The Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the 22nd of June formally declared the Student Innovation Challenge open at the first Regional Final held in the University of Lagos, Lagos. The event which saw huge crowd and several dignataries in attendance was the first of the four regional finals of the challenge.

Among dignataries in attendance, the MD/CEO of Access Bank, Mr Herbert Wigwe expressed his happiness in the way the government has diverted keen focus and large resource input in indigenous innovation and technology.

The Bank Chief of one of the most innovative and tech oriented banks in Nigeria which also happens to be one of the sponsors of SIC, Access Bank, was invited up stage to give a short remark on the event. He expressed his delight and satisfaction in the good job the Presidency was doing in raising indigenous solutions to solve our native social challenges.

He spoke on how technology has evolved over the years in an ever increasing attempt to make living better for man. Some 20 years ago, audio files had to be recorded on cartridges and audio cassettes. This was used by all the big artistes and record labels in the last generation. At the advent of this generation, storage of these audio files evolved to portable Compact Discs (CDs). This appeared to be the best that could ever happen in that line. However, songs and other media files became available in downloadable formats online where money could even be exchanged for these files through payment platforms. This again was a super innovation that seemed magical until hardware storage facilities became an issue. Right now songs do not have to be downloaded. They are bought and store on cloud or virtual storages like iCloud, Google drive, Spotify and the likes. The same goes with movies that are now streamed on platforms like Netflix and our own ebonylife tv. In the words of Mr Herbert, “Whether you like it or not, innovation is here to stay”.

He assured the participants and attendees of the commitment of Access Bank Plc to the advancement of technology in Nigeria. This is a verified claim considering that the bank opened an innovation hub few months ago in Lagos and also its commitment to Fintech by handpicking over 70 programmers to develop Fintech solutions for seamless banking. He quoted Peter Druxler saying, “The best way to predict the future is to create it”.

ES MTN Foundation, Nonny Ugboma.

One of the sponsors of the SIC and a partner of Civic Innovation Lab, the hosts of the SIC, MTN Foundation was duly represented by the Executive Secretary, Mrs Nonny Ugboma. She commended the excitement and hope expressed by the youths of today towards a developed Nigeria. According to her, this is a resultant effect of collaboration and innovation – a spark like that of the big bang, putting everything in place and in order. She stated that the innovations she witnessed were mind blowing and if nurtured, implemented and sustained, will have significant impact in the economy and living condition for the average Nigerian.

She added that the Student Innovation Challenge is timely, coming at a point where only indigenous innovation and researches can save our failing country. MTN Foundation is proud to associate with any initiative that drive social development and empowerment because our future is ours to mould. MTN Foundation has partnered with Bank of Industry, which is also a sponsor of the SIC, on the upcoming Youth entrepreneurship development program, a program that will give 75 youths up to a sum of two million naira to establish small and medium enterprises.

All the participants here have the primary responsibility of taking their ideas to the next level and MTN Foundation will always be supportive. She congratulated all participants in their quest to eradicate unemployment and poverty.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s Speech

The Vice President mounted the podium just after the CEO of Bank of Industry, Mr Pitan presented a gift to the most eloquent and impressive participant of the day.

Professor Yemi Osinbajo expressed his joy and commitment toward advancement of innovation and technology in the nation. He highlighted a number of finished and on-going projects towards the actualization of this dream. Stating that it is general knowledge that the best ideas and solutions to problems come out of the universities, he mentioned a few local and global companies such as Steve Job’s Apple, Mark Zuckerburg’s Facebook and Opeyemi’s Jobberman.

He also graciously increased the number of winners of the Student Innovation Challenge from 37 to 50 after seeing the high level innovations presented before him.

Below is the Vice President’s full speech:

Everybody knows where the smart money is looking.  We all know that the university is the best place for getting the best talents and that’s what is going to shape the future of our country.  Every one of us is aware of that.  And so, what the Federal Government did, is that we simply partnered with the UNDP, with BOI, with MTN, with Civic Foundation for Innovation and Access Bank, to come and do what we describe as the student challenge.” 

Great Akokites, first of all, let me say that I’m glad to be back home. For those of you who know, I was here as a student and as a lecturer, before I was elected as Vice President.  So, the University of Lagos is home for me, and I’m really excited to be back here.

But I’m also excited to see what is going on here: the Student Innovation Challenge, the South West Regional Event. 

The best examples of successful technology companies started in universities.  All the best examples we know, whether it is Steve Jobs’ Apple, or Mark Zuckerberg, who came out of Harvard, as well as Bill Gates who also came out of Harvard. Here in Nigeria, Opeyemi told us about Jobberman out of Obafemi Awolowo University. Nairaland also came out of the University. 

I know incredible ideas are going to come out of the University of Lagos. One of the reasons I’m so sure that is going to be the case is because, first of all, before we came here, we went to commission our new technology hub, which will be here in the University of Lagos.  It is going to be built using containers and it’s going to take exactly three months to build.   So, we were there earlier in the day just to take a look at it, and to see what is going on there, and I’m sure that it’s going to be a place of great creativity.  Hopefully, we are going to do this in the six geo-political zones, starting here at the University of Lagos.

Everybody knows where the smart money is looking.  We all know that the university is the best place for getting the best talents and that’s what is going to shape the future of our country.  Every one of us is aware of that.  And so, what the Federal Government did, is that we simply partnered with the UNDP, with BOI, with MTN, with Civic Foundation for Innovation and Access Bank, to come and do what we describe as the student challenge. 

The student challenge is to find the best; the best innovation, the best technology ideas, the best creativity, the best creative ideas from students across Nigeria. 

Now, we were going to pick 37. But I’ve spoken to my partners and they say because of what they have seen today, we’ve got to move that up.  So, we are going to pick 50, we’re adding 13 more.  So, there are some here today who might get, even if you don’t get into the first pack, you should be able to get into that additional one.  We are definitely going to do it in such a way that as many of the great ideas as possible, get a chance to be tested commercially, they get a chance to be supported.

That’s why just listening to the six that were randomly picked, doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best that were here today.  They were just randomly picked.  I thought those ideas were fantastic; I thought the ideas were great!  And I know that there are so many other people with great ideas all over here. 

That’s why I have decided that I’m going to take photograph with these 40 who are behind me here.  And the simple reason is that I know that these guys are going to be famous. They are going to be rich one day and I don’t want them to forget me.  So, that’s the reason I’m going to take this photograph with them. 

But to everyone else, let me say that it is an absolutely exciting time to be alive, this is the best time. You know, people talk about the good old days, they keep saying Oh the good old days, but it was Obama who said, always be suspicious of people who are telling you about these good old days, the best days are here.  The future is right here.  And welcome to that future! 

Thank you very much”

After the Vice President’s speech there was a group photograph session for the VP and the participants and also the dignitaries, partners and sponsors.