by Nero Ughwujabo
Nigerian students at the prestigious Imperial College London held their 4th Annual symposium organised by the Imperial College Nigerian Society (ICNS) under the theme of “Sustainable Development and Socioeconomic diversification in Nigeria”. The event was held at the University’s Great Hall on Friday, 20th November 2015 and was attended by eminent Nigerians from all walks of life, royals and distinguished guest speakers from Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
Imperial College Nigerian Society was founded in 2012 by a team of residing PHD and postgraduate students, as a hub to unite the Nigerian diaspora studying at Imperial College through social and formal engagements. One of its flagship activities is the Symposium, which they have held every year since its inception. Welcoming the guests was the current Chairperson of the Society, Ms Joan Omeru a 3rd Year PhD student of the College, majoring in Computational Finance and Derivatives Pricing in the department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering. Ms Omeru ushered in the guests before the proceedings commenced.
Special Guest of honour at this 2015 symposium was His Royal Majesty, Ovie of Agbon Kingdom Ukori 1. The occasion Chairman and special guest speaker was the President of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede. Other speakers included Mr Tonye Patrick Cole, CEO of Sahara Group, Dr (Mrs) Omobola Johnson, immediate past Minister for Communications Technology and Partner at TLCom and Mr Toyosi Olawepo-Hashim, CEO of Bresson AS Ltd. Also in attendance was the representative of the Nigerian British High Commissioner, Mr Solomon Fehintola.
In her welcome address, the Chair of ICNS, Miss Joan Omeru called for Nigerians to take a closer look at the landscape underpinning Nigeria’s economic growth, the largest economy in Africa. She said ‘in reaping the benefits of crude oil exploitation in past years and many more years to come, Nigerians must be wary of its sustainability, in delivering uninterrupted economic growth’. She also highlighting the recent decline in crude oil prices caused by major supply and demand imbalances in the global oil commodities markets. Miss Omeru noted that the situation of global oil price fluctuations must be taken as call to strengthen other major sectors of the economy if Nigeria must rise and stand tall against developed economies.
The Chairman Mr Aig-Imoukhuede, in his keynote speech on the role of financial institutions in sustainable development, called for innovation in developing new mechanism and new markets in strengthening the economy. He said that greater collaboration between private financial institutions and policy makers is essential to enable financing of development and that maintaining a strong capital market and a viable financial exchange is paramount in developing the economy. His presentation also touched on the role of investments in sustainable development infrastructure and the need for profitability to be proven in order to encourage private sector engagement. Mr Aig-Imoukhuede reassured the symposium that Nigeria’s private financial sectors have been implementing world-class practises in delivering financial services and will continue to play an important role in Nigeria’s development.
A key theme emerging from the symposium was the role of Nigerians studying overseas and indeed the wider Nigerian diaspora. In his presentation, Mr Tonye Patrick Cole called on the students at Imperial College London and the wider diaspora community to take on the challenge of bringing their knowledge, experience and expertise home to boost the economy; introducing innovation and advancing the technological responses to the challenges facing Nigeria. He called for the greater inclusion of practical content in the curricular of Nigerian Universities especially in power engineering sector, stressing that home grown talent possessing strong background knowledge of both theory and practise is essential in order for innovation, local manufacturing and management to thrive.
Nigeria has seen greater contribution to its gdp from non-oil sectors, particularly from the telecommunications and technology sectors according to another keynote speaker, Dr Mrs Omobola Johnson, who argued that technology is a catalyst for sustainable development. In her speech, Mrs Johnson called for enabling policy around Information and Communication services which she said contributed 19% to the Services sector. A particular example of positive development from the sector and key facilitator of growth is Digital Payment, which she said would benefit from widespread adoption and enabling government policy input.
Diversification was see as key to guaranteeing sustainable development in Nigeria as Mr Toyosi Olawepo-Hashim, speaking on facilitating Resilient and Sustainable Infrastructural Development, highlighted the positive aspects of the Nigerian Economy which are often ignored by commentators. He said that its is due to the hard work and industry of the ordinary Nigerians – the nation’s greatest asset, that the country’s GDP exceeded that of South Africa to become Africa’s biggest economy. However, he called on the nation’s financial institutions to lower interest rates for infrastructural development, particularly in the power sector, citing that lower interest rates will give the nations manufacturers a better competitive advantage in the international market.
The symposium concluded with a panel discussion themed ‘the path to rapid Industrialisation and a leap into a developed economy” and was moderated by Mr James Houston who is the chairman of Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce (NBCC). The panellist, Prof. Chris Imafidon, Mrs Kate Anolue and Mr Godswill Umunakwe of Lagos Business School, joined the guest speakers on the podium to take on questions from the audience. The event was lauded by attendees who where particularly impressed that the students, who are the next generation, are beginning to reflect on not just the challenges Nigeria faces, but indeed their role in helping to propel Nigeria towards sustainable development. The Chairperson, of the Imperial College Nigerian Society, Ms Omeru said that: ‘we are delighted that this symposium has been very successful, we are grateful to our guest for their contributions. We will continue to stimulate debate on the very important issue of sustainable development in Nigeria’.