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Ibom State´s Science Park
Name: Ibom State´s Science Park
State/Country: Awka Ibom State/Nigeria
Use: education and research
Commisioning of project: end of 2007
As there are many articles on the project I have decided to choose the one from the "International reporters" prepeared by Washington Post
Science park in Southern Nigeria: The backbone of a high-tech economy
By James Overly
The concept of a science park is an idea that has been with us for only a few decades. But the idea is proving itself, to the point where the successful parks can produce companies earning billions of dollars a year.
Science parks are areas set aside to "incubate" a concentration of science or high-tech businesses and research centers. They are quite popular in Asia and Europe, and are in fact usually colluding-—and even competing—with universities for scientific invention and talent. One of the first, the Hsinchu Science Park in Taiwan, is now home to several of Taiwan’s giant computer and semiconductor companies.
Africa has lagged behind. The first science park on the continent—in Pretoria, South Africa—was established as recently as 2005 . Many African leaders’ ideas of development projects have centered around soccer stadiums. It could be said that Africa has been waiting for a leader with the smarts and ability to push a science park through.
The science park is one important element of a comprehensive strategy to elevate Akwa Ibom’s economy and society from the 1950’s to one that is, according to the State’s mission statement, "technologically driven by 2010." That the second science park in all of Africa should be established in Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria is a testament to the vision of the state’s executive governor, Victor Attah.
The development projects Governor Attah has inspired cross the economic spectrum, but when asked to list those dearest to his heart, he always includes the science park. That begs the question, why build a science park in a underdeveloped state like Akwa Ibom?
The answer lies in part in the fact that Governor Attah is one of Nigeria’s most successful architects. As such, he understands how technology and business come together. Widely traveled, he also understands what other countries are doing to spur economic development, and that it would increasingly be driven by high technology.
Dr. Luis Asuquo, an engineer serving as the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Science and Technology, says, "Technology is the emphasis in the whole world. It is the backbone of economic development today. The key to Akwa Ibom’s prosperity in this modern age lies in the effective combination of three factors: technology, raw materials, and capital. The most important of these three is possibly technology, since the creation and adoption of new scientific techniques can, in fact, make up for a deficiency in natural resources, and reduce the demands on capital."
The science park has several areas of focus. Dr. Asuquo says, "Information technology and software development will be the focus of the first phase" of science park development.
The state particularly hopes to develop small- and medium-sized businesses oriented toward serving or making products from Nigeria’s oil industry. Agriculture, biotechnology, health and pharmaceutical projects offer other opportunities for the future.
For Governor Attah, Nigeria’s oil industry is one of the forces driving his emphasis on developing Akwa Ibom’s technical base. To bolster the science park, among other objectives, he seeks to establish a technology university composed of four or five science and engineering schools. Governor Attah explains, "I know how much money the oil companies are paying for seismic data from outside. So if I set up a university paying full salaries [so] that we have a research department that can handle all of those things, look at all that money that will stay inside the country!"
While Governor Attah and his commissioners know full well that value of improving the state’s technological base, they also know full well that many Akwa Ibom voters do not understand the significance of building a science park.
In spite of the political risk, Governor Attah feels compelled to push ahead with his vision.
"I see certain things around here, [that] if I don’t do them, nobody else will want to do them," Attah says. "So I go and do these things. For instance, I have not built a stadium, because I know the next governor will build a stadium. But I can go and build a science park, because the next governor may not think like me and want to build a science park." He muses, "When you know how much money India is making from developing software…"
Proof of this calculation has already arrived. Out of all the possible choices on the continent, and largely due to the science park’s presence, Akwa Ibom has been selected to lead all of Africa in cellular telephone technology. The signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in late March establishes a joint venture among Akwa Ibom’s science park and two Chinese companies—one a subsidiary of an American company, Technoconcepts—to manufacture and market cellular telephones throughout Africa. Each partner in the joint venture will own a one-third share.
This, the most promising venture to date to emerge from Africa’s second science park, is expected to begin preliminary operations this year. It will then expand over a six-month period to include more sophisticated operations as the plant comes on stream and workers are trained. It will be completed by end of 2007.
The MOU is a stunning achievement that will enable the oil-rich state to leapfrog to the cutting edge of high technology. The telephones manufactured there will perform functions already present on cellular telephones used in Asia but not yet available in the U.S., such as bill payment and money transfers. More importantly, however, the telephones will likely soon incorporate new technology being developed by Technoconcepts. That technology will allow a cellular telephone to operate on any network in the world, and communicate with many other devices using digital radio frequencies.
Right now, Africa’s cell phone market is exploding. It is estimated at about 80 million units, and it is growing exponentially," says Technoconcepts founder and CEO Antonio Turgeon. The project will position the companies to capture a significant share of that bounty.
Other state government efforts to increase the role of technology in education have been notably successful. Governor Attah notes, "We have built four model secondary schools, three replacement schools, nine state-of-the-art computer science centers and equipped 410 school libraries with supplies and furniture. In addition, 110 of what will be 200 graduates are studying information technology abroad."
In addition, the state has established and equipped a state-of-the-art computer center for computer instruction, and has purchased nine mobile computer labs to travel to rural villages to enhance computer learning. Dr. Asuquo’s ministry is currently building Internet infrastructure to serve the capital city of Uyo. The state government has ambitious plans to extend the Internet entirely throughout the state through the construction of a network of microwave towers.
The computer center is already actively extending the concept of e-government throughout the state government, and will seek ways to extend e-commerce knowledge to interested local businesses.
Later phases in the construction of the science park will house research and development centers for activities related to the petroleum industry.
More Information on Awka Ibom State:
Size: 8,412 square kilometers
Population: About 2.5 Million
Independence: Created September 23, 1987 from the former Cross River State.
Major Ethnic Groups
Ibibio, Anang, Oron, Eket, Ibeno, Mbo
Climate: Tropical, marked by two distinct seasons; they dry season (Nov.-March) and wet (April-Oct.)
Capital City: Uyo (population about 130,000)
Mineral Resources: Crude oil, natural gas, limestone, gold, salt, coal, silver nitrate, glass sand, kaolin
Heavily christian, but no data on religious faith distribution is available for the state