Prior to the 21st century, no intellectual needed be told that the United States of America (USA), Japan and Europe were leading in science and technology, for which many developing countries looked up to them for their science and technology needs.
However, over the last decade emerging economies tend to shift the global science and technology landscape as several Asian nations, particularly China and South Korea, rapidly increased their innovative capacities.
It is no longer surprising to have major Asian economies now perform a larger share of global research and development than the US. China is now performing nearly as much of the world’s high-tech manufacturing as the US, according to a report released by the National Science Board (NSB), the policy making body of the National Science Foundation (NSF) in US. In fact, in 2014, China reportedly led the Asian expansion with its global share growing from just four to 15 per cent during the period.
This is to say that with the emerging economies of the Asian world, the three originally known world powers no longer monopolize the global research and development arena.
This feat, I think, was made possible because emerging economies actually understood the role of science and technology in the global market place. China and South Korea have catalysed their domestic R&D by making significant investment in research and teaching enterprises, as well as enhancing S&T training in universities. The focus of their energy on crucial sectors of the global economy, including high-tech manufacturing no doubt, took them to a tall height.
China’s choice of the education curriculum as a tool to drive home their emphasis on science and technology helped to make the application of science and technological knowledge easier as it merely amounted to praticalising already impacted knowledge.
China’s story today represents hope and possibility to every developing nation and a pointer to the leaders that science and technology is imperative to achieving good living standards and rapid development.
Apparently understanding the importance of science and technology in the affairs of the nation, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, some time last year, called for the establishment of the Ministry of Science and Technology in all the States of the federation. The minister explained that such gesture would be critical to the industrialization and eventual development of the country at large.
Ogbonnaya’s interest in getting the States to recognise that rapid development remains the primary role of science and technology actually inspired this piece. I should believe that the honourable Minister of Science and Technology is not just interested in making news, but has also set in motion plans to make his call a reality.
The minister’s exposition of his ministry’s plan to liaise with the Ministry of Education to ensure that science subjects are taught in local languages in primary schools, no doubt, could be a step in the right direction only if the cycle continues in higher levels of education.
While the proposed effort of the ministry at developing policy thrust on leather technology, as well as creating a platform for Nigerian Institute of Leather Technology to work closely with shoe manufacturers in Aba is considered a welcome development, the truth remains that Nigeria requires more than a snail speed in its technology advancement bid.
Nigeria’s textile industry is one outfit where technology and innovation are showcased. Our agricultural and biotechnology sectors beckon for urgent investment. A neglect in this regard handicaps research and development in strategic industries.
Nigeria, like Asian countries, must aggressively pursue initiatives with major investment in research and development. This will help reduce our reliance and over dependence on foreign technologies, as well as step up Nigeria’s economy to the next level.