Several Nigerian designers at the ongoing Proudly Nigeria Expo Abuja have accused the government of not helping them with funding to fully develop their innovations.
The designers said they were self-funded because it was nearly impossible to meet the conditions for assistance, set by the Bank of Industry (BOI) and Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) hard to meet.
John Nkworka, a mechanical engineer, showcased a limousine he created in 2003 at the Proudly Nigeria EXPO Abuja.
He told PREMIUM TIMES that although he was aware of agencies like SMEDAN and BOI, he had never applied to them for funding because “even in a 100 years” he would not be able to fulfill their conditions. He has made over 10 limousines in Nigeria since 1990.
Mr. Nkworka is one of the designers from across the country showcasing their projects at the expo going on at Old Parade Ground, Area 10, Abuja from September 5 to 11.
The first Proudly Nigeria Expo is a programme launched by Helpline foundation. With the theme, Harnessing the trade potential of Nigeria, it puts inventors in the spotlight.
The foundation is collaborating with the Abuja Enterprise Agency, Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Abuja Technology Village and SMEDAN.
“This collaboration shows that this programme is going beyond the rhetoric,” said Jumai Ahmadu, the promoter of the event.
She told PREMIUM TIMES that the expo would hold yearly.
Being at the event for the third day running, Mr. Nkworka has gained popularity as a major designer.
According to him, the limousines he has been creating are built to withstand the stress of Nigerian roads. They are also created with higher suspension systems, tropicalized cooling systems, 24-inch television set and a well-paneled interior.
“You will be surprised to know that I drove this particular limousine from Enugu state to Abuja, leaving at 7:30 am and arriving 12:45pm, despite the condition of our roads. This is something foreign limousines cannot do,” he said.
Mr. Nkworka believes the Proudly Nigeria Expo will attract government to use innovators like himself to rebuild the economy.
“If the government gives us the necessary support, we can recreate all these for the Nigerian market. This is a much better option than importing.”
According to him, funds for his creations come mainly from other jobs he does as an engineer.
Also at the programme are Saheed Ilori, Uche Anaba and Terfa Addingi, the designers of the Made in Nigeria tractor that can be used for ploughing on a farm. The three engineers created the Ijodo tractor with funds from their individual pockets.
While operating their day jobs as technicians, they put aside some money in order to create their dream project.
They told PREMIUM TIMES that they had never relied on loans from government. However, they hoped government and individuals could commission them to make more tractors for farmers as this will aid diversification of the economy in the agricultural sector.
As for Ayodeji Ipinjolu, a charcoal cooker maker, he saved money from his National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) allowances for his design. “I saw a need and felt I could contribute my own quota,” he told PREMIUM TIMES.
“This innovation has a fan, powered by a rechargeable battery, which blows the charcoal and once lit, the embers do not stain the pot. The cooker can also be used as a grilling machine,” says Mr. Ipinjolu.
He hopes to get customers to purchase so he can reproduce the innovation.
Mrs. Ahmadu said the foundation realises self-funding was a challenge many manufacturers face. She stated that they were interested in making the ‘Buy Nigeria to grow the Naira’ concept work. Therefore, follow-ups will be done for the manufacturers.
“Many inventors cannot access loans for their businesses. To solve this problem, we will keep a database of all of them and their works. Then, we will follow up with the government to make sure they get the support they seek to mass produce their products.
“The government agencies we are collaborating with have promised to make this process a reality.”
To further reiterate the support the foundation had gotten so far from government, she said the venue of the event was given on an 80 per cent discount.
“The Social Development Secretariat of the Federal Capital Development Administration (FCTA) facilitated this process. They also helped to accommodate some people at the sports centre who came from outside the FCT, free of charge,” she said.