Nigeria Trails Mali, Kenya, South Africa in Research Spending


Chikezie Omeje

A new data released in September by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, has ranked Nigeria far behind Kenya, Mali, and South Africa in Research and Development, R and D, spending.

This is coming on the heels of a bill for an Act to establish the National Research and Innovation Council, National Research and Innovation Foundation and related matters, 2016 which has scaled second reading in the Senate.

The new data titled, “How much does your country invest in R and D?”evaluated each country’s commitment to R and D by looking at spending as a percentage of GDP and the actual amounts being spent in purchasing power parity dollars, PPP.

The data released by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, UIS, showed that R and D spending by Nigeria as a percentage of GDP is just 0.2% whereas Kenya is 0.8%, Mali 0.7% and South Africa 0.7%.

The African Union has a target of 1% of GDP on R and D by member countries but only Kenya, Mali, and South Africa approach the target.

The data show that the overall spending on R and D in Nigeria, including government and universities, is just $1, 374.8 million while South Africa is $4,824.2 million.

Nigeria has 21 research institutes and about 140 universities, yet the country is ranked among the lowest in the number of researchers per inhabitants.

This is because globally, there were almost 1,083 researchers for every one million people in 2013 but Nigeria has just 38 researchers per million inhabitants, 77% males, and 23% females. Meanwhile, Kenya has 230 researchers per million inhabitants and South Africa 404.

South Korea has as much as 6,899 researchers per million inhabitants while India has 156 researchers per million inhabitants.

UIS revealed that the global spending on R and D has reached a record high of almost $1.7 trillion and about 10 countries account for 80% of this spending.

According to the UIS data, China is achieving an astonishing annual growth rate of 18.3% in R and D spending, compared to just 1.4% across the rest of the world’s upper-middle-income countries. China’s R and D spending only amount to 2% of its GDP, but this means the country is pouring about $369 billion into this sector each year.

As the share of global R and D expenditure by high-income countries fell from 88% in 1996 to 69.3% by 2013, China alone filled that gap, increasing its share from 2.5% to 19.6%. This means that China is increasingly approaching the United States, which accounts for almost 30% of global R and D expenditure.

UIS noted that what the top 15 countries have in common is strong spending by the business sector which is an underlying factor for success.

In the UIS data, there is no indication of spending on R and D by the business sector in Nigeria but Nigerian government spends $483,796.2k on R and D while the Nigerian universities spend $891,052.1k.

Meanwhile the bill to establish National Research and Innovation Council, NRIC, has more than 70 senators as co-sponsors while the chief sponsor, Senator David Umaru argued that “There is, therefore, a convergence of global opinion on research and innovation as a tool for fast-tracking sustainable development hence the need for Nigeria to key in through the passage of the bill.”

The goal nine of Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, calls on governments to promote sustainable industrialization and innovation by ramping up spending on R&D and increasing the number of researchers.

The UIS data showed the failure of the government, universities, private sector and non-profit organizations in Nigeria to invest in R and D.

On January 7, President Muhammadu Buhari presided over the first meeting of National Research and Innovation Council, NRIC at the Presidential Villa Abuja where he said that Nigeria must accord high priority to science and technology if it must take its rightful place among the leading economies in the modern world.

The Federal Executive Council endorsed NRIC in 2013 and it was inaugurated on February 18, 2014, by Former President Goodluck Jonathan.

    At the first meeting of NRIC, Buhari noted that “The NRIC is geared towards coordinating and streamlining the nation’s research and development activities as well as fostering innovation.”

    He added that “It is designed to accelerate the growth of innovation-based entrepreneurship in the country and to create conditions for the commercialization of current and further research findings in our universities and research institutes.”

    Buhari said that “It is my fervent hope that our research and innovation output should be measured by number of Intellectual Property such as patents granted and not only by the number of articles published in scholarly journals. By this action, Nigeria will become a Centre of discoveries, inventions and innovation in all fields of science and technology. Before long we should be in a position to produce Nobel Laureates in the sciences.”

    It is expected that if the bill is passed and implemented, it will improve Nigeria’s score in the global ranking of R and D and facilitate the country’s quest for diversification of the economy.

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