Managing Partner at Verraki, Niyi Yusuf has reiterated the call that the Federal Government should intervene in creating access to markets for indigenous businesses over subsidies. Speaking during a live interview on the Global Business Report segment on Arise TV, Yusuf, who spoke on the topic, ‘Technology and Innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa’ Yusuf stressed that limited market access is one of the fundamental barriers to Nigeria’s attempts to boost small and medium enterprises (SME) and called for a new policy that directs government procurement to SMEs.
Benchmarking other countries, Yusuf explained that 16% of South Africa’s Federal Government procurement goes to SMEs while the United States of America spends 22.5% of all Federal procurement on SMEs via the Small Business Administration and urged for a deliberate policy where 20% of the Federal Government’s procurement should go to indigenous SMEs. According to him, this will create access to markets for indigenous businesses and foster expansion.
Speaking on the impediments to technology and innovation in Nigeria, Yusuf proposed steps to enable government foster innovation in-country. He said that a major bottleneck to innovation and innovative practices in Nigeria is the lack of a structured process to foster innovation. Annotating this comment, he explained that innovation is an intentional process, not an accidental occurrence and most Nigerian companies and institutions prefer quick solutions and do not dedicate enough time and resources to support innovation. He also identified a cultural fear of failure but stressed that one of the biggest constraints to innovation in Nigeria is the lack of investment in STEM education – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.
‘Technology innovation will be driven by technology and STEM education plays a major role in achieving this. With STEM education at the basic levels, we can begin to lay the foundation for pervasive innovation. In South Korea, kids learn software programming in kindergarten; while for most Nigerian kids, kindergarten is where they learn “A for apple” and “B for ball”. If South Korean kids, from kindergarten, already start programming, you can imagine what they will be doing at eighteen. We need to invest in STEM education and Research & Development. We should create linkages with the private sector to enable commercialization of research outcomes, and then the government should provide access to markets. When we do all these things, we will remove some of those barriers to innovation’ he says.
Yusuf charged the Nigerian government to improve Ease of Doing Business, provide access to the market, support SMEs through federal procurement like other developed countries such as the United States and massively support Research & Development through grants, comparable with South Korea that spends 4.39% of its GDP on R & D.