Nigeria leverages on creativity, innovation to tackle humanitarian challenges

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja

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Nigeria is leveraging on the creativity and innovation of the youth to tackle humanitarian challenges in the country.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo stated this on Thursday at a Special and Extended Session of the National Economic Council, NEC, which had Bill Gates of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Nigerian Industrialist, Aliko Dangote, in attendance.

The session, which held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, focused on investment in human capital, as an imperative for socio-economic development.

Professor Osinbajo stated that his office, in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross, ICRC, launched the North East Makeathon “an exciting, creative and rigorous hands-on co-creating programme” last year.

He said the programme was “initiated to crowd source and support brilliant and innovative ideas that can be developed to scalable solutions to the humanitarian challenges faced by the internally displaced persons and other affected persons in North East Nigeria.”

According to the Vice President, over 1500 ideas were crowd-sourced from across Nigeria to identified six areas challenges in the Northeast.

He said that the areas included education, health, protection camp coordination and management, early recovery and economic security and food security and Nutrition.

“The participants which came from all over the country had some very interesting ideas and solutions to challenges in Health and Education, scalable to any region in the country,” he said.

He said examples of some of the brilliant ideas included that of Kamal Sabili, who invented Livebox solution server, “a cost effective offline tool that enables students to browse over 20 million educational contents within the education sector from primary to tertiary education levels;” and Abdulazeez Hafeez, whose Makaranta is an “online tool and mobile application solely designed to transition the unschooled and school dropout back into the formal schooling system.”

Other ideas, according to Osinbajo, were those of Zainab Lawan, who invented the Dignity Kit, an affordable sanitary kit “designed to assist young girls and women in proper hygiene during their menstrual cycles and at delivery,” and the Snapshield team, whose Organic Water Filtration system guarantees “clean and drinkable water using a filtration system that uses Soya bean chaff to filter water making it suitable for drinking and other household uses.”

“In agriculture, a number of innovations we have introduced in the last three years have seen crop yields rise as much as three-fold to four-fold, bringing greater prosperity to small holder farmers. Our rice revolution is a developing story worth paying attention to, in terms of the transformative effect it is having on rural economies across the country.”

Vice President Osinbajo added that the government of President Muhamadu Buhari was committed to creating an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive.

“Succeeding at this means unleashing many more Bill Gates’ and Aliko Dangotes, with all of what that represents for our growing economy: jobs, and more jobs, and countless opportunities for the kind of world-changing philanthropy that both men have come to embody,” he said.

He expressed Nigeria’s gratitude to the generous partnership from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Dangote Foundation, as well as our numerous development partners.

Gates Acknowledgement

In his speech, Mr. Gates acknowledged Nigeria’s “unmatched economic potential, which depends on the “choices you make as Nigeria’s leaders,” and suggested that “the most important choice you can make is to maximize your greatest resource, the Nigerian people.”

Gates pointed out that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of the Buhari administration idenfies investing in Nigerians as one of the three strategic objectives, but said the execution priorities don’t fully reflect people’s need, “prioritizing physical capital over human capital.”

He urged the Nigeria government to invest more in human capital by prioritizing education and health.

“I also mean continuing to open up opportunities in agriculture and micro enterprise sectors, as the government has proposed in the ERGP,” he said.

In their speeches, the Country Director of the UK Department For International Development, Derby Palmer and the World Bank Country Representatives, Rachid Benmessaoud, commended the plan Nigeria has set out in the ERGP for human capital development.

Earlier, Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole; and Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, had set the context for discussion by highlighting the challenges in the two sectors and what government has done to tackle them.

Omolayo.A