About Emem Andrew
Emem Andrew is a Nigerian who believes that her beloved country will work and be a success, and that the children of the 70's will be the focal point in turning things around. Her mantra: "We have faith, vision and the energy to bring about change in our country and we will!"
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The popular nursery rhyme reverberates…
“Some like it hot
Some like it cold
Some like it in the pot nine days old”.
In Nigeria we just like to own it. We have to own our borehole and pumping machine to be able to have running water. We have to own our own security outfit to provide security. We own our own neighborhood development to take care of the trash and road. And to generate power, we own our own diesel, petrol or kerosene generators. If we can’t afford either, we go to the bush and harvest wood to burn our own fires. That is the psyche of our people. The telecommunications revolution tapped into this and we grew from 250,000 lines to over 45 million active cell phones within a decade. A cell phone is something we can own. Something we call our own. No one can contest this ownership with us. It is part of us. It is part of our identity.
To solve the electricity problem, we have to carter to this need to own. Historically, heavily centralized services have not worked for Nigeria. From the government to telecommunications to water supply. What has proved effective and efficient is local service; a strategically placed water borehole serving a few streets in the city, a telecommunications mast serving all cell phones in a small area, a personal power generator providing power for a home or a small block of apartment buildings. These are the infrastructure we are used to. These are what we know works. These small, efficient machines or installations that we can see, touch and understand are the things we trust will work for us. We do not trust central infrastructure – you only need to drive down Benin –Ore road to realize the wisdom of staying local. And the average Nigerian learns to live with it and not trust that it would change.
This lack of trust is not necessarily a bad thing. Luckily, technology is making ownership of personal generators a lot cheaper and smarter. The burden of not having good infrastructure in Nigeria can be turned to an advantage in today’s world. We would totally leapfrog the infrastructure deficit of the past and move to a future where everything we could ever need would fit into our pockets just like the cell phone. For power generation, we cannot exactly carry a fire in our pocket – if you discount the flashlights on cell phones that is – but we can put that generator on the roofs of our homes.
Increasingly, cost of solar photovoltaic cells (PV) has been reducing exponentially. It is calculated that the cost of PV reduces by 7 percent every year. From $13/watt in 1980, it is $1.67/watt today and will be about $0.5/watt in 2030. (see graph). What this means for us in Nigeria is instead of using I pass my neighbor petrol generator, a solar generator could serve the same purpose, generate 500 watt of power at a cost of N5, 000 per year, by 2030 this cost will reduce to N1,500/yr in today’s naira. This however does not include the cost of inverter (if we could use only direct current devices, there will be no need for an inverter) and batteries for power storage to be used at night.
This is the great opportunity we could exploit today to assure every Nigerian access to clean affordable electricity supply. The adoption of wide scale roof top or floor mounted PV cells could open up entrepreneurship opportunities, jobs in solar PV manufacturing, scientific breakthroughs in research, new industries and products that are direct current (DC) based instead of alternating current (AC) based. It will grant us an opportunity to do something radically new and different and in this way enable us solve the electricity problem and create wealth while doing so.
* This article was originally published in Nigerian TELL Magazine Online
Great work on innovation in Africa by Dr. Nd. Ekekwe.
Nigeria plans to become the 20th economy (in GDP) in the year 2020 under the Vision 2020 program. The federal government has started very bold initiatives. We want your comments on how our government can realize this objective
A plan to become the 20th largest economy by 2020 is a good plan and it is achievable. My concern however is our history of achievements. Historically we have been very poor in delivering on promises. We have had lofty plans for different decades but we have lacked the will and/or capacity to see them through. For me a key initiative that could fast track our economy would be power generation. Let’s move away from centralized power generation to a system where we could have smaller companies providing power to different people. Turn today’s NEPA or PHCN to today’s NITEL. Allow investors to handle power supply from end to end. Produce, distribute and sell power. The government has been lousy at it for 50 years. They won’t get any better in the next 10. We are 150 million strong and we produce barely 10% of the electricity we need. Energy drives the economy, human energy is one thing but the 20 top economies do not depend on human energy alone. They depend on electricity also. Just fixing this or creating an environment where this can be fixed would create more opportunities, innovation and wealth for the country.
Our tertiary educational system has been criticized by many that it has lost its past glory. Yet, the number of Nigerian graduates starting companies and leading big global organizations continues to increase. How do we reconcile this?
As much as I applaud the achievements of Nigerians, I must caution that we should not be carried away by the success of a few. The average Nigerian is resilient and hard working. In every society there exists at least 1% of the population that is very entrepreneurial compared to the rest of the population. If we should use this statistics, then we have 1.5 million Nigerians who have the risk taking ability to be entrepreneurial and these folks are excelling. If we are to look at the numbers again do we have 1.5 million Nigerians starting businesses and leading global organizations? No. How many businessmen are millionaires in world recognized currencies? Maybe just in the region of one or two hundred. We have just two billionaires on the Forbes list I believe. So statistically, we are not doing as well as we should be doing. This is sheer waste of enormous human capacity. With 150 Million people our economy should be booming with services for these people. We are mired down by declining education standards, therefore we cannot compete favorably in the global economy which is driven today by technology and science which all require high standards of education and conducive environments for innovation. Educating the nation for the challenges of the future is a priority. It is indicative that major oil companies for example, formally train Nigerian graduates in basic sciences for at least a year before granting them entry level employment and we all know that most of these companies recruit some of our most highly intelligent and most competitive graduates. This is very instructive and should be a wakeup call for us all to improve the education system.
While researching this interview, we noted that you attended Singularity University. Please share with us the experience and what life has become after it
Life is a journey and it took me through Singularity University (SU). My experience at SU is one that left me with mixed feeling. Feelings of hope and fear for our people. I got to learn about technology and the exponential trends in the field of computing and the drive by scientists to turn everything into data, even biology. And then the quest to make everything smaller – nanotechnology. These two areas in addition to 7 other fields I was trained in made the most impact on me….
I see you the weeping mother
of children abducted, brutalised and murdered
anguished and hopeless for life wasted
mumbling and lamenting in your helplessness
I see you the young man
struggling for years to find a job
to make ends meet, to start your family
to prove your mettle, to be a man
I see you the youth
opening your eyes to reality
of the cruelty of the world
and wondering if there is any point in trying so hard
Ntoeka mukit ke enyin esit me
for I am you and you are me
your pain is mine and your injury hurts me
Idara aya di ke usiere
We have a voice and let no one tell us any different
Our vote is our voice and we will use it
walk past the army tanks, circumvent the police road blocks
cover your heads against the rain and go to the polls
They seek to divide us with age old hatred
how can they turn me against the breasts of my annang wife
how can anyone seperate me from the strong bosom of my Ibibio man?
It is not about my tribe, it is about those who use their power to silence me.
But I have a voice and I will speak
I will go to the polls and speak the voice of God.
I will vote my conscience and make sure my vote counts
I have found my voice and I will never again be silenced
IBM predicts that in the next 5 years – 2015 we will be able to chat in 3D, batteries will be 10 times more effective and in some cases totally eliminated. Devices will power themselves. Computers will help to energize cities.
So far their past predictions have panned out; in 2006 they predicted that by 2011 our mobile phones will start reading our minds. That’s happening now with the smartphones. We do live in interesting times.
Some more publications on Nigeria’s Tell Magazine and The Sun newspaper.
Sun Newspaper: Nigeria Will Be a Major Technology Hub
Excerpt from the interview, heading was – Nigeria ‘ll be a major technology hub in future. The below is an interview with new Nigerian newspaper.
1. How did you feel being selected valedictorian for your class at Singularity U.? : We had to give a 1 minute pitch to be selected. We were 6 speakers and I was very nervous because the competition was quite good. So I was very humbled and grateful when my classmates selected me to speak on their behalf.
2. How has your Singularity University experience changed your expectations of Science and Technology? – I now see science and technology as a tool that can be used to solve problems for humanity. A lot of the intractable problems in Africa that we have been unable to solve; poverty, hunger, sanitation, water, health etc can be solved through the use of technology. We should not only be consumers of technological products, we should also be innovators and manufacturers to be able to have sustainable solutions.
3. How can Africans, and Nigerians in particular, derive benefits from these fields considering the dearth of infrastructural support like electrical power and internet connectivity? – We can still derive benefits from nanotechnology, computing, artificial intelligence, biotech and engineering because of our infrastructural problems. The problems of electricity and internet connectivity can all be resolved using technology. In fact in the next decade we will be harnessing solar energy more and more for our electricity needs due to advances in manufacturing and material science. The cars of the future (within the next 10-20 years) will all be electric powered. Experts forecast that the last fossil fuel driven passenger car will be built in 2030. To progress Africa and Nigeria must embrace technological solutions because of and not inspite of our infrastructural problems. We can use technology to leapfrog the limitations of infrastructure.
4. Is there some short cut through the grit of building our technological capacity brick by brick, i.e. some speedy form of knowledge/skill/competence acquisition module that can fast-track Africa along the path of progress?: The answer to that is yes. It is easy but we have to do a lot of hard work. The beautiful thing about technology is that when it is learnt, it becomes almost second nature. Too much is not required just the brain power, tenacity and hunger to solve problems and then ‘viola’ we are there. We don’t need to know all the ‘old’ technology; we can start using today’s technology, modify it for our environment and solve problems for our continent and humanity.
5. What would you say should be the priority of Nigerians, and many Africans, after half a century of post-colonial existence? – Our priority should be taking responsibility for our today and our future. We should stop the blame game. After 50 years we can no longer blame the colonial masters. We should forge our destiny, face challenges, solve problems and evolve into a strong self reliant continent, a partner in the progress of humanity and not just the charity case of the world. We should take leadership as the cradle of not only humanity but also civilization and write a new chapter for a better future.
6. Are there any silver bullets to rid us of recurrent health challenges like cholera, meningitis and malaria? Also, what hope is there for people living with HIV:
I would cautiously say YES. One such silver bullet would be ‘Water’. More than 80% of communicable and deadly infections plaguing Africa is caused mostly by our lack of access to good drinking water and inadequate use of water in sanitation. If we can fix the problem of water, then we could fix most of these diseases and where they might occur we will be able to manage them better with therapies which are available and effective today. Combinations of innovations in biotech and nanotech could produce simple membranes which we could use to desalinate water cheaply. In addition, solar power will help us heat water before usage and reduce the risks of ingesting harmful bacteria.
On HIV, I would want to commend the countries of Europe and United States of America who have been very aggressive in attacking this problem in our continent. It is however strange that in Nigeria and in the continent we do not have any research led by Africans that would produce a cure for this infection. I believe that we will be able to create biovores, tiny organisms that will mimic a human cell and introduce them into the body of HIV infected candidates, these biovores will be more attractive to the virus than the ordinary human cells and the HIV virus will inject themselves into the biovores and will end up being eaten up and ejected from the body. This will be possible within the next 15 – 25 years.
We will also have regenerators that will replace dead cells and make them more resistant to virus attacks. In the near term we can be more effective in prevention by creating vaginal rings for women and imbue these rings with hormones and medications which could work to prevent cervical cancer and minimize sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. This could be achievable within the next 5-10 years. There is also ongoing work on a vaccine for the virus so this virus is being attacked from all angles, prevention and management of infected patients. So my encouragement to all my brothers and sisters is if you are positive, live positively, very soon we will beat this virus and if you are negative, use a condom and when the vaginal ring is available, use that too and make intelligent choices when it comes to sexual partners. Remain faithful to your faithful partner. If in doubt, use a condom.
7. Your vision for the future?
My Vision For Nigeria – 2060
Energy: Everyone in Nigeria will have access to steady, reliable electricity supply because we will all use solar power. Oil will no longer be the primary source of energy and revenues from oil exports will shrink to 15% or less of all national revenues.
Transportation: By 2040 all the cars in Nigeria will be electric driven, however the road infrastructure will still be inadequate to carter for all the cars. More reliance will be on rail, water and air travel where we can leapfrog expensive road construction. By 2060 most people will live in Mega cities and work from home or satellite office sites near their homes due to the use of technology.
Education: We shall achieve 99.99% literacy as the use of smartphones become ubiquitous, prominent universities like MIT, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, Lagos Business school etc will offer their courses online and for free. The cost of internet connection will be virtually free and everyone will be able to connect and get educated. We will become a hub for foreign students especially Africans in the diaspora who would want to reconnect with their roots.
Poverty: It will be redefined as people living on the equivalent of $8 a day. Extreme poverty as we know it will end. We would have tackled the problems of hunger and water supply through the exploitation of technology in food production and water desalination.
Population: We will be a country of at least 300 million people. Our life expectancy will be as high as 98 years for children born within a decade of 2060.
Technology: Nigeria will be a major technology hub in the world both in innovations and manufacturing. The next Einstein will come from Nigeria or from the continent. Evidence is the current Nigerian kids in Britain all attending high school and universities at record early ages.
Health: Innovations in genetics, biotech and nanotechnology will create biovores that will eat up virus infected cells and also cancer cells, in addition, we will also have regenerators that would replace dead cells. HIV will be a thing of the past just like smallpox is today. Health care solutions will be delivered mostly online and we will have access to the best care possible within and outside our country.
Politics: We will remain a force in the continent and as early as 2019 will have more credible leaders who will chart a new course for Nigeria and the continent. Economic states of West Africa will form a strong EU equivalent by 2030 as African leaders gain more credibility and the people are lifted out of poverty.
Civic Society: As revenues form oil dwindle, government will be forced to raise taxes and aggressively collect taxes to run the country. Citizens will demand more accountability from the elected and will aggressively pursue all ‘forgotten’ stolen monies of past politicians and military dictators. As African leadership credibility increases, there will be pressure on foreign countries who harbor the loots from Africa and other present third world countries to return these monies and in most cases with penalties and apologies.
Social: Nigerian citizenship will be bestowed on children based on either the father or mother’s country of birth, or both could also be used. Laws will prohibit state of origin and only recognize place of birth as place of origin.
Ethics: Society will struggle with acceptance of computer – human interfacing (by 2040, computers will be embedded in the human brain to increase the common intelligence) this will be a more radical change compared to the use of smartphones. Religious organisations worldwide will resist the change but as more people opt to be interfaced, it will be more difficult for individuals to operate and compete without being interfaced.
In spite of the bomb attack – info here – this year, we celebrate our 50th year of independence. Nigeria will continue to soar and Africa will rise out of darkness to be a partner in solving humanity’s problems.
The labors of our heroes past shall never be in vain. Happy Anniversary Giant of Africa!