Funding Research in Science and Technology in Developing Countries: The Case of Nigeria.

 

By

 

Adeseko Ayeni

Department of Electrical Engineering

University of Ilorin, Nigeria.

 

wuleemu@yahoo.co.uk

 

ABSTRACT

Real wealth or material satisfaction is about provision of the basic needs of man, prominent among which are food, clothing and shelter. With increasing population and continuous degradation of the environment, humanity is faced with increasing challenges in his bid to attain to create these. It has been established, over the ages, that these are better met through scientific and technological breakthroughs.

     The inability of developing countries to transit into developed nations, with appreciable measure of prosperity, is very closely tied to their failure to encourage scientific and technological researches by way of funding. Coming from traditional backgrounds, tied to superstitions and taboos, the people of third world and particularly their leaders seem not to have faith in the ability to attain modernism and prosperity through science and technology. In fact some politicians view these with suspicion, making it difficult to convince them to vote money for such. The tragic consequence is the increasing level of misery, want and acute poverty, prevalent among the developing countries, as opposed to the prosperity, opulence and comfort of the developed countries.

        In this work, the author discusses scientific and technological research vis-à-vis the perception of the people of the third world. He tries to establish a correlation between funding of researches in science and technology on one hand and standard of living as measured by prosperity of the people on the other.

       The paper closes by suggesting the participation and involvement of science and technology practitioners in national policy formulations, massive funding of researches in science and technology, research collaboration among the developing world and also between developing and developed worlds, and finally and most importantly perhaps, directing research efforts towards indigenous technologies.

                                                                                                                    

 

 

 

Introduction.

Science is about enquiries into the totality of events of life which includes life itself. It aims at satisfying the curiosities of man about himself and his environment as well as broadening his intellectual horizon and liberating him from the influences of superstition and taboos. Technology is a means of satisfying the needs of man, primary of which are shelter, food, clothing, and leisure, making use of a conquered environment. [1]

    It is no wonder, therefore, that general standard of living, measured through the ability to provide these needs, relate very well with the level of scientific and technological activities in every society. These activities require painstaking commitment, and consume time and resources. In short they are capital intensive. Tremendous precision required to have breakthroughs demands that precise techniques and equipment are needed from the level of data collection through analysis. These preclude the use of improvising. In monetary terms, precision equipment is expensive and goes far beyond the reach of individuals particularly in developing countries where income is low. The attitudes of the governments of the developing countries, is largely shaped by traditional beliefs and practices as influenced by the mindset of those running these governments. People generally see nothing intellectually tasking in politics and so is an all-comer destination. Government’s attitude is that of lack of faith in scientific and technological experimentations which often take time to mature and tasking, intellectually and materially. They are therefore reluctant to allocate funds to, or even encourage them Opinions about events are largely influenced by myths and are dogmatically adhered to.

This contrasts sharply with the unshakable faith and belief, governments of the developed countries have in S&T activities and hence allocate funds as well as encourage and even participate, by way of coordinating the activities in their countries.

During the decade 1990-2000, total world expenditure rose sharply from $US410 billion to$US755 billion. [3]. This sharp rise was largely due to increased activities in those countries that have come to accept S&T as a basis for abundant life and prosperity. The developing countries on the other hand continue to lag behind contributing very little. On the average, they contribute 0.9% GDP on S&T research [3] and the value varies from one country to the other with the Arab states spending as low as 0.15% becoming, along with sub Saharan Africa and the Pacific Islands, a member of the world’s group of least spenders on S&T. The highest S&T spender in Africa, South Africa spends 0.8%.[3]The governments of the developed countries not only coordinate research activities but even go further to identify areas of special needs to which attention is focused as occasion demands.

 

Figure 1: Shows the special areas of focus identified by the Japanese government for the fiscal year 2006.  Source: Statistics Bureau

 

 

This way, they allocate funds and go extra mile to encourage researchers to go into these areas of need.

            Fig2: Shares of Total World R&D, 2002

Source: AS R&D Budget and Policy Program

 

 

 

Table 2 shows region/countries of the world and their GERD/GDP for selected years between 1990 and 2000.

It is noteworthy that a meeting of African Heads of States in their meeting held between 29th and 30th January 2007 deliberated the issues of S&T and initiated several plans that demonstrate their commitments to the promotion of S&T as a means of making life better for their people.

Gross Domestic Product is a measure, in monetary value, of the total goods and services of a country within the period of reference. It is used by economists to measure the standard of living of people since prosperity is a measure of the amount of goods and services available at affordable costs

 

 

 

The Nigerian Situation

The creation of the ministry of science and technology in Nigeria, like many other countries was to quicken the pace in S&T activities. In the fiscal years 2006 and 2007, the government, to the ministry, sums of $US 0.2 billion and $US 0.18 respectively each representing 1.5% and 0.7% of the total budgets of $USD0.019 trillion and $USD0.023 trillion respectively.

The commitment of government to S&T can be seen by comparing these figures with those of other sectors. It should be noted, though, that these are total allocations to the ministry and so include money for other activities not related to S&T research. As a matter of fact, these values can only be used as a measure of government’s commitment to S&T. The move to allocate of $US5 billion, by the immediate past government in Nigeria, for the establishment of a National Science Foundation was a positive step as it was an expression of commitment and faith in S&T.

The National Universities Commission had continued to be, in a modest way, a strong driving force behind S&T development through funding of researches and encouraging innovation through numerous exhibitions. It also seeks external funds from international donor agencies through which researches are conducted, in addition to encouraging universities to seek international collaboration

Living Standards

Gross Domestic Product is a measure, in monetary value, of the total volume of goods and services of a country within the period of reference. It is used by economists to measure the standard of living of people since prosperity is a measure of the amount of goods and services available at affordable costs.

 Countries

Gross Domestic Product

US

13,811,200

Japan

 

4,376,705

UK

2,727,806

Nigeria

165,690

    Table 2: GDP for selected countries of the world in USD. Source: World Bank, 2007

.      Conclusion

 It is seen from tables 1, 2 and fig 2 that there is an appreciable correspondence between S&T. expenditure and prosperity. It is therefore no wonder that citizens of developing countries live in abject poverty and want while those of developed countries live in opulence.

          It is recommended that a national research agency for S&T be established in Nigeria to complement the present the present multi-disciplinary research arrangement of the NUC. This body should open zonal offices to enhance accessibility and be manned by seasoned S&T practitioners at all levels of its operation.  The establishment of Universities of Technology and Polytechnics were right steps that need to be followed up by massive funding. All registered companies should be persuaded to contribute, annually a percentage of their revenue as S&T fund. S&T practitioners in the developing countries should embark on awareness programmes aimed at sensitizing the governments and people, of the developing countries, to the capabilities of science and tech to transform poverty into wealth and a primitive state into a modern one. Efforts should be made to ensure collaborative works among S&T practitioners of the developing countries and between them and those of the developed countries. Science and tech practitioners of the developing countries should make efforts to be part of policy formulations. Governments of developing countries should make ceaseless efforts to prevent brain drain through persuasive commitments. They should endeavour to popularize S&T by providing equipments and adequate training for teachers of S&T at all levels of education. There is the need to ensure preservation of indigenous knowledge and technologies by ensuring that they are based on scientific premise. Finally, efforts should be made to formulate and effectively enforce patent and intellectual property laws. Finally no amount of efforts, moral and financial should be considered too much towards promotion of S&T as it holds the key to our freedom from hunger, acute poverty and the prospect of annihilation through environmental degradation with its consequences, to which we are currently exposed.

 

 

 

 

                           

References

1          Adeseko Ayeni, (2002) Science and technology in the services of man, University of Ilorin press.

2          World Bank Report  2007

3           UIS,       A decade of investment in Research and Development: 1990-2000

4          AAAS R&D Budget and Policy Program

        http://www.aaas.org./spp/rd

  1. Statistics Bureau

http://www.stat.go.jp