Excerpt from the interview, heading was – Nigeria ‘ll be a major technology hub in future. The below is an interview with new Nigerian newspaper.
1. How did you feel being selected valedictorian for your class at Singularity U.? : We had to give a 1 minute pitch to be selected. We were 6 speakers and I was very nervous because the competition was quite good. So I was very humbled and grateful when my classmates selected me to speak on their behalf.
2. How has your Singularity University experience changed your expectations of Science and Technology? – I now see science and technology as a tool that can be used to solve problems for humanity. A lot of the intractable problems in Africa that we have been unable to solve; poverty, hunger, sanitation, water, health etc can be solved through the use of technology. We should not only be consumers of technological products, we should also be innovators and manufacturers to be able to have sustainable solutions.
3. How can Africans, and Nigerians in particular, derive benefits from these fields considering the dearth of infrastructural support like electrical power and internet connectivity? – We can still derive benefits from nanotechnology, computing, artificial intelligence, biotech and engineering because of our infrastructural problems. The problems of electricity and internet connectivity can all be resolved using technology. In fact in the next decade we will be harnessing solar energy more and more for our electricity needs due to advances in manufacturing and material science. The cars of the future (within the next 10-20 years) will all be electric powered. Experts forecast that the last fossil fuel driven passenger car will be built in 2030. To progress Africa and Nigeria must embrace technological solutions because of and not inspite of our infrastructural problems. We can use technology to leapfrog the limitations of infrastructure.
4. Is there some short cut through the grit of building our technological capacity brick by brick, i.e. some speedy form of knowledge/skill/competence acquisition module that can fast-track Africa along the path of progress?: The answer to that is yes. It is easy but we have to do a lot of hard work. The beautiful thing about technology is that when it is learnt, it becomes almost second nature. Too much is not required just the brain power, tenacity and hunger to solve problems and then ‘viola’ we are there. We don’t need to know all the ‘old’ technology; we can start using today’s technology, modify it for our environment and solve problems for our continent and humanity.
5. What would you say should be the priority of Nigerians, and many Africans, after half a century of post-colonial existence? – Our priority should be taking responsibility for our today and our future. We should stop the blame game. After 50 years we can no longer blame the colonial masters. We should forge our destiny, face challenges, solve problems and evolve into a strong self reliant continent, a partner in the progress of humanity and not just the charity case of the world. We should take leadership as the cradle of not only humanity but also civilization and write a new chapter for a better future.
6. Are there any silver bullets to rid us of recurrent health challenges like cholera, meningitis and malaria? Also, what hope is there for people living with HIV:
I would cautiously say YES. One such silver bullet would be ‘Water’. More than 80% of communicable and deadly infections plaguing Africa is caused mostly by our lack of access to good drinking water and inadequate use of water in sanitation. If we can fix the problem of water, then we could fix most of these diseases and where they might occur we will be able to manage them better with therapies which are available and effective today. Combinations of innovations in biotech and nanotech could produce simple membranes which we could use to desalinate water cheaply. In addition, solar power will help us heat water before usage and reduce the risks of ingesting harmful bacteria.
On HIV, I would want to commend the countries of Europe and United States of America who have been very aggressive in attacking this problem in our continent. It is however strange that in Nigeria and in the continent we do not have any research led by Africans that would produce a cure for this infection. I believe that we will be able to create biovores, tiny organisms that will mimic a human cell and introduce them into the body of HIV infected candidates, these biovores will be more attractive to the virus than the ordinary human cells and the HIV virus will inject themselves into the biovores and will end up being eaten up and ejected from the body. This will be possible within the next 15 – 25 years.
We will also have regenerators that will replace dead cells and make them more resistant to virus attacks. In the near term we can be more effective in prevention by creating vaginal rings for women and imbue these rings with hormones and medications which could work to prevent cervical cancer and minimize sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. This could be achievable within the next 5-10 years. There is also ongoing work on a vaccine for the virus so this virus is being attacked from all angles, prevention and management of infected patients. So my encouragement to all my brothers and sisters is if you are positive, live positively, very soon we will beat this virus and if you are negative, use a condom and when the vaginal ring is available, use that too and make intelligent choices when it comes to sexual partners. Remain faithful to your faithful partner. If in doubt, use a condom.
7. Your vision for the future?
My Vision For Nigeria – 2060
Energy: Everyone in Nigeria will have access to steady, reliable electricity supply because we will all use solar power. Oil will no longer be the primary source of energy and revenues from oil exports will shrink to 15% or less of all national revenues.
Transportation: By 2040 all the cars in Nigeria will be electric driven, however the road infrastructure will still be inadequate to carter for all the cars. More reliance will be on rail, water and air travel where we can leapfrog expensive road construction. By 2060 most people will live in Mega cities and work from home or satellite office sites near their homes due to the use of technology.
Education: We shall achieve 99.99% literacy as the use of smartphones become ubiquitous, prominent universities like MIT, Oxford, Stanford, Harvard, Lagos Business school etc will offer their courses online and for free. The cost of internet connection will be virtually free and everyone will be able to connect and get educated. We will become a hub for foreign students especially Africans in the diaspora who would want to reconnect with their roots.
Poverty: It will be redefined as people living on the equivalent of $8 a day. Extreme poverty as we know it will end. We would have tackled the problems of hunger and water supply through the exploitation of technology in food production and water desalination.
Population: We will be a country of at least 300 million people. Our life expectancy will be as high as 98 years for children born within a decade of 2060.
Technology: Nigeria will be a major technology hub in the world both in innovations and manufacturing. The next Einstein will come from Nigeria or from the continent. Evidence is the current Nigerian kids in Britain all attending high school and universities at record early ages.
Health: Innovations in genetics, biotech and nanotechnology will create biovores that will eat up virus infected cells and also cancer cells, in addition, we will also have regenerators that would replace dead cells. HIV will be a thing of the past just like smallpox is today. Health care solutions will be delivered mostly online and we will have access to the best care possible within and outside our country.
Politics: We will remain a force in the continent and as early as 2019 will have more credible leaders who will chart a new course for Nigeria and the continent. Economic states of West Africa will form a strong EU equivalent by 2030 as African leaders gain more credibility and the people are lifted out of poverty.
Civic Society: As revenues form oil dwindle, government will be forced to raise taxes and aggressively collect taxes to run the country. Citizens will demand more accountability from the elected and will aggressively pursue all ‘forgotten’ stolen monies of past politicians and military dictators. As African leadership credibility increases, there will be pressure on foreign countries who harbor the loots from Africa and other present third world countries to return these monies and in most cases with penalties and apologies.
Social: Nigerian citizenship will be bestowed on children based on either the father or mother’s country of birth, or both could also be used. Laws will prohibit state of origin and only recognize place of birth as place of origin.
Ethics: Society will struggle with acceptance of computer – human interfacing (by 2040, computers will be embedded in the human brain to increase the common intelligence) this will be a more radical change compared to the use of smartphones. Religious organisations worldwide will resist the change but as more people opt to be interfaced, it will be more difficult for individuals to operate and compete without being interfaced.