Thoughtful investments of the past in quality educational systems by developed countries has ushered in an endless stream of innovations. For example, the blockchain technology, Artificial Intelligence, Digital Genomes, Gamification, Virtual Reality, 3D Printing, Drones, Autonomous Vehicles, Social Networks, amongst others has strengthened the theory that investment in education and the pursuit of high-value research can endow a nation with significant competitive differentiation and a huge payoff. Good educational systems as a foundation strategy for national development will continue to trend among developed societies in the years to come, and its overall positive impact on innovation, jobs, and growth will continue to be visible for all to see.
When nations put research and quality learning at the forefront of their planning for their future, they achieve amazing things. Their convictions propel them to pursue new knowledge frontiers even if the benefits are not apparent. I illustrate with two examples: first look at Quantum Physics, an abstract theory developed in the 1920’s. At that time, it had no obvious application other than it explains certain phenomena that conventional Physics could not. Today, Quantum Physics is the cornerstone of the computing industry. And according to Brian Greene whom I listened to the other day on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS, the products of the Quantum Theory are responsible for about 35% of the United States GDP. If you do the math that would be around 7 Trillion Dollars.
The other example I like to point to was 1994 when the US National Science Foundation opened up the Digital Library Initiative to graduate students for finding a way to better search for items on the Internet. Two Stanford University graduate students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, took up the grant to pursue the research. The process of their study led to the idea they used to start up Google – the dominant search engine on the web today. As you read this, Google’s market capitalization of USD 649 Billion, exceeds Nigeria’s GDP. Imagine if the United States and other countries did not create the atmosphere for learning that led to quantum theory or if the NSF had not given the grant to fund research that resulted in Google.
Back to Nigeria, we wonder what the country would achieve by 2050 if it takes the time and effort to build a high-quality educational system as a foundational strategy for economic development. That’s why Intelisight is launching #MyNigeria2050 campaign which aims to provide perspectives of national aspiration in the medium to long term that only investment in a good education system can help realize.
By imagination, assuming Nigeria beginning from now takes high-end schooling system as one cornerstone of its developmental strategies like China, South Korea, and other South East Asian countries did in the 70’s and 80’s, here’s what I see;
I see a Nigeria that could follow the footsteps of developed countries on several technological frontiers. For example, I see that Nigeria would have had patents in the pharmaceuticals domain and should be okay with producing and exporting high-quality generic drugs. I see a Nigeria with at least one good consumer electronic brand able to sell and capture markets in Africa and beyond. I see that by 2050 Nigeria we will have great computer scientists and tech entrepreneurs, able to develop software applications and services and put them in the global market even in fields of artificial intelligence, network communication, information security, etc. By 2050, we should have some global high-tech corporations citing their R&D Centers in Nigeria because of its excellent educational programs and Nigeria’s automotive brands winning design and performance awards on the world stage. There could even be the export of robotic products as well the output of biotech engineering coming out of institutions of research and academia in Nigeria.
With education, Nigeria would have developed its human capacity and having a fair share of management talents in Fortune 500 companies like India has today. There might be world-class urban cities. Because of an excellent education, the middle class would comprise a majority of Nigeria’s population, and people in extreme poverty fewer than ever. But much more, I see Nigeria’s future less at risk as it develops into a high-income and knowledge economy and many other great things that only a good schooling system can produce.
The point is Nigeria needs to develop a benefits case on what it intends to achieve as a country through education at the level of policymaking and put plans underway to reach such goals. But we should not leave thinking to policymakers alone; they need an expanded base of ideas to build transformative policies. Visionary thinking does not cost a dime, and if there is any price at all, it will be pessimism – a belief that we are not capable of true greatness no matter how hard we try.
With our #MyNigeria2050 campaign (www.mynigeria2050.com), we invite you to broaden your mind, think big, far and wide. Nothing should be too big to think about, rather ask yourself why not? Why can’t we achieve that? We hope that by thinking and seeing the future together, we can craft a new narrative for education for the benefit of all.