Mrs Jane Egerton-Idehen, Managing Director, Nigerian Satellite Communications Limited (NIGCOMSAT), has said the time has come to unlock Nigeria’s true potentials by embracing digital transformation and fostering a culture of innovation as a way to further enhance other sectors like financial and insurance (financial institutions), trade, agriculture (crop production), manufacturing (food, beverage and tobacco), construction and real estate, among others.

She said over-reliance on the oil sector has created a vulnerable economy in Nigeria.

Egerton-Idehen said this while delivering the 20th Herbert Macaulay Memorial Lecture, with the theme, ‘Harnessing Practical Engineering Solutions for Sustainable Economic Development,’ held at the Princess Alexandra Auditorium Hall, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN).

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Egerton-Idehen, who spoke on the topic, ‘Championing Innovation: Digital Transformation and Economic Diversification in Nigeria,’ said Nigeria has heavily relied on oil production for many years, which has not augured well for the country’s economy.

She said digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies like robotics, mobile internet, Artificial Intelligence to radically transform existing traditional and non-digital business processes and services.

According to her, “The largest contributor to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) post-1970s was crude oil. With the oil boom in 1973-74, it was in the double digits at its highest. It was 40 percent of GDP until post-2010 when sectors like agriculture and ICT started to redistribute that balance.

“Currently, oil contribution to GDP has returned to a single digit – pre-1970 figures; it sits at six percent of GDP today. The oil sector still provides for 95 percent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings and 80 percent of its budgetary revenues.”

“Nigeria, as we know is a nation brimming with talent and potential, stands at a crossroads. While blessed with abundant natural resources, particularly oil, our economy remained heavily reliant on a single sector for over five decades.

“The price per barrel of oil needed for Nigeria to balance our budgets is $139, Saudi Arabia $83.8 and UAE $67 (Kullab & Abdul-Zahra, 2020). Current global conditions make this untenable. Oil prices have crashed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, among other reasons (Alia Alzubair, 2021).”

She said further that the vulnerability to fluctuating oil prices exposes Nigeria to external shocks and hinders sustainable growth.

“There are many ways we can frame our road to diversification and non-dependence in the oil sector.

“With our experience with ICT, we can safely assume we could reform and impact various sectors driving economic growth through digital transformation.

“This could be done by addressing the challenges and harnessing the opportunities. Nigeria can leverage digital transformation as a powerful tool for economic diversification, job creation and shared prosperity,” Egerton-Idehen added.

In his remark, Professor Charles Igwe, the vice-chancellor of UNN said Herbert Macaulay was one of the first Nigerian nationalists and his opposition to many colonial policies paved the way for the independence of Nigeria

The VC noted that the Faculty of Engineering initiated the biennial lecture series in order to achieve the following goals: highlight the face of a man who has been described as the father of Nigerian nationalism, encourage present day engineers, surveyors, architects and other professional to learn from his professional lifestyle and make every effort to leave good footprints on the sand of time.

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