Journalism of Courage

COVID-19: Opportunity for companies to domicile skills, capabilities in Nigeria within Nigerians, says Schneider Electric

…calls for collaboration among industry, government, and academia in research and development  


With the COVID-19 still ravaging some parts of the world, energy management and automation firm, Schneider Electric, has called on players in the oil and gas industry to deepen local content.

The firm also said the pandemic had presented a huge opportunity for companies to “domicile skills and capabilities in Nigeria within Nigerians’’, noting that there were restrictions in travel as well as repatriations, hence most expatriates could not come to Africa.

The General Manager, SSA – Process Automation of Schneider Electric, Mr Ajibola Akindele spoke during discussions at the Practical National Content organized by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board, NCDMB, in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital. recalls that the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 had locked down many countries with restrictions on international travels.

Admonishing the industry not to “let a good crisis go to waste”, Akindele suggested that they should think of ways of doing things differently.

According to him, the pandemic afforded Schneider Electric the opportunity to up skill local engineers with the Nigeria office of the company recording some of the highest training man-hours during the period of the pandemic.

“It was a great opportunity to train our teams and provide exposure to some of the most complex projects. It was important that we localized resources. And for the part of our business that covers oil and gas industry, we are domesticating key skills in Nigeria to support the whole of Africa.

“We are establishing two Centres of Excellence – one for our Digital solutions and the other for our LNG solutions,” Akindele said.

He also urged companies to have a long-term focus in their recruitment as this will ensure that the aging workforce have the time to transfer knowledge to the younger professionals.

“There should be formal mentorship programs so that experienced professionals could mentor the younger ones. This is to ensure knowledge transfer.’’

Calling for collaboration between the oil and gas industry, the government, and the academia to deepen research and development in Nigeria, Akindele noted that currently, R&D in Nigeria was a bit disjointed.

He stressed the need for the academia to conduct researches that are relevant to industry and government and that would help drive policies in that direction.

“We cannot overemphasize the role that R&D plays. If you looked at the developed countries in the world (the U.S, Germany, China, Japan), they are responsible for 64 percent global R&D spend. And it is intentional. About 2.5 to 4 percent of their GDP goes into R&D. And if you looked at less developed countries, it is in the region of 0.2 – 0.9 percent of GDP.

“When a country invests in R&D, that country is able to innovate, leap-frogging other countries, which makes the country richer. It is directly linked to the growth of your GDP. Makes absolute sense! If you don’t invest in R&D, you will continue to be a consumer, unfortunately.’’

He urged organizations to support investments in R&D by investing in basic research, funding university endowments and professorial chairs, creating centers of excellence and supporting the commercialization of patents.

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