Good morning ladies and gentlemen;
My name is Uwem Uwemakpan, Entrepreneurship Programme manager, Tony Elumelu Foundation, and I am pleased to be invited to give the keynote speech and to be here with you all today because I am passionate about innovation and entrepreneurship as well as helping entrepreneurs discover their winning edge and run sustainable businesses.
I am honored to be here and I would like to commend the Lagos Chamber of Commerce for its efforts in serving as the voice of the business community on matters affecting trade and industry in Nigeria and for organizing this timely event.
All protocols duly observed.
The selected theme ‘the fourth industrial revolution: the Nigerian story’ is especially poignant, given the increased awareness that the 4th Industrial Revolution is here. It’s happening and we are already late to the party.
Let me take you down memory lane…
The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The mass extraction of coal along with the invention of the steam engine created a new type of energy that thrust forward all processes thanks to the development of railroads and this led to the acceleration of economic, human and material exchanges.
The Second Industrial revolution which occurred between the end of the 19th centuries and first two decades of the 20th century led to the mass production of steel, the synthesis of petroleum products – oil and gas, electric power generation and distribution to create mass production and economic wealth.
The Third which began in the 50’s used electronics, advances in computing power and information technology to automate production and new ways of sharing information. This new technology led to the production of miniaturized material which would open doors, most notably to space research and biotechnology. This revolution gave rise to the era of high-level automation in production thanks to two major inventions: automations and robots.
Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, a digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres. The Fourth industrial revolution is all about interconnection.
The industry of today and tomorrow aim to connect all production means to enable their interaction in real time thanks to technology such as Cloud, Big Data Analytics and the Industrial Internet of Things.
The applications for the industrial sector are already enormous: predictive maintenance, improved decision-making in real time, anticipating inventory based on production, improved coordination among jobs, etc.
I am sad to say that Nigeria is about to miss out on this, instead we are more focused on resource control which is characteristic of the 1st industrial revolution.
What are the advantages of the 4th industrial revolution?
The arrival of the fourth has heralded unprecedented speed, velocity, impact. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rate, which means that we must act now, if Nigeria and indeed Africa must catch up.
We cannot afford to keep playing catch up, because the benefits of embracing the 4th industrial revolution are immense.
The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.
The only way we can catch up is by adopting innovation. We have to adopt innovation because the definition of schools and learning has shifted radically; where brick and mortar schools are being challenged by borderless learning. The Internet has become the world’s number one classroom, without walls and boundaries.
We have to adopt innovation because global trade boundaries are shrinking and the world is now a truly global village. We are in the era of collaboration.
We have to adopt innovation because we need to raise leaders in technology, innovation, energy, power, agriculture, genetic engineering, banking and finance, environmental management, climatology, machine intelligence, medicine, sports, entertainment and the arts amongst other areas.
The Oil that saved us in the past is gradually on its way out and we must jump on the 4th industrial revolution with deliberate efforts to increase the mental capacity of our people; what they can see; what they can create and what they can give to the world.
Indeed, one of the greatest promises of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is to potential is to improve the quality of life for the world’s population and raise income levels.
Innovation is a key element in economic competitiveness and progress in the 4th industrial revolution. How then can we foster or drive innovation? – Through our entrepreneurs.
Research reports reveal that over the years, a high level of entrepreneurship is what has led to the economic development of many nations we see today.
- In the United States, the world ‘s biggest economy, 75% of the 16 million businesses are run as sole proprietorship (entrepreneur.com).
- The U.S. Small Business Administration recognizes that ‘small business is critical to our economic recovery and strength, to building America’s future, and to helping the United States compete in today’s global marketplace.
- China’s explosive economic growth over the past 25 years is due largely to removing ownership, bureaucratic, and financial limits on the entrepreneurial drive of the Chinese people.
- At the heart of other rapidly growing economies such as India and Brazil are numerous Small and Medium scale manufacturing, retail, IT, technical, and financial firms.
- According to research reports, in the OECD (organisation for economic cooperation and development) area, SMEs (small and medium scale enterprises) are the predominant form of enterprise, accounting for approximately 99% of all firms.
- They provide the main source of employment, accounting for about 70% of jobs on average, and are major contributors to value creation, generating between 50% and 60% of value added on average (OECD, 2016b).
- The value of contribution of entrepreneurship through small and medium scale enterprises to employment generation not just in the BRICS but also in other emerging countries have given them an increasingly important role on the global stage amid a slow recovery of the world economy.
All these statistics point to the fact that there is the need to imbibe the culture of entrepreneurship into the younger generation across all levels of education in Nigeria. This makes them independent thinkers, problem solvers, less dependent on the government alone and improves upon their prospects upon graduation.
Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of any economy, without the entrepreneurs creating value, creating social wealth, pushing the limits, Nigeria as well as the African continent will remain economically and socially backward.
For these reasons, the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme launched in 2015 has taken a direct approach to foster entrepreneurial development, providing much-needed funds to commercial enterprises that promote social change, and supporting growing African businesses through its Seven dynamic pillars
The Founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, and my mentor – Mr Tony Elumelu CON, had coined the term – Africapitalism. This economic philosophy was borne out of his belief that the private sector plays a vital role in the development and prosperity of Africa. That through deliberate and long-term investments, the private sector can create economic prosperity and social wealth. Africapitalism is the belief that every one of you seated here, is responsible for Africa’s progress.
Through Tony Elumelu’s investment in Entrepreneurs through the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, where we have directly empowered over 7000 businesses in the last 5 years. It is truly inspiring to see that these entrepreneurs have begun to translate their dreams into reality by creating jobs and generating revenue within the African continent.
There are a few impact stories I will like to share:
Gabino Guerengomba’s revolutionary smart solar module was first released after he went through the TEF training and mentoring programme. Its success was so tremendous that his business was convened to the country of Benin for an Energy and Infrastructure trade mission.
He has as a result signed a USD 80 Million MOU to provide Electricity to 10 rural areas in Benin.
Chris Kwekowe from Nigeria, is pushing the boundaries of education and recruitment using technology through his startup – Slatecube. He recently just scaled to South Africa.
Nneile Nkholise From South Africa, whose company produces medical prosthesis, more specifically, a product that resembles a natural breast. The product has gone on to earn her recognition as one of the top female Innovators in Africa by World Economic Forum in 2016 and she has as well been awarded Presidential award at the South African Youth Awards 2017.
I will conclude by putting a call to action to the various stakeholders present here today:
1. To the policy makers– Policy Makers need to educate themselves and ensure that they are able to actively engage in the discussions that are currently going on. They have a huge part to play and must furthermore embrace disruption instead of being afraid of it because without disruptive technologies we will not be able to survive in the 4th industrial revolution. The federal ministry of science and technology needs to drive the 4th Industrial Revolution in Nigeria and all technology acquisitions, deals and developments should be vetted by this ministry to ensure complete alignment with the above-mentioned national strategy. There also has to be heavy investments in Research and Development facilities.
2. To the private sector– We must invest in advancing Nigeria’s 21st Century entrepreneurs by providing the neccessary support system and mentorship, like the Tony Elumelu foundation does, and I also encourage you all to sign up as mentors on www.tefconnect.com.
We are also open to partnerships geared towards funding more entrepreneurs and creating more success stories. And lastly, research and advocacy through our research unit which is vested in partnerships that involves thorough assessment of the African entrepreneurial ecosystem through research reports, articles, opinion pieces.
3. And finally, to the Nigerian entrepreneurs – be dogged, resilient and have a can-do spirit. Nigeria is a land of possibilities and opportunities abound! You are the key to Nigeria’s transformation, so begin to see the challenges as an opportunity to create value that will lead to economic progress and prosperity.