Vice President Yemi Osinbajo says the knowledge-based Ekiti Special Economic Zone (SEZ) has the potential to transform the economy of the state and create good tech-based jobs.
Osinbajo delivered a keynote address at the Ekiti Economic Development and Investment Summit tagged Fountain Summit 2021 on Thursday in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State.
The theme of the summit is, “Investment Attractiveness and Economic Development: Lessons for Sub-Nationals.’’
The vice president said that knowledge economy had become critical to development in the digital age.
“We have already noted the enormous potential in agriculture and dairy; but clearly the way of the future especially the huge population of young men and women seeking good paying jobs is technology.
“And I think you are in the flow of progress with the planned establishment of the Technology Special Economic Zone; clearly, the future of fast growing economies is in the knowledge economy.
“Every day, we are beginning to see the transition.’’
Citing Shimon Peres, the former Prime Minister of Israel, Osinbajo said that the world had transited the age of territory to that of science as land size and natural resources had given way to science and knowledge economy.
He said that technology had erased land borders and physical offices.
“So young men and women in Ekiti can work from there and earn world class wages.
“This is why the planned investment in Ekiti knowledge economic zone is strategic and it is exciting to see that the plan is to use business process outsourcing as an anchor.
“A design, I am told, will be a service-led Special Economic Zone, a digital technology hub leveraging its proximity to five different tertiary institutions.
“This is, if one may borrow the term, the future of jobs; certainly, it is the future of jobs and I think we must commend the foresightedness of the state governor and his team for determining that technology, especially, in the knowledge economy is the way to go.
“However, for a digital SEZ to be successful, it must be attractive to digital markets; that means that there must be high quality, well trained grade talents.
“And I am glad to hear already that on account of the reduction of charges for laying of cables for broadband connectivity, the state is already attracting investments in the laying of cables.
“And that I think it is fantastic; an important component of knowledge economy and using that for commercial purposes; so, we need trained local talents,’’
He made reference to the Chief Executive Officer of Apple, Tim Cook, who was asked why his company was investing so much in China.
The vice president quoted Cook as saying that his company was in China because China had extraordinary skills– almost 2 million application developers who wrote applications for IOS app store
According to Osinbajo, gone are the days when a place should be considered as an attractive destination for investment because it has cheap labour.
“Today, well trained technology and innovation talent is the main thing.
“So, there are three keys to this knowledge economy, which in my opinion is the future; and the three keys are education, education, education.
“And it is important for Ekiti to leverage its famed love and its famed passion for education; I believe you have not lost that edge.
“This is the moment to refocus, especially on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education; this is vital for being able to participate effectively in the fourth industrial revolution; which has launched the digital age and the digital age.’’
According to him, Ekiti must go beyond the Fountain of Knowledge to becoming the fountain of knowledge economy.
He said that aside quality, education also required a strategic framework for imparting technical and vocational skills.
“The importance of having a pool of health well-trained workers such as electricians, fitters, mechanics, laboratory technicians, welders, machine toolists and even web designers is vital for an ecosystem that will be attractive for technology and innovation investments,’’ he said.
The vice president had earlier inaugurated the Ekiti Civic Centre.
In his welcome address, Gov. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti, said the summit was another significant step to set the state on the path of sustainable economic development.
Fayemi commended the vice president for the role he in implementing the Economic Sustainability Plan which played a significant role in returning Nigeria’ economy to growth following COVID-19 set-back.
The governor said that the summit was to encourage private enterprise and to make the state attractive to investors.
The summit featured a panel discussion in which the vice president, Fayemi, Governors Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna and Godwin Obaseki of Edo States deliberated on issues ranging from economy to security and human capital development.
The event also attracted members of the National Assembly, traditional rulers and members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) including Niyi Adebayo, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, who was the first elected governor of Ekiti State.