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Global developments: Implications for Nigeria and capacity building

Global developments: Implications for Nigeria and capacity building
November 26
17:05 2021

Good morning distinguished ladies and gentlemen, please permit me to stand on the existing protocols already established.

Today is a momentous and joyous day, and one full of gratitude to almighty God.

I rejoice with the Chancellor, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion, an exemplary man, who from a humble beginning established Nigeria’s premier private university in 1999. His nickname in primary school of “Exemption”, should have been called “Exceptional” – Domo Épa.

I rejoice with the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ezemonye, who has taken the University to great height, and is fulfilling his pledge to engage students in academic revolution as an antidote to unemployment.

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I rejoice with the parents of today’s graduands. You should feel proud and fulfilled.
And to the proud heroes and heroines of today – the graduating class of 2021 – congratulations on your achievement and you do deserve a big round of applause.

Today must be one of your happiest days. From tomorrow, you will start to cash on the cheque that your education at IUO has bestowed on you.
As you start on this next phase of your journey, let me share with you a proverb.

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Every morning a gazelle wakes up, it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.

Every morning a lion wakes up and it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death.

It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running .

If you do not remember anything from this lecture, remember this, you must have a mindset that whenever the sun rises, you must be ready and able to run, as if everything you cherish depends on it. Your future is in your hands and no matter how small your beginnings, you can rise to make the world your oyster. Upon graduation, I started as a secondary school teacher and later worked as a storekeeper in Warri. But, after years of hardwork, backed by integrity and courage, I not only rose to become managing director of the largest industrial gas plant in Africa but later a member of the global leadership of one of the largest oil companies in the world. If I can, then you can achieve more.

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Coming here today is a sort of homecoming for me as while living in Warri in the 1990s, I regularly passed through Okada highway on my way to Ilorin to visit my parents. But this is my first time in Okada and I thank the University for the privilege to be the convocation speaker today, to share my thoughts on a topic I am very passionate about – Global Developments, Implications for Nigeria, and Capacity Building
I will start by sharing three (3) global trends shaping the future you are graduating into.

Age of Imagination
For the first time since the world began, there may soon be creations that could match human beings in intellectual abilities, occupying the same space on earth. This is arising from progress in artificial intelligence, disruptions brought by digitalization, automation, virtual augmented reality, and so on. They provide great opportunities and challenges, which can be inspiring or terrifying, but most importantly and depending on how you respond to these, they enable those who can dream to hold aces. Take some examples:
In transportation, Google Maps has replaced paper maps and AI has enabled the likes of Uber and Bolt to change the concept of taxis. With 5G we are moving to autonomous cars without the need for human drivers or owning a vehicle. In aviation, pilotless plane using image-recognition artificial intelligence has been used . Airports like Changi in Singapore are partly run by robots, using cameras and AI to replace control towers.

In housing, 3D printing is revolutionizing the industry. A firm in Malawi; 14 Trees, has printed a house in 12 hours . Housing estates and high-rise buildings have been printed in China in days. In Nigeria, the Nigerian Foundries Limited has printed components like pumps. Household Items like televisions, pictures, bookshelves, and even your friends, will in future be projected as holograms in homes, rather than as physical items.

In medicine, human parts like the heart and limbs can now be printed with 3D. 95% of heart surgeries in some countries are now done by robots and just recently, a Nigerian conducted a spine surgery using a robot. Robo-doctors can now interact with patients and diagnose illnesses. AI is mining data from watches and providing medical solutions.

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In agriculture, smart sensors are enabling real-time monitoring of soil and weather to determine appropriate treatments to improve yield. It is called precision agriculture and former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on YouTube described how Israel, using drone and sensors can target exact volume of water and fertilizer needed by individual plants.

In education, robotic teachers are deployed to remote locations in China thus enabling the education of rural dwellers. Prestigious Universities are now becoming accessible to people across the world from villages and cities as Coursera now offers online courses and certificates from world top ranked Universities. Collaboration between researchers across countries can now be done virtually thus changing the concept of distances.

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In business, bitcoin and crypto are displacing currencies like dollars in trade. Payment systems are bypassing traditional banking systems, and fintech and blockchain are changing banking from what we know of them today by using big data.

These examples demonstrate that digitalization is transforming the world and a typical day in the future may start with being roused from sleep by “Digital PA” like Siri who prepares your breakfast in your 3D printed house. After pleasantries with your family, you hop on a driverless car to the office where your boss is a robot. On your way back, you pick up groceries at a shop that has no attendant, but your account is debited by AI. Back home, a medication is delivered, ordered by your wristwatch, based on its analysis of your sweat, and it determining you need the medication to prevent an illness. Later, you project your friend who lives in another country by hologram, to join you for a drink at your virtual bar. Were late jazz music maestro Louis Armstrong who sang “what a wonderful world” still alive, he would be singing “what an amazing world”.

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Some of you may be wondering if the courses you studied would be taken over by AI and if there would still be jobs out there for you? You are likely right as it is estimated that digitization will lead to 50% net jobs loss by 2050 in a period the world population will reach nine billion. However, this imaginative age is more of an opportunity than a threat, as there will be many new jobs that will be created that are unknown today, and there will also be opportunities for entrepreneurs with the easier access to the global market.

Therefore, dream big, keep updating your knowledge and be alert to opportunities, as those who will succeed in future will be those who can adapt, apply and create solutions.

Climate Change

A second trend is Climate Change. Humanity is facing a defining moment with a risk of world conflict and mass migration, arising from the effect of emissions on temperatures. Nations have been coming together since 2015 Paris commitment, to evolve strategies to reduce the rise in temperature to below 1.5 degrees, but the world faces some dilemmas.

One, the ambition requires huge reduction in hydrocarbons (coal, oil, gas), yet the world depends on it. It enables transportation and heating, and our houses are built with its derivatives like cement, aluminium, steel. Petrochemicals produce plastics, cutleries, polythene, and clothes. Our lives revolve round hydrocarbon yet green activists will like it ended now, and which is affecting financial institutions’ appetite to fund its projects. Ending the use of hydrocarbon arbitrarily will be rocky for all of us. Also, it will be difficult to expect developing countries, like Nigeria, who suffer from huge poverty and energy deficiency, to pay a higher cost for electricity and transport when even at today’s lower cost, are unable to afford it. It will also impact revenue of hydrocarbon-resource countries like ours who earn our forex and revenues from oil and gas. Yet, energy from hydrocarbon is not what is bad for the climate, but the carbon content. Thus, capturing carbon, its safe usage, and storage (CCS) would enable longer-term use of hydrocarbon, and thus represents a huge opportunity for researchers and entrepreneurs.

Secondly, the ambition requires adequate and affordable cleaner energy, but the current cost of alternative energies are several times more expensive than hydrocarbon. Several efforts are underway like in the USA, where President Biden’s net-zero emissions plans by 2050, provides two trillion dollars investment, to reorient the car industry, increase electricity from clean energy, and repair the ecosystems damaged by resource extraction, all of which would generate 250,000 jobs. These efforts to transit to cleaner fuels creates a new industry and energy system, where millions of jobs are being created, and thus a huge opportunity area also for researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs.

These are dilemmas that will impact the future that you are growing into, and it is thus important that you understand the issues and also take advantage of the opportunities.
Powershift to the East
For most of the 20th century, Western nations under the leadership of USA have been the dominant power. The GDP of the USA and Europe account for 60% of the world’s GDP, and global political and financial influences were dominated by liberalism, and institutions like World Bank and IMF are predominantly influenced by Western nations.

However, since early 2000s, the notion of global powershifts has been growing with the GDP of countries in the East, becoming higher than those of Europe and USA combined. Analysts predict that by 2050, the Chinese economy will be twice that of the USA. Global political, military and financial power is shifting to China. The Yuan or Chinese digital currency will be more commonly used and financial support for developing countries will come from China. However, there are major differences in China’s approach, including the idea that democracy resides with the state and not the people, and human rights exist under certain conditions. These will produce a different constellation to what the West previously did. Whilst it is not certain that China will become the world’s most dominant superpower, there is no doubt that it is assuming a more influential role in the world. This is the future you are graduating into and it may mean you have to learn Mandarin soon and understand Chinese culture.

My dear graduands, these three trends highlight changes in the world and examples of the different world you will be stepping into. You must be prepared to take advantage by educating yourself and ensure you are not left behind. As Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s first president once said: There is plenty of room at the bottom because few people care to travel beyond the average route.

Implications for Nigeria
Let me confess up front that I am an incurable optimist and a strong believer in Nigeria’s greatness. I hold it as an article of faith that despite current challenges, Nigeria will still rise like a phoenix to reach its gianthood. My optimism is due to the exceptional human talents and enormous resources in Nigeria. We are the largest black nation on earth with a population projected to become third-largest by 2055. Our GDP is biggest in Africa and projected to exceed US$4 trillion and rank 13th in the world by 2050. Our oil and gas reserves rank in the world’s top 10. Our 84-million hectares of arable land and excellent weather are envied for agriculture. This is a great country and our diversity a strength.

However, challenges like poor leadership, security, poverty, unemployment, corruption, infrastructure, tribal and religious tensions, have bedevilled the country. Life is difficult with many citizens struggling; living in fear; some displaced and many without hope.

So, what is required to change our trajectory especially in light of the global trends?
To attain our potential, the government and the citizens have key roles to play.

I will firstly focus on citizens, as despite governments’ failures over the years, we have seen significant achievements by citizens, especially the youths. Take the music industry where Wizkid, Davido, Burna Boy and Tems have taken the world by storm. In the film industry, Nollywood is one of the biggest in the world. In football, our youths have played at global levels including JJ Okocha and Kanu. In fintech, youths are attracting global attention like Stripe acquiring Paystack, for $200 million in 2020. Paystack was founded in 2015 by Shola Akinlade and Ezra Olubi, two young graduates of Babcock University. Another is the billion-dollar Flutterwave founded by Iyinoluwa Aboyeji and Olugbenga Agboola, which is now bigger than most Nigerian banks, which by the way were transformed by youths of their era like Fola Adeola and Tony Elumelu. Many businesses are making money on Instagram teaching people skills and selling goods.
Therefore, you can achieve a lot despite the nation’s challenges and I will offer you five advices as you step into the next stage of your life:

One: you are not going to get far in life, based solely on what you already know but what you learn in future. So, am sorry to disappoint those of you who may have thought that having completed your degree, you have come to the end of learning and can hang your books. This is just the beginning and your mindset must be of lifelong learning, not just in your field, but also in others. Engineers, doctors, lawyers would do well to acquire skills in sales, network marketing, analytic, content production, and so on. You will not only be competing with people across the world, but also against machines and so you will need to constantly retool, and never stop learning. Richard Branson, after his flight to space, said, “I see life like one long University education – every day I’m learning”

Two: entrepreneurship is key for the future as there will be fewer jobs even as the world population will be growing. So, do not leave here with a mind of being just a job seeker . It will be risky and so start to think of setting up your own enterprise.

Entrepreneurship is about creating value by being disruptive and getting rich doing so. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook once said, “do not waste time on problems that have been solved, rather go after new and complex problems where you can make big impact”. Ten years ago, the largest five companies were mainly oil companies with a total value of $1.2trillion, but today’s top 5 are IT and knowledge companies and are valued at a total of $8.9ttillion.

Three: relationships will matter more in future as while your intellect is the foundation for success, it can only carry you so far. It is emotional intelligence that will get you farther as you can only thrive by working well with people and building networks. A relationship is not about what you get but what you sow in others. Find out what is important to others and support them, way before you may need their support. If you are an introvert like me, you will need to learn to reach out to others and be vulnerable. Work on it and you will get better. And remember, treat everyone you meet well.

Four: you are going to meet ups and downs in life and how you respond will make the difference. Staying humble during your ups is important and how you stand up when you are knocked down is also important as you will likely get more no, than yes. As the former First Lady Michelle Obama asked, when the bars are lowered, how are you going to go high? Sometimes you will be disappointed in people and life will seem unfair, but it is not the falls that matter but how you rise from the fall and the lessons you learn. When life gives you a lemon, make the best lemonade, and always remain positive.

Five: you should find your own purpose in life as you are an original, and need not follow other people’s path. Your purpose brings out your passion, energises you, and will make you happy. One thing I found about happiness is that it comes more from being content and caring about others, not just yours alone, as you cannot be happy alone. Also, do not be consumed by work or wild chase for money but spend quality time with your family, friends and watch your health.

On the part of government, it must prepare the country for the global trends, and in many areas, we are only a policy away from greatness as demonstrated by liberalization policies in the 2000s which transformed telecoms. A private sector led economy is key to take advantage of the digital age and unleash the imaginative creative spirit of Nigerians.

On climate change, Nigeria has an Energy Transition Plan targeting net-zero emissions by 2060. Gas must continue to play a key role for electricity and petrochemicals and it is about time we end gas flaring. A learning from the recent Petroleum Industry Act, is that we need to evolve an Energy Industry Act, to provide clear policy, fiscal, and incentives, to attract investment, research, and entrepreneurs to alternative energy. Our response to climate change is a huge opportunity area for us.

On China, we need to evolve an agenda with broad objectives, not only on infrastructure financing, but wider strategic goals including on technology, digitalisation, trade, human development, and so on, and with specific deliverables. It will be key for the future.

However, a word of caution – through these global trends, the government will need to provide safety nets and redirect people to jobs like carers, cybersecurity, analysts, etc.
My dear graduands, what Nigeria needs at all levels are dreamers of a certain kind; true visioners and nation builders, incorruptible leaders who can mobilize citizens towards nationhood. Leaders who can build partnerships, and attract our best talents to serve. Nigeria also needs creative, innovative and engaged youths and I hope Nigeria can count on you, to apply what you have learned at this great University, to work with others to make a difference in the future. It is my hope that despite our current challenges, you can be optimistic, knowing that you have the talent to make a difference. This is the faith that I go forward with, that with national integration and peacebuilding, you as the coming generation have the capacity and a chance to transform the nation.

This brings us to the final leg of the tripod of this lecture.

Capacity Building
With the evolving and disruptive trend on digitalisation, our educational administrators need to adjust curriculums to keep pace and be ready for the future.

Firstly, how knowledge is acquired will have to be different. The traditional approach of memorization and regurgitation, as the basis of acquiring knowledge, is becoming less valuable as such knowledge can now easily be recalled by the push of a button on digital devices like phones. Knowledge acquisition has been digitalised and people can now easily “Ask Anything” of Google and get the answer.
Secondly, as the future will see less jobs, the current education system that is geared to produce job seekers will need to change so that children can graduate as creative entrepreneurs, with a business plan at hand. Universities have to evolve from “teaching knowledge” to “teaching how to learn and apply knowledge”. The value of education will not be the certificate but in the ability to think critically, select right data, extract new insight, and take action to solve problems. If the capacities of our youths are built this way, Nigeria has the best opportunities ahead to navigate the impact of the global trend.

Thirdly, the quality of education in our universities need to become better and globally competitive in teaching, cutting edge research and innovation. Our graduates will be competing with peers across the world, and a situation where no Nigeria University is ranked in the world’s top 400 Universities is simply not where we should be and that some countries now require our graduates to undertake a 2-year conversion course.

Fourthly, more collaboration between universities and private firms is required, not just in endowments, but also in research to enable innovations in new frontiers. An example is Yahoo’s $75m Energy centre at Stanford University. In Nigeria, Huawei Technologies has built an ICT Innovation Centre at the University of Lagos and we need other big firms in Nigeria like Dangote, MTN, and GTB to do similarly, and faster too.

My dear graduands, I know that by now you are itching to grab your scrolls to go and celebrate, but as you go, let me leave you with these two stories.

Andrew and Jack after graduation had joined a company on same day. A few years later Andrew was promoted manager, but Jack was not and he became disgruntled and went to complain to the boss. To demonstrate why, the boss set Jack a task to go and find out if anyone was selling watermelons in town. Jack returned shortly after that he found one seller. The boss asked how much he was selling per kg? Jack went back and returned to inform the boss it was N400/kg.

The boss then told Jack; I will give the same task to Andrew and pay close attention. The boss asked Andrew in Jack’s presence, to go and find out if anyone is selling watermelon in town. After some time, Andrew returned and reported. Boss, there is one person selling watermelon at N1,500 each and N400/kg when he slices. He has a farm and can supply us 100 fresh melons per day at N1,000 each and slice them for free. They are of good quality and taste better than the ones we sold last year.

We need to strike a deal with him latest tomorrow and once we do, we will beat last year’s profit on melons by N1m and add 5% to our sales turnover. I have written all these in a proposal. Jack was dazed, apologized to his boss, and asked Andrew to mentor him. This is the kind of entrepreneurial mindset that makes a difference whether you are an employee or employer. Another thing is mentorship – find mentors who can help you accelerate your learning curve by sharing with you their experiences and guiding you as you navigate through life.

The last story is about character and what kind of person will you be in future?
Upon graduation years back, I reviewed the failure of organisations like Nigeria Airways and Nigeria Shipping Line, and established that lack of integrity, lack of merit in hiring, and indiscipline in governance were causes of the failure, I became determined then that wherever I work, Integrity, Excellence, and Courage would be traits I will exhibit, so that such firms will thrive, and be example that it is possible to excel and do right in Nigeria.

These characters became how I worked and was known throughout my career, and were critical in the decisions to appoint me to senior positions. I want you to know that your character will speak for you, one way or another, even when you are not in the room.

In the words of the 16th-century French philosopher Rene Descartes, “cogito ergo sum” which means, as you think, so are you.
Go out there, “keep it 100”, slay and be the G.O.A.Ts (Greatest of all time).
I wish you huge success.

Being the text presented by Babs Omotowa, chairman, Montserrado Oil and Gas B.V, at Igbinedion University Okada, Edo state, on November 26, 2021 at the 19th convocation ceremony

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