“Africa Needs to Stop Building Products for Others” – Major Takeaways from NOGTECH Panel Session
The NOGTECH Hackathon finally came to a close yesterday with Demo Day. Asides the presentation of startups, the event also featured an illuminating panel session on Localising Innovation in the Oil and Gas Industry.
The sessions highlighted conversations around opportunities and challenges for the development and use of locally developed innovative solutions in the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry.
Here are some major takeaways from the session:
Building a sustainable ecosystem
In her opening speech, Fatumata Coker, one of the panellists and Founder at YGroup Holdings, expressed that localisation of innovation is not only about innovation but creating an ecosystem that will basically sustain innovation.
“We have a lot of technology and startups around but the support isn’t there for sustainability. What we need to do is figure out how to create an ecosystem that will continuously bring through funds, opportunities, investments that will sustain what we are trying to achieve.”Fatumata Coker
She called for a cohesive strategy to bring together the many resources in the oil and gas industry. She explained that there are a lot of great talents in Nigeria that understood our problems and could be trained and developed to fix it rather than bringing foreign solutions and try to fit it into what we need.
Similarly, Abubakar, an industry expert with Shell pointed out that locations solutions are important even for big corporations. He explained that although big oil corporations like ExxonMobil, Total and Schlumberger all have large internal solutions deployed to their various branches across the world, local Total and ExxonMobil often struggle to create an ecosystem for itself. So there is a need to connect local solution.
Developing talent and innovation
Speaking on talent development, Francisca Chiedu, Project Director NOGTECH expressed that Nigeria needs to build its own Silicon Valley. She added that to avoid the dearth of personnel in the tech sector, more enablers are needed to help innovators harness the potential of our ecosystem.
The UK has a global talent visa that is attracting tech talent. Currently, we are talking about dearth in medical personnel if we do not think critically about innovation we will soon be talking about the dearth of personnel in the tech sector.Francisca Chiedu
Fatumata, on her part, explained that the ability to find the talent, bring them into a pipeline and continuously have that pipeline flow is important in developing talent and sustainable ecosystem.
She added that with a pipeline flow, the sector will constantly be in a trajectory to beat new challenges.
Collaboration between Agencies
During the session, the panellists also pointed out the importance of collaboration in building a sustainable ecosystem. Francisca commented that although The NCDMB has spearheaded innovation in a lot of ways, more synergy between agencies, like the petroleum ministry and digital economy ministry, is important for the growth of innovation in the sector.
Mr Abdulmalik Halilu, GM, Research and Statistics, NCDMB revealed that the agency is already making moves towards partnership with sister agencies. He explained that it already has a partnership with NITDA to support advancement made by startups that won the hackathon.
He also added that they recently signed a tech innovation incubation centre policy to promote institutional innovation so that not just the five winners but subsequent incubators will have sufficient resources and support until they reach the market.
Digital economy cannot be digital without energy – Fatumata
Highlighting some of the challenges that need to be solved in the Oil and Gas Sector, Fatumata spoke about the importance of energy, not just to the sector but the whole digital economy.
She explained that a digital economy cannot be digital without energy. She said without energy at the bottom of the pyramid we can’t talk about the digital. Thus, there is need for electricity to give us the ability to build data centres which will run all of the applications and technology that will come up.
Only 47% of Africa is electrified. 80% of the energy generated is hydro. Most of our communities are segmented and can’t get electricity for the major electricity network like hydro.Fatumata
Speaking on a possible solution, Fatumata pointed out that more innovative models that understood the Nigerian market is needed to provide affordable renewable energy or clean energy.
Opportunities for Startups in the Oil and Gas Sector
Talking about the opportunities for startups in the sector, Abubakar pointed out that pandemic lockdown highlighted a major need in the supply chain from onshore to off-shore.
He highlighted that a database of all barges that can be requested for on-demand will save sectors a lot of money. He also pointed out that security is still a major concern.
He added that the introduction of UAVs and robots could go a long way in supporting continuous operations and promoting remote working.
Fatumata on her part felt that focusing on the underserved was the biggest opportunity for innovators. She expressed that Energy across the continent is so fragmented, we don’t have the millions of dollars needed to bring energy but if we look at it from the innovative side we could leverage on the new on-grid or off-grid technology to provide energy balance.
Build things for us to use and not to sell – Fatumata
Speaking on innovators about starting a business in Africa, Fatumata pointed out that understanding how people pay is important. She explained that Africa is a sachet economy, where people buy as small as they want or can afford and as many times as they want. `
Abubakar, on his part, pointed out that the business must be Socially, politically and Financially viable – This means that products must not just be nice to have it must have value which people will be willing to pay for.
Fatumata, however, pointed out that Africa needs to stop building products for others to buy. She highlighted that we have to decide to build things for us to use and not to sell if we want our ecosystem to grow and be sustainable.
If Africa does not stop building products for others to buy we will be bought.
The panel session shed illuminating insights on the Oil and Gas Industry and also pointed out expert opinion on what needs to be done to localise innovation in the Oil and Gas Industry.
In addition, the panellists emphasised the need for collaboration and support to create a sustainable ecosystem for the innovators.
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