We are generally told that without engineers we would all be living in caves. Given this, in my opinion, that means Nigerians are metaphorically cave-dwellers.

Allow me to explain.

A case for engineering

Take Malawi's William Kankwamba as an example, he saved his village from famine after reading a book he found in a library. Kankwamba started borrowing books from a small community lending library located at his former primary school in Malawi. One day, he borrowed an 8th-grade American textbook titled "Using Energy", which depicted wind turbines on its cover. From reading the book, he decided to build a windmill to power his family’s home and obviate the need for kerosene, which provided only smoky, flickering, distant and expensive light after dark.

"First he built a prototype using a radio motor, then his initial 5-meter windmill out of a broken bicycle, tractor fan blade, old shock absorber, and blue gum trees. After hooking the windmill to a car battery for storage, William was able to power four light bulbs and charge neighbors’ mobile phones. This system was even equipped with homemade light switches and a circuit breaker made from nails, wire, and magnets. The windmill was later extended to 12 meters to better catch the wind above the trees. A third windmill pumped grey water for irrigation. "

It's important to note that he did all this after reading a book, not 36 books or the latest scientific journals.

Nigeria has so many engineers and it is might as well be the poverty capital of the world. Which begs the question: What have Nigerian engineers in or out of academia done with all the engineering books and journals found in Nigerian libraries?

Another example is Kenya's John Magiro. Magiro experienced a problem and later on found a solution to it - a solution that is transforming the lives of his community. He built a mini hydroelectric power plant. With support from the Kenyan government through the National Environment Trust Fund (NETFUND), Magiro now employs over 10 young people from his village to produce electricity while conserving the environment.

Nigeria's media needs to focus on engineering and innovation

In my opinion, rather than focusing a lot on politics, celebrities, crime, sex and violence, Nigerian media should spend more time asking "what's happening by way of engineering and innovation or why things are not happening at all?”

I am quite skeptical about all the noise been made about digital technology in Nigeria. It all seems to be about sitting in front of a computer screen or eyes glued to a smartphone, playing around with a keyboard and hoping to make lots of money. Maybe digital technology will make a few Nigerian millionaires but what Nigeria needs is not more millionaires but millions of jobs.

There are opportunities in problems.

For instance after writing about a collapsed building or inadequate housing, maybe the journalist in question should go out to ascertain the state of building research and innovation in Nigeria.

To a large extent you have to look to the private sector and civil society to solve Nigeria's problems and by extension Africa's problems.


Cover image credit: “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” movie photos. | © Netflix