The efforts of Uwagwu, Oyefeso and Ogedengbe discussed above illustrate how foreign-based technology can be accessed by Nigerians to develop local, Nigerian-based innovation through CCINs.
Such engineering entrepreneurs need to be linked to community corporations that further anchor investment, jobs and wealth, and are linked to a self-governance, local regulation and oversight system which prevents corruption and builds upon and sustains a civic-minded, community ethos.
The first phase to build Cooperative Community Innovation Networks is to create a feasibility plan which examines local needs and what can and should be produced. Our initial belief is that bamboo and solar projects represent excellent starting points for such a discussion.
A small-scale solar system, such as a system for charging phones or powering lights, could become a popular item that generates revenues for innovation by building on Nigeria’s multi-million population of consumers.
Ultimately, we need a new mechanism for organising the innovative process to end social exclusion. Excluded groups cut off from land and other resources must organise to create innovations, these innovations in turn can create new labour markets and products which produce resources for land acquisition and further development of community wealth.
We need a sustained community dialogue that links technical knowledge about products, to the various constituencies with a stake in green and sustainable innovation. Such a dialogue will utilise study circles to assess needs and capacities in pursuit of a Green New Deal mobilisation linking ecological needs, wealth promotion and economic growth to combat scarcities.
Our goal is to facilitate the studies, organising, planning and community mobilisation to build upon the capacities of our local communities. We need to create jobs, promote sustainable growth, and develop the infrastructure services required to improve communities.
Extending the Model throughout Nigeria
We conclude by exploring how we could create a process that replicates or expands change in one local region (tied to the pilot project we envision) to change that covers a broader geographic territory. There are several ways to achieve this.
First, we need an economic extension system. In our proposal, a pilot project can show how various capacities and constituencies are brought together in a single location. Yet, we need to franchise the local solution through network resources that are more national in scope. In the African diaspora, we have models for creating such expansionary networks through so-called “community development corporations” organised by Black churches and Black colleges in the United States.
In addition, Malcolm X and the Black Muslims created a similar system linking religious networks to small business development. In the Malcolm X case, we see how a person who became a political celebrity was tied to a religious group building black businesses. Malcolm X organised a network of about 100 mosques and thus a mechanism link.
The Programme of the Organisation of Afro-American Unity, of which Malcolm X was the key principal, also called for “a technician pool” or “a bank of technicians.” The programme envisioned African Americans providing technicians for African nations and thereby creating “an open market” for the skills of the former while helping Africa develop; the goal was “mutual cooperation and mutual benefit.”
In these American examples, a moral code and community ethos are directly linked to job creation and wealth generation systems. Nigerian churches and mosques can produce such comprehensive and fast change by helping extend the knowledge and resources gained in a local pilot project.
Second, Nigeria itself has a number of cooperatives which could be part of a larger system of community corporations which build and share wealth equitably, honestly and efficiently. They can support the political and economic franchises (or hubs for change extended over space and spread throughout the country) which accelerate change.
Finally, if a pilot project can successfully launch one or two products like solar chargers or bamboo production in local markets, then it might be able to expand its reach by marketing throughout the country and further growing customers and revenues. This revenue stream can be used to launch new projects and products in other Nigerian areas. This pattern of diversification and multi-product firms can be seen in both traditional production engineering companies like Siemens in Germany and in the Mondragon cooperative in Spain.
Dr Feldman is an Associate Professor at Stockholm University and Rev. Dr Bature is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Peace, Hope and Conflict Management, Nigeria.
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