High hopes for Nigeria's latest science policy
[ABUJA] Nigeria's government hopes to make a "quantum leap" into the industrialised world with its latest science, technology and innovation (STI) policy, which is expected to be approved by President Goodluck Jonathan after the new government is sworn in later this month (29 May).
The draft was approved by the National Council on Science and Technology, Nigeria's main science advisory body, last week (13 May). Proponents say it signals a major step towards developing a national system of innovation, including the word in the policy name for the first time. Objectives include the creation of mechanisms to promote, commercialise and diffuse local technologies for industrial development, as well as developing capability in STI across all sectors to promote global competitiveness.
Previous STI policies have been widely criticised, particularly because they lacked legal status and were not enforceable. Critics have also said that the most recent policy, developed in 2003, was put together without wide consultation.
Government officials told SciDev.Net that, unlike previous versions, this policy was developed with input from relevant stakeholders and would also be given legal backing. This follows an STI reform project conducted with UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which prescribed a national system of innovation and called for the country to prioritise economic development initiatives, science and technology research and development (R&D) and funding mechanisms for such activities.
Mohammed Ka'oje Abubakar, minister of science and technology, told SciDev.Net: "[This] is not a review — because the existing [policy] is moribund and obsolete. We have written a new STI policy for Nigeria that will address the contemporary problems of this country.
"This draft policy was produced and approved by the National Council on Science and Technology in line with the commitment of the federal government under the leadership of [Jonathan] to reposition Nigeria as one of the world's top twenty economies by the year 2020.
"We are optimistic that the Federal Executive Council, who directed us to come up with this draft policy, will approve it."
Willie Siyanbola, director-general of the National Centre for Technology Management, which led the review, said: "This policy marries science and technology to Nigeria's economic policy.
"For the first time in Nigeria we are bringing innovation into the [STI] policy. The government wants a quantum jump."
The policy prescribes a funding mechanism that involves the government, the organised private sector and international development partners. It also calls for an annual budgetary allocation to science and technology activities of at least two per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) over the next five years, followed by "a gradual increase to 2.5 per cent" in the next ten years.
There are plans to foster in-house and contracted-out research by public and private enterprises using tax breaks and other incentives.
A National Science and Technology Special Fund would be implemented under the policy, to support research and development activities in higher education and research institutions, and the private sector.
One objective of the policy is to develop a legal framework to institutionalise its implementation.
Oluegun Adewoye, a fellow at the Nigerian Academy of Science, said: "The academy of science hopes that this policy will be followed by an implementation strategy ... and that this policy will not go the way of the previous one."
Link to draft policy [824kB]