nigeria has left the system with great mediocrity, lack of focus. Our leaders care less in developing the education sector just like the health sector, because they send their wards abroad to study. Does that really solve the problem?

It is very glaring that the increased reduction in the standard and quality of education in Nigeria makes it impossible for technological development or innovation to come out of the citadel of learning and so Nigerian Universities cannot pioneer or drive innovation as other nations.

When you begin to look at what universities and higher education community in other nations are doing then you understand how we have planned never to move on with the future. The contribution of Technion-Israel Institute of technology to the technological development of Israel and the world clearly shows how relevant the academic community is in leading innovation in a nation. The story of Israel’s transformation as a Technology giant cannot be complete without mentioning the contributions of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology which has graduated over 67,000 tech entrepreneurs and professionals that are adding great value to the Start-up Nation and the world at large.

As documented in the book Technion Nation, the story of how Technion Graduates are contributing to the development of Israel’s economy, the over 67,000 graduates, holding over 90,000 degrees, indeed became the foundation for Israel’s start-ups, basic research, applied technology, high-tech industry, global management expertise, export sector and economic growth. Specifically, the Technion’s aeronautical engineering department has spurred key breakthroughs for Israel’s defense. Its electrical engineering and

Computer science departments have provided the talented graduates who drive Israel’s electronics and software industry, which generates $20billion of Israel’s $40 billion in annual exports. Its architecture and Civil Engineering departments built Israel’s roads and infrastructure. And three of Technion’s talented faculty have won Nobel Prizes in the past eight years. This is just the contribution of one university!.Others like the prestigious Harvard University, MIT, Stanford, Geogiatech are  a few of higher education communities that have conquered their environment and are extending their tentacles to other countries and helping them develop innovation around research and development of innovative products and services.

The role of the universities in Nigeria has been reduced to just issuing out certificates that are not recognized elsewhere in the world and even the holders of such degrees cannot compete globally. The major cause of the poor standard of education is that Nigerian government over the years does not give the needed priority and attention to higher education in the country. The universities are poorly funded by the government. It is very unfortunate how our leaders continuously disregard the values and need for quality education because they can always afford sending their wards to universities abroad.

Nigerian universities are poorly funded by government, government does not give attention and provide the financial support that is needed by the universities and that is a major problem that sets back innovation in Nigeria. Universities need good funding to build and develop several infrastructures, carry out research work and then take care of the welfare of the staffs. Despite the importance of education to national development, education is one of the least when it comes to allocation of funds in the Nigerian budget. The right priority is not given to things about the Education sector in Nigeria. Government has the duty to create the enabling environment for the universities to drive innovation in Nigeria. The failure of Nigerian government over the years in this has brought other problems.

The curriculum used in the universities is such that does not support innovation and entrepreneurship. This has resulted in a big knowledge gap. This has brought with it the issue of graduates studying courses for years and not learning how what they studied can be applied in real world to solve problems. The problem associated with this is so huge and complicated that I cannot exhaust it in this piece.

Agreed that government has key role to play in pioneering tech development in Nigeria, my work with some universities in Nigeria has shown that the universities themselves lack focus as to how to pioneer technology innovation in Nigeria. They are really not interested in such, I have heard several organizations like the Worldbank say that most Universities can get funding from them but that the universities simply lack the needed idea and projects that can attract such funds meant for them. The universities themselves have all it takes to attract funding from the private sector and relevant organizations and drive relevant agenda for innovation. This is what is happening all over the world where several research projects are being funded by organizations and individuals.

Sticking to the old ways of doing things has limited the development of Nigerian Universities in competing globally in innovation. Lack of ideas and initiatives that can drive innovation is the bane of growth of innovation among the academic community. Nigerian universities are not daring or eager to try new ways of doing things. What is wrong in Nigerian universities partnering with top technology institutes around the world like Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, MIT, Harvard and others?

Lack of interest in research, doing academic research for innovation is a major goal of the universities but in Nigeria, there is very low interest in research, university dons do not have the zeal to carry out research work, most of them have gone into politics and business even as they teach. You find out that even research reports carried out on Nigeria are being done by foreign universities and then you begin to wonder what our universities are really good at. Universities in Nigeria do not have innovation hubs or centres that can help promote and accelerate technology entrepreneurship, incubation, research, development and commercialization of ideas from the university community.

The very poor economic situation in Nigeria has made many young academics that should pioneer innovation from the ivory towers leave the country for better opportunities abroad. Brain drain has affected innovation in Nigeria. Several Nigerian Professors and professionals live abroad and they champion innovation in medicine, nanotechnology, Robotics etc. This is the reason why our universities are dotted with Professors who are old and as such cannot drive new ideas. Most of them frustrate the efforts for innovation because of their selfish reasons.

As the university reflects the typical Nigerian setting where corruption is a major challenge to development, the university community has their own unfair, unethical things happening in the administration of the universities, in teaching and learning. Standards are compromised; education values and morals are eroded leaving the academic community with different levels of malpractices that hinders development of the universities in Nigeria. These are some of the reasons why Nigerian Universities cannot really drive innovation.

And then with the advent of private universities in Nigeria, which looks like the hope for education, they are also faced with the same issues as I have outlined above. Until these problems are tackled, the dream of the Nigerian universities in driving innovation will always be a mirage!




Kenneth Omeruo
Omeruo Ndukaku Kenneth is an Innovation Management expert,the CEO of Emerging Media,a new media company.He is a member of ISPIM - International Society for Professional Innovation Management and the US-Africa chamber of Commerce.He is the Founder of TechTrends Nigeria Blog,Nigeria Innovation Summit and the African Innovation Academy.Kenneth is a highly sought-after Internet Marketing Consultant who has through his seminars, articles, training and consulting, helped many organizations, Individuals, Businesses maximize the Internet for business purposes.Kenneth has also being featured as a guest on the TV show TODAY ON STV Nigeria and on Bloomberg Africa TV.He is the author of the best –selling Internet Book: How To Create Unlimited Internet Wealth. He is a syndicated columnist with the following Newspapers in Nigeria: Daily Independent, Financial Standard, PUNCH, BusinessDay, and Sun.Kenneth organises the EduNet Conference for Universities in Nigeria. Kenneth is a member of Institute of Software Practitioners of Nigeria( ISPON ) Roundtable For Capacity Development in Nigeria,member pre-selection committee for Nigeria at the UN World Summit Awards,a Panelist for Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria(YouWIN)-a Federal government initiative created by the ministry of finance,supported by ministries of Communications Technology,Youth Development,Worldbank and DFID. A 2013 Judge at the Google Cloud Developers Challenge for Sub Saharan Africa.He has been a contributing editor of Nigeria Communications Week,Africa Telecom and IT Business Magazine,ICT Today magazine,M2 magazine.Kenneth has been invited to the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation Forum, Oracle Open World Conference USA, Oracle Cloud World Dubai, and GITEX Dubai. He now lives in New York with his family and presently working on an Open Innovation project for Nigeria. You can contact Kenneth through email: (kenneth (at)techtrendsng.com) Facebook:www.facebook.com/Kenneth.omeruo On Twitter:www.twitter.com/kennethomeruo Skpe:Kenneth.Omeruo

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  1. Mr Agada,thanks for your contribution.

  2. Universities are setup to discover, curate and share knowledge. Innovation is not part of their charter. Business or governments can charge them to come up with innovative solutions to identified problems. Such charge come along with funding for professorial endowments, stipends for graduate and undergraduate researchers, laboratory equipment, computing equipment etc. Even without these, Nigerian universities are discovering, curating and sharing knowledge. The question is does Nigerian business or government want innovation from the universities? Are we even publicizing the research being carried out right now?

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