Nigerian Ecosystem of 4th Industrial Revolution & Craft of Working Institutions

4th Industrial Revolution

By Oremade Oyedeji

When Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, lashed out on the youth several months ago, describing them as lazy, it probably seemed to many as a political jingoism, but in all honesty, I personally think the President was 100 percent right. After all, our dear President is 76 years old. Who do we expect to fix the rot in this ecosystem we call Nigeria? That was harsh right? “issorite, kontiniu to move in drove en masse to Canada. Smiles!!!

Few weeks ago, I had this conversation with my friend Adeola, who had lived and studied in the UK before moving back to Nigeria recently, and he made a remark from an argument I think he had with another mutual friend few weeks back. They both saw on TV a veteran 66-year-old Nigerian actor, Kayode Odumosu, popularly known as Pa Kasumu. He was shown on TV in a terrible state of health. He has probably been struggling with his health since 2013, according to report from some quarters.

Adeola: OMG! Pa Kasumu was a fine Yoruba actor. (He said pitifully).

Jide (Not real name, our mutual friend) felt even more pitiful with his eye glued to the TV, (with a wish look of healing him with some spiritual powers of sort). Unconsciously, he said this country was doom, no good health system. “How can someone like this be sick to the point he is asking for public help in order to stay alive? That cannot happen in developed countries,” he exclaimed.

Adeola: hmmm…. (He sighed) what are you saying, is it government’s job to treat the sick man?

At this point, the conversation with Adeola touched something in me. So, I asked him whose responsibility it is. Now, he got a little sober. “I don’t know, maybe his family, health insurance scheme, his pension funds etc,” he said.

So, the question now is, how could he have benefited from any of those instituted schemes? I mean we all know the actor worked in a relatively informal entertainment sector, without an organized pension scheme or HMO. We all know what the position of the law, in respect to pension schemes and health scheme.

I remembered Dr Ngozi Okunjo-Iweala’s crusade about building a working institution in government when she was the then Coordinating Minister of the Economy. I also know recently, the pension reform act of 2014 has now expanded the contributory pension scheme (CPS) to accommodate self-employed and person working under employment of three employees and below. So, let’s just say that is a legislative relief.

Talking about the institutions; how efficient are the institutions of government in Nigeria? The truth is all the government institutions are weak, hmmm… I imagine you disagreeing with that, perhaps saying, why all? They are weak because of one major factor, which is the personnel (i.e the youth who supposedly work in these institutions). Other secondary reasons are the processes and maybe the law (i.e legal framework). I hope you now see what probably informed what the President said about the youth. The youth failed to initiate workable standards to various institutions of government where he or she works. That is why for example, Pa Pasunmu was sick and he probably didn’t have a working pension plan or an HMO plan that supports his career and age. These challenges cut across all ministries and departments of government, and the so-called regulators and standards setters.

Let me shock you, take accounting standard setters in Nigeria for instant, it is even worse. Strange right? Ask why the Nigerian accounting standard board that used to be the issuer of accounting standards in Nigeria (Statements of Accounting Standard (SAS) and the Nigerian Generally Accepted Accounting Principle (NGAAP) was abolished and replaced with foreign standards like IFRS of the International Accounting Standard Board (IASB). Did you say it’s the need for globalization if I heard you? That is not the absolute truth. Yes, the Financial Reporting Council Nigeria for example and maybe the banking ecosystem rejoice of the effect of that change maybe. But the truth is the Nigerian Accounting Standard Board was literarily not in existent. That ministry or department had employee who took turn to come to work monthly, they had mentally lazy youth who have practically no idea of the needs of users of standards the agency was meant to issue. The Board was only able to issue total working standards of barely 24 counts up till the time it was abolish, while its foreign counterpart (IFRS) that was eventually adopted had more than 40 applicable standards; that is more than just a weak institution, they were lazy.

What is the effect of not issuing relevant standards for example? I once had a client that owns a rubber plantation in Ogun State, Nigeria, and as part of pre-audit exercise, I reviewed the file. I notice the previous year audited balance sheet figure was too small. In preparing an account of this nature, you need to recognize the biological asset. At this time, Nigerian accounting standards had no treatment for biological asset; none of the 24 working standards issued at this time addressed biological asset of any farm in Nigeria. Imagine if listed Uber, Facebook or Google in the US is not having a relevant accounting treatment for its digital assets? Exactly! That’s how terrible it can look.

Fast forward; the fourth industrial revolution refers to a range of new technologies that fuse the physical, digital and biological worlds, impacting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas.

The key driving forces for the fourth industrial revolution include disruptive technologies; Internet of Things, Robotics, Artificial intelligence, Blockchain and Virtual Reality. The most relevant skills in this digital economic era will include professionals who have expertise in artificial intelligence, blockchain financials, cyber security and robotics.

Nigeria technically missed out in the three previous industrial revolutions. Well, the fourth industrial revolution is now in the hands of the vibrant youth. I think President Buhari was probably challenging the youth to wake up to the call against this disaster of missing out. What then is important is how to prevent this disaster from happening and the role IT educators need to play to ensure a smooth glide of the Nigerian economy in the fourth industrial revolution that will lead to mentioning this young Nigerian Robotic Engineer, Silas Adekunle, later in this article.

Let’s dwell a little on Dr Ngozi Okunjo Iweala, crusade of having the institutions working. Asides the ones earlier mentioned in this article, one of the examples of these institutions working in the country is the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).

NCC literally leaped from its comatose state of what it used to be in the 80s, an institution of less than 100,000 lines of both land and mobile in 1999, for a population of 160 million people, to what it is today, over 150 million active GSM lines, and already on the verge of releasing the 5G networks far ahead of Europe. Smiles! That the spirit of a Nigeria youth.

At no point in our almost 60-year history of independence has calls for Nigeria’s industrialization been stronger than they are today. Indeed, industrialization is one of the current administration’s priorities, given its acknowledged ability to bring prosperity, new jobs and better incomes for all. How then can Nigeria transform from an import-led economy that also relies on imported manufactured goods, to a producer and exporter of finished goods and services?  Historically, Nigeria industrialization has been relatively slow, taking centuries to evolve as you noticed with telecoms for example.

The first industrial revolution began in the 18th and 19th century, when the power of steam and water dramatically increased the productivity of human (physical) labour. The second revolution started almost 100 years later with electricity as its key driver. Mass industrial production led to productivity gains, and opened the way for mass consumption. The third revolution followed, before Nigeria independence in the mid of 20th century with information technology: the use of computing in industry and the development of PCs.  Today, we are witnessing the rise of the fourth industrial revolution.

What exactly is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

I watched a video trending online of Silas Adekunle, a Nigeria young and Nigeria’s first robotic engineer, who built a robot from the scratch. In that interview, he mentioned three things that stood out; first was education, second was the ecosystem, and the third he mentioned was opportunity.

He particularly talked about problem solving in Nigeria’s ecosystem. He reiterated that the youth is expected to see the challenge of their environment and should learn robotics, with a view to proffering solution to Nigeria’s space in the course of their everyday life. For him, he believes robotics can help Nigeria in the area of security, learning, health, agriculture etc.

Silas is already predicting in few years from now when robots will speak Yoruba and probably other major Nigerian languages.

The Fourth Industrial revolution (4IR) combines technological and human capacities in an unprecedented way through self-learning algorithms, self-driving cars, human-machine interconnection, and big-data analytics. 4IR will gradually shape how we live, work and play.

How does Nigeria become 4IR-ready?

First, fast forward to the fifth industrial revolution. Let me share an illustration of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in another video trending online. “Nobody dances like us, like it doesn’t matter whether you are the Senator of Kogi West or Osun West (concurrently on display was a dance floor music intro by King Sunny Ade ); (after a purse) or Africa richest man (now displaying on the screen was Aliko Dangote dancing to music by Teni titled Case, or the President of Africa’s largest economy President Muhammadu Buhari  (displayed on screen was President Buhari dancing to life performance of King Wasiu Ayinde sometimes during election campaign  in the west I think), and finally displayed on screen was a swag of former President Olusegun Obasanjo with the big dance. (laughs!!) My dear Vice President Osinbajo concluded that Nigerians love to dance. Smiles!!

Back to the sub-heading; For Nigeria to have the working institutions, she must fully harness the benefits of youthfully driven 4IR in the ministries and departments of governance; she must boost the country’s digital development. Therefore, a “Future Agenda” which promotes digital transformation in various institutions of government, and addresses necessary policies relating to relevant learning, entrepreneurship, agriculture, health and infrastructure etc in massive public private partnership (PPP) fusion.

In conclusion; in the fifth industrial revolution, human and machine will be dancing.

What are the Global Opportunities and Threats?

According to PwC, global GDP could increase by 14 percent in 2030 as a result of Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Robotics which is an additional $15.7 trillion. The 4IR is rapidly causing disruption by providing digital platforms for research, development, marketing, sales and distribution: all of which could drive efficiency and productivity while also reducing logistics and communication cost and creating new global supply chain channels.

Yet, the only opposing argument is that the 4IR can yield greater inequality to the economy because only the talented youths and not capital (and owners of capital) anymore, will become the major factor of production.

Another area of concern by some is the loss of jobs as automation begins to replace the unskilled and semi-skilled workforce. The good news is that while new technology may cause the creative destruction of some jobs, it will also create many new jobs, some of which we can’t even imagine today. The truth is that in the past, technology has ended up creating more jobs than it wiped out.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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