By Ikenna Nwokedi
UNIZIK Business School (UBS), Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, on Friday 2nd December 2022 launched the higher education partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa 22/24 Programme .
The event took place at the Unizik Business School conference room.
The project title approved and to be funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering, United Kingdom was “Catalyzing the Employability and Entrepreneurial Impact of Nigerian Engineers in the Electricity Industry to Strategically Improve Access to Electricity in Nigeria”, and was attracted by an Associate Professor of Business Administration and Deputy Director, UNIZIK Business School, Dr. Chinedu Onyeizugbe, alongside his supervisee in the MBA programme, Mr. Ugochukwu Ifediora.
In his address, the UNIZIK Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Esimone, noted that the project is at the core of development in places of key human capacity issues which includes Nigeria and Africa.
He said that the project would help bridge the gap between the town and gown to enable the students become self-reliant upon graduation.
Prof. Esimone promised that they would not fail in the project because it is not in the character of the University to fail. He stated that the university would not resist to provide enabling environment and supportive atmosphere for the project benefactors in order to yield more fruitful collaboration.
Speaking during the project launch, the Team lead, Dr. Chinedu Onyeizugbe, said the project was informed by a renewed emphasis on production for export aimed at addressing the structural issues necessary to stimulate the economy and drive the much desired diversification and industrialisation efforts.
The scholar said that due to the nation’s grossly insufficient electric power generation, poor transmission and distribution statistics, businesses of various forms have now adopted alternate power supply arrangements by using the petrol and diesel powered electricity generating sets to enable them to render adequate services.
Dr Onyeizugbe assured that the grant would be used judiciously as they would work with UBS, United Kingdom Partners- Teesside University of Middlesbrough TS1 3BA and V-Lab Limited; Higher institutions partners- Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam; Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, and Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State; Industry Partners: Enugu Electricity Distribution Company PLC; Fedironics Limited and Century Power Limited; Professional Partners: Nigeria Society of Engineers, Awka Branch, among others.
In his address, the Director, UNIZIK Business School, Prof. Emma Okoye, said that UBS has achieved another milestone by winning a grant from Royal Academy of Engineering for the Higher Education Partnership in Sub-Saharan Africa (HEP SSA) Programme.
The UBS Director said that the project will address the engineering skills deficit in Africa and showcase the role of engineering in driving inclusive economic development in the region.
He noted that the programme is implemented through a model known as ‘hub and spoke’ which aims to improve the engineering capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa, build on the research and innovation capacity of higher education institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa and stimulate ties with the industry to increase the scale of impact.
On his part, Engr. Ugochukwu Ifediora stated that the idea behind the project is due to inadequate human infrastructure needed to democratize electricity and mass electrification of this nation.
He expressed optimism concerning the outcome of the project, pointing out that there is need to commercialize it to help increase the employability skills of graduates.
Also speaking, Prof. Solomon Nwigbo, one of the proposed players in the programme execution, urged the incoming students to be well prepared because the project will be result oriented, technical and key objectives will be observed.
He said that they would make it reproducible anytime it is called upon, follow international best practices and invoke all the principles to achieve a desired result.
Other speakers at the colourful event were the Programme Manager, Royal Academy of Engineering, Melina San Martin who commended the awardees and described the project as topical, which, according to her, affects Africa especially West Africa where only 42 per cent have access to electricity supply.
Mr Vishak Dudhee of V-Lab and Dr. Vladimir Vukovic, a senior reserach lecturer in BIM and energy reduction in built environment of Teesside University both voiced out their optimism that the partnership would be a robust one.
The grant award was aimed at improving engineering capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa by enhancing the knowledge, skills, capacity and employability of African engineering graduates; build on the research and innovation capacity of engineering students of higher education institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa and stimulate ties with industry to increase the scale of impact.