“Africa is the continent with the youngest people, one full of opportunities and with an amazing amount of young talent. I am an ardent believer that this talent will drive the science and technology agenda of the future.” – Leszek Borysiewicz, vice-chancellor Cambridge University.
Recently, Africa has gradually and steadily grown to be the home of some of the world’s best tech advancement and innovations with countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and South Africa taking the lead. In Nigeria, the technology ecosystem is witnessing a spurt of innovation hubs and schools dedicated to the cause as Nigerian youths develop exceptional solutions to the country’s problems at an exponential rate.
Thirteen-year-old Ukoma Michael is the latest testament to this truth. The teenager from Imo state innovates battery operated fans. “Blue Wind” as he’s branded them, comes in different shapes and sizes – there’s the regular standing fan, and there’s the rectangular table top fan. When charged, the fans can last up to 19 hours, according to a report by Naij.com.
Michael went as far as packaging his products, which are mainly made from aluminium and wires, in old cartons. Clearly, this young man has found his path and is walking it. It’s no surprise that he said his goal is to own a company where he would specialise in “making fans, engine parts, and aircrafts.”
While it’s quite easy to get excited about these immense talent pool around us, our optimism needs to be tempered. Michael is certainly not the first Nigerian kid to come up with such an innovation, and he won’t be the last. So why does the country still import fans? How do we move past the experimental stage to the point where local inventions and innovations become standard products?
First, we need to move past what could be described as passive colonisation and over dependence on the west, then increase trust and build on local ingenuity – #MadeInNigeria #BuyNaija. There’s also the need to incorporate and promote science and tech in our schools.
And, while the country needs deep reforms by policy makers to foster an enabling environment for young innovators like Michael, we also need individuals to invest and guide these talents. We must seize and nurture our talents, otherwise we’ll never catch up to or compete with the rest of the world.