Young Nigerians are world-class innovators, solution providers, says Osinbajo

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

• VP delivers virtual remarks at YabaTech’s N50B Endowment Fund Launch

• Says visionary private sector intervention vital for sustainable higher education funding

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has said that provided with the right platforms, young Nigerians will always rise to the stature of national and global challenges while finding solutions to them through innovation and technology.

This is the more reason why, in addition to government funding, there must be robust private sector interventions to further drive world-class, ground-breaking research and cutting-edge innovation in the country’s higher institutions of learning, Prof. Osinbajo added.

The Vice President spoke in pre-recorded keynote remarks at the Yaba College of Technology (YabaTech) N50 Billion Endowment Fund Launch (holding tonight-Thursday September 15, 2022, in Lagos.)

According to the VP, not only are “institutions of higher learning proving ground for our best ideas, the birthplaces of innovation, and ground-breaking research,” but they are also “to all intents and purposes designed to guide and nurture a society’s pathway into the future.”

But, as he noted, “research and inquiry may lead to the revolutionary discovery or lead nowhere. Either way, the process is expensive and can only depend on large sums of patient capital.”

“How do you fund world-class, relevant, cutting-edge higher education sustainably? The question has even greater resonance in Africa where public resources are low and the poverty levels put access to quality education beyond the reach of many.”

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Buttressing the need for endowment funding for higher institutions of learning, Prof. Osinbajo said endowments have helped to drive some of the most important global discoveries across different sectors.

According to the VP, Yaba College of Technology, “is one of the best institutions to use as proof of the concept that we can indeed develop world-class higher institutions for innovation, and research using both private and public-sector finance.”

Addressing the endowment promoters, the VP added that “the N50 billion ambition of this endowment fund mirrors your vision for this great institution and demonstrates your keen awareness of what is truly at stake. And we must approach this with a sense of mission and duty.

“We must augment government’s finest intentions with our individual and collective desire to see us do better, to see Africa do better; to see our children step into global arenas of enormous and unprecedented opportunities. One thing is clear, young Nigerians will always rise to the stature of the challenges the world presents them, and even beyond if we continue to provide a platform for them to stand on.”

Noting the commitment of the Buhari administration to increase budget allocation to the education sector, the Vice President, referring to the sums allocated, and not percentages of the total budget, stated that, “year on year we increased budget allocation to the sector in a way no government before us had done. We took capital allocation for education up to N35.99bn in 2016 and stretched it further to N56.81bn in 2017. By 2018 we had increased capital budget allocations for the sector to N102.9bn and the trajectory has remained upward. (In 2019, N620 billion was allocated to education, in 2020, N671.07billion was allocated and in 2021, N742.5billion was allocated to education).”

He, however, noted that “it is unrealistic to rely on public finance alone for higher education, especially in a country the size of Nigeria.”

“The truth is we can completely revolutionise our nation’s education sector with radical, long-term commitment and investment from the private sector; a win-win situation for all of us eventually. And I trust that this (endowment fund launch) will be a solid start and step in that direction,” Prof. Osinbajo further said.

On the importance of what he described as “visionary private sector intervention” in funding higher education, the VP noted that much wealthier countries than Nigeria do not leave funding for higher education to the government.

“It is no mistake that one of the largest economies in the world, and arguably the most technologically advanced, also has some of the best and most prestigious universities. American colleges and universities have been sustained and supported by endowments for over 300 years,” the VP said.

Speaking further, Prof. Osinbajo stated that, “in 2021, on the back of one of the most economically challenging years in recent history, the total amount that accrued to US colleges and universities in charitable giving was $52.9billion, 5.1% higher than it was the previous year. This was driven largely by an understanding of the value universities hold as centres of research and innovation, more so in a time of crisis.

“The total value of Harvard University’s endowment in its 2020 fiscal year was $42 billion, Yale University’s was $31billion, Stanford University’s, was $29billion. These endowments have been at the heart of some of the most important discoveries in Science and Medicine, Education and Arts.”

The Vice President noted that YabaTech was a great institution that can further harness its potential in producing the technical talent needed to drive the nation’s industrialization.

He said, “This is a responsibility that YabaTech has shouldered admirably for decades, equipping thousands of young people in engineering, applied sciences, fine art and the performing arts.

“Many of her alumni have gone on to attain local and international recognition. It is also perhaps the first tertiary institution to deliberately establish the crucial link with the innovation and commerce ecosystem with its creation of the Centre for Entrepreneurship Development.”

Emphasising further the importance of the institution’s endowment fund launch, Prof. Osinbajo noted the nexus between “the success of the Yaba technology and innovation community in Lagos – widely known and referred to as the Silicon Valley of Nigeria due to the concentration of tech and innovation companies within the environment.

“I think it is the case that the Tech start-ups from Yaba have grown and flourished into highly profitable businesses, with some of these businesses attaining the status of unicorns—which are companies worth over a billion dollars, because of the highly skilled graduates in modern technology, management and other fields of study that have come out of YabaTech,” he further stated.

Prof. Osinbajo urged the institution’s management to reach out to its extensive alumni networks and rally the best of Nigerians together for the achievement of this vital cause, noting that “this is the time to demonstrate our commitment to succeeding generations and our sense of legacy.”

Giving a word of advice on the management of the endowment fund in the future, the VP said “the best skills in investment and management must be recruited. Endowment funds are to be invested wisely with the best professional guidance.”

While commending the governing body of the Yaba College of Technology, the administrative and teaching staff for the initiative, the VP expressed confidence that the institution’s track record and support that the endowment fund will bring to it, will help reposition it as “one of the frontline institutions that will determine the future of technology, innovation and creativity in Africa and the world.”