Nigerian researchers to benefit from industry fund

Industry funds could help finance public research in Nigeria Copyright: Flickr/US Army Africa

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[CAPE TOWN] Multi-national corporations in Nigeria will have to contribute to efforts to improve science and technology (S&T) research if a new scheme gets off the ground.

The scheme, "Given Back", will for the first time ask corporations to contribute to a designated fund for the training of high-level researchers, and is the first step towards establishing an Industry Research Fund for the country.

Nigeria’s National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), the government agency that monitors acquisition of technologies, will manage the initiative.

Corporations operating in Nigeria are making a lot of profit without supporting S&T in the country, argued Umar Bindir, director-general of NOTAP. He said that it was a shame that multi-nationals are importing experts instead of building the needed expertise within the country.

Under the first phase of the scheme, corporations can volunteer to contribute a certain percentage of their profits to the fund but there is a bill awaiting approval from the Nigerian national assembly that, if passed into law, will make a set contribution compulsory.

Once the bill has been passed, any money in the temporary fund will be harmonised into one national research fund for Nigeria.

"In the future, contributions to the fund will be mandatory as all corporations will pay their technology transfer fee [the fee every company that imports technology into Nigeria pays] directly into the fund," he added.

Bindir said the fund will be open to all Nigerian researchers as part of a strategy to build a critical mass of high level experts for the country.

NOTAP and some universities in Nigeria have started visiting the headquarters of identified multi-nationals operating in Nigeria that have agreed to be part of the initiative, Bindir confirmed.

Corporations in Nigeria that have endorsed the initiative include construction giant, Julius Berger, Nestlé Foods, dairy company FrieslandCampina and petrochemicals manufacturer Indorama, which are ready to support Nigerians academics in the fields of engineering, food science and chemical technology, he said.

Bene Willie Abbey, dean of the school of postgraduate studies at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, said the scheme is welcome.

"The problem we have in Nigerian universities is not that of the brain but facilities so if an initiative is going to make facilities available it will get our support," she said.

Clement Iloba, public affairs manager of Julius Berger, told SciDev.Net that the corporation was ready to contribute to improving the quality of education in Nigeria.

"The initiative is good and we are not opposed to it," Iloba said. "We [already] engage relevant local experts to achieve our goals in the country," he added.