By Musa Aliu
Research has shown that a nation cannot develop without innovation and when innovation is technology driven, that nation will most likely achieves its short and long time goals. This shows that technology and innovation play catalytic roles in drive towards national development. Even sustainable development may not be achieved without technology; simple or complex. Perhaps, it was against this context that federal government established Technology Incubation Centre (TIC) in 1993. The TIC was aimed to nurture new start-up in science and technology related business, speed up the communication of research and development (R&D) results by effectively linking talents, technology know-how, and capital together in order to accelerate the development of new enterprises thereby supporting them through the early stage of development. Everyone thus benefit; employment is guaranteed, standards of living improved and entrepreneurs scattered all over.
Today there are about twenty seven TICs across Nigeria. These centers designed as an integrated support programme to serve both public and private sectors either individually or in partnership with the intention of creating or nurturing budding value-added and technology based enterprises. These enterprises include welding, electronic, agro-allied, paint industry, fashion designing, trading etc. Despite the intended benefits these centers are expected to bring to reposition Nigeria as a technology hub, many stakeholders are of the view that the TICs are underperforming. Some of the problems were attributable to poor policy direction, poor infrastructure, mismanagement, poor engagement of few technology savvy youth, and lack of effective linkages between the TICs, and other target stakeholders in their respective locations leading to poor patronage. There is also lack of identifiable primary research work; this is evidence in the Ilorin Technology Incubation Centre for example.
Our visit to the TIC Ilorin shows that the centre has not performed up to its expectations. As a special federal training agency intended to develop local technology, there is no evidence to suggest the centre is engaging the young people. The pertinent questions remain: how many youth has benefited from the existence of the centre since its establishment? Do community members really know the existence of the centre? What idea has been put in place in moving the TIC Ilorin towards the direction of the government objectives? Obviously, one of the things killing the centre is poor management. Most public servants have a tendency to think that anything belonging to government did not require extra effort to make it better. This is a bad mindset that has affected almost every government ministry, department and agency. This is laziness, lack of commitment.
If a leader has no plan, the organization under his control will never develop even if the resource is available in surplus. All these encourage diversion of scarce resource, mismanagement of public fund and lack of respect for appropriate authority. Between 2013 and 2015, a total of N148.9 million was approved by federal government as statutory allocation for the centre. More specifically, from the 2016 Appropriation Act, about N96.8 million was budgeted for the centre; with N52.6 million for recurrent expenditure and N44 million for capital expenditure. Although, the actual release so far has not been ascertained, but what has been done to show for the amount of money in the previous three years? Being a government owned enterprises; the managers of the agency did not see it as part of their responsibility the need to provide evidence based result since its establishment. Perhaps, it is better to ensure that such strategic centre be managed by the private firm. This will give concrete result.
The Ilorin technology incubation centre needs to give more priority to youth engagement. There are many technology savvy youth in the state looking for this kind of opportunity but they don’t know that this is within their reach. A lot of youths need the assistance of the centre; in term of youth encouragement to start something and not waiting for the white collar job. The few trainees the centre has managed to engage are complaining that it not been effective in coming to their recues in terms of in securing certificate of registration to starts up their business. No further support is often made to make them self reliance.
As technology incubation centers are designed to train youth entrepreneurs, TICs are important to promote the present government change agenda especially in economic diversification. Yet it appears the Ilorin centre has not started looking in that direction. The National Board for Technology Incubation (NBTI) should be sensitive to this if its 27 TICs across Nigeria will fulfill their purpose. The NBTI most play its oversight and supervisory roles.
Moving forward, the management of the TICs should collaborate with private firms, trade union, artisans, states and local governments in their locations to fashion out innovative strategy of engagement for impactful outcomes. They are supposed to be known by the community associations in the state, trade unions, artisan associations, as well as other associations as part of their priority entrepreneurship development objective. Until these groups know about the existence of the TICs, the existence will be fruitless and nothing good could be achieved. This is because their cooperation is fundamental. They need to collaborate and see how they can both work together if TICs are to fulfill their laudable objective and contribute effectively in reducing youth unemployment, crime rate, and help reflate the economy out of present recession.
The fact is that, development does not come in despair or vacuum, it is not a mere dream, speculation or expectation it is putting down ideas and ensure action oriented plans. There is need to recreate the image of the centre. It should not be a secret place where no one could access. This is a public training centre and everyone must know about its existence without discrimination.
Musa Aliu is of the Business and Leadership Training Centre, Ilorin. Kwara state.