By Chijioke Okoronkwo
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has said that future billionaires from Nigeria will be those with knowledge in technology, computer and technical skills.
Osinbajo expressed the view in his address at the Northern Regional Finals of Student Innovation Challenge (SIC) event held at Bayero University, Kano (BUK) on Tuesday in Kano.
No fewer than 52 innovators from higher institutions in the north participated in the challenge after which six finalists were selected.
SIC is an initiative of the Federal Government in collaboration with private sector players which offers a platform for identifying and supporting innovative technology-driven business ideas and ventures across Nigerian universities.
It allows young entrepreneurs to interface with the government and with business mentors and receive support to grow and groom their ideas.
Osinbajo said that two months ago, he was in Lagos to attend the Southwest regional finals of the Students Innovation Challenge, in University of Lagos.
“ At that event, I said `In the past, Nigeria’s billionaires were traders and oil and gas moguls but in the next few years, billionaires from Nigeria will be techies’.
“Listening to the great ideas you have pitched today, I am even more convinced and have absolutely no doubt that a good number of tomorrow’s billionaires are seated here today.
“I understand that of the 600 applications received from the Northern region, 52 that made the long list were pitched to the judges today.
“I would like to commend everyone of the innovators who pitched. The journey to the fulfilment of your dreams has started and you should strive to enjoy every moment of that journey, with all its ups and downs.
“And this advice also applies to those who didn’t make the long list. Setbacks and disappointments are part of the entrepreneurship life; indeed they are part and parcel of human existence. You should never ever give up; try again, and again.”
He said that as was the case in Lagos, the best ideas selected by the judges would join those selected from Anambra during the forthcoming South Eastern Regional finals at the Grand Finale in Abuja later the month.
Osinbajo said that he was pleased to note that it was the first time that a platform had been created in Nigeria that allowed students from all over the country to pitch their business ventures and ideas to a panel of expert judges.
“And I should mention again that each of the winning businesses will receive an investment of one million naira.
“I am very excited by this project; excited by what it means for innovation in Nigeria; what it means for our future as a country.
“And being here with you feels like taking a front seat next to the stage onto which the next Andela, Flutterwave, Paga, Paystack, Jobberman and others are set to emerge. Interestingly many of the founders of these great businesses were educated here in Nigeria.
“You will all agree with me that the prospects are exciting; the future looks very promising. I wish you all – today’s innovators, tomorrow’s billionaires – the very best, and safe travels back to your various homes and bases,’’ he said.
In his address, the Kano State Governor, Dr Abdullahi Ganduje, thanked the vice-president for honouring the event.
He also expressed his appreciation to the organisers for choosing BUK for the North-West challenge.
“We have to thank you for finding time to attend this occasion and want to thank the organizers for choosing BUK to be the centre of this presentation in the Northwest.
“ I am not surprised because BUK is one the leading universities in Nigeria; the most populous university in Nigeria and also one of the leading in quality education in Nigeria,’’ he said.
He advised the innovators to turn the challenge into opportunities and expressed optimism that Nigeria’s huge population would become an asset for the innovative drive of its young population.
Ganduje announced a donation of N15 million to support the programme.
The heads of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Nigerian Deposit Insurance Corporation and Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC) were present at the event and all announced financial support for the innovators.
The Dangote group also announced a donation on N10 million in support of the innovators.
Three innovators emerged the eventual winners after the pitches.
The first position went to Light Ups from Unijos, using disposed water bottles to produce electric lanterns.
The second position went to Team Zazu Tech from BUK – prototype of a solar-powered tricycle for persons with disability fitted with phone charging pots, chamber for sale of wares and placement of adverts.
The third position went to Nylon Interlocks from Abubakar Tafawa Belewa University, Bauchi–using waste nylon materials to produce interlock instead of cement.