An unenviable, if not notorious, trait that runs through our social fabric is the inexplicable and insatiable appetite for foreign goods and services. The Nigerian elite class in particular seems to have a special predilection and preference for anything foreign, from the mundane to the ridiculous; and this their patronage of
“assorted rubbish” from abroad goes on unabated and unmindful of the dire and unwholesome consequences to the economy and national pride.
Admittedly, successive governments have expressed concern on the issue; some have even made attempts, albeit without much success, to stem the tide and to generally encourage Nigerians to embrace made in Nigeria goods and services. For instance, in the past campaigns have been launched, and even agencies set up all in a bid to address the menace posed by saturating our markets with foreign goods and the tendency on our own part to shun locally made products.
One of such bodies created to facilitate, boost and showcase local technology is the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (N.A.S.E.N.I.) which cardinal mandate is to create an enabling environment for local technology to thrive. It is expected that existence of a viable and excellent home gown technology is the surest and fastest route to industrial development which fruition translates into prevalence, availability as well as ascendance of home-made goods and services over their foreign counterparts.
It goes without stating therefore that existence of excellent local technology and products is a sine qua non to ending the dominance of foreign products. True to its mandate, N.A.S.E.N.I. appears focused and poised to make a difference. Indeed, N.A.S.E.N.I. under Professor Olusegun Adewoye has made appreciable progress towards conceiving, incubating and nurturing novel local technology in various fields. Few examples will suffice here.
First, in the area of agriculture and allied technology, N.A.S.E.N.I. has developed a mechanism and machinery for processing tubers like cassava into several high quality products. Now Nigeria is a premier cassava producer. At home, several foods, beverages and even fabric industries rely on cassava. N.A.S.E.N.I`s strides here (in tandem with some universities) is thus a welcome development, because hopefully soon local products will predominate this sector.
Second, N.A.S.E.N.I. has been working on mass production of its specially designed solar panels, one of which currently supplies enough electric power needs for its gigantic headquarters edifice in Abuja. Each of these solar panels can fire a housing complex, hospital, factory, etc, and is therefore a veritable alternative as well as addition to the national grid. Even more importantly, the agency has developed a technology on Small Hydro Power, with small rivers , lakes and related water points can be dammed in order to provide electricity for villages, small towns and other little settlement areas. This technology, if and when kick-started is really capable of providing much-needed additional mega watts electricity to augment the national grid.
Third, and very important, N.A.S.E.N.I. has been working in concert with Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (S.M.E.D.A.N.) to diversify, develop, and meaningfully equip and kit small businesses all over the federation. Now inventions and other products from the N.A.S.E.N.I. crucible are accessible to can be easily used by these small businesses. The import of this is that henceforth such semi-skilled professionals such as tailors, barbers, artisans, traders, craftsmen and women, hairdressers, etc can easily begin to use N.A.S.E.N.I. products through S.M.E.D.A.N. In the same vein, N.A.S.E.N.I. has reached out to bodies such as Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (M.A.N.), chambers of commerce, the professional regulatory bodies, etc so that the local technologies so hatched gets wide acceptance and goes to the consumers easily
It is clear that N.A.S.E.N.I. is a potent vehicle and instrument for not only achieving the Millenium Development Goals, but also the much-touted 7-Point Agenda of the present administration if only the agency will be adequately funded and the budding and young technologies encouraged. This should be a priority for all, because if any agency of has the capacity and will to end Nigeria`s scandalous reliance on foreign goods N.A.S.E.N.I.