How to develop Africa’s infotech policy, by Ndubuisi Ekekwe

Ndubuisi Ekekwe is undoubtedly a man that has carved a niche for himself in the world of electronic development, though he has a soaring popularity in United States, few knew about this genius in this part of the world. In this interview with SADIQ ABDULLATEEF, he lays it bare:

Who is Ndubuisi Ekekwe?
Ndubuisi Ekekwe was born in Ovim, Abia state. He attended Secondary Technical School, Ovim where he passed the SSCE/WASC with 8 distinctions including A2 in Further Mathematics and set his school all-time best result in that examination. Ndubuisi was so gifted that while in SS1, he self-prepared himself for none-science subjects and passed them with distinctions in GCE. He continued in school because of his passion for sciences. He obtained bachelor in engineering degree from Federal University of Technology, Owerri as the best student in the department of electrical & computer engineering with specialization in electronics/computer engineering in 1998.

He holds four masters degrees: MBA (University of Calabar), MTech (Federal University of Technology, Akure), Ms (Tuskegee University, USA), MSE (Johns Hopkins University, USA) and a doctorate in management from St. Clements University. He will graduate with PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering specializing in microelectronics & medical robotics engineering, at the Johns Hopkins University, USA in March 2009. His research involves making integrated circuits with applications on alternative energies, medical robotics, biomedical systems and neuromorphics-an area that involves creating artificial human organs like retinas, cochlea and brain.

Ndubuisi began his doctorate in the Johns Hopkins University, USA after completing his Ms at Tuskegee University, USA with a CGPA of 4/4 in electrical engineering. That academic brilliance gave him the prestigious United States ERC/National Science Foundation and Johns Hopkins University fellowships. During his masters, he received the United States EMCWA scholarship and worked on the NASA’s Jet Propulsion project that focused on distribution of high frequency in the space environment. He has received many awards including the United Kingdom Congress on Computer Assisted Surgery and nomination for the Johns Hopkins Institutions Diversity Recognition Award. In June 2007, the Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering awarded him the SAMSTAG fellowship for ‘outstanding performance by a graduate student’.

Ndubuisi is certified in many key technologies and has published many technical papers in leading journals and conferences. His working experiences include NNPC and Diamond Bank. He holds two pending patents on microelectronics and has consulted for universities, World Bank, and firms. He also holds visiting appointments in two African universities and presently the principal investigator of emerging Africa’s first microelectronics institute. He is attending the African Union congress in Kenya this March and will join a leading US semiconductor firm as a team shaping the future of computing.

Ndubuisi is the Founder/President of African Institution of Technology. He is selected for inclusion in the Marquis Who’s Who in America (2010 edition) and Strathmore’s Who’s Who Worldwide (2009). His first book, Nanotechnology and Microelectronics: Global Diffusion, Economics and Policy, by IGI Global, USA will be ready early next year.

What is http://www.afrit.org?
Afrit stands for African Institution of Technology. Our mission is to provide practical educational support, enable technology policies, and facilitate bottom-up creative technology diffusion in African economies. My vision on this organization is simply to provide support to tertiary institutions interested in introducing cutting edge programs in their curricula. We understand that many African schools do not have the human skills to properly educate their students on these areas. What we do is to work with these institutions to develop the courses, lab manuals and necessary experiments that will facilitate practical academic experiences for the students. We do not charge for our services; they are free and open to all institutions in Africa. We focus mainly on microelectronics, semiconductors, computing (hardware), and robotics. We also source for textbooks from Western publishers and donate to schools. These books are usually technical textbooks. We have members across Europe, Canada and USA.

Another important area of our work is provision of computer aided design (CAD) tools. CAD tools are software programs created to facilitate design and automation in science and engineering. They are very expensive to acquire and license and certainly beyond the reach of our schools. However, even in the United States, schools do not buy some of them from their vendors or manufacturers. The companies simply donate them as part of their strategies to ensure that students get used to their products. Afrit has written many of these companies and they are simply ready to help our schools. For the really cheap CAD, they give us the permission to use them in teaching. These are the activities of Afrit. When a school needs a CAD, we can help them get free license for some of them for their educational and research needs.

Afrit has also worked with foreign partners to enable us fabricate integrated circuits designed by students in Africa. For instance, if a student designs integrated circuits (or chips) for camera, brain interface, cell phone, calculator, etc, we have the capacities to fabricate those chips and send back to the student for testing. The goal is to help our students experience the complete design cycle: from design to testing.

What are the aims and objectives of http://www.afrit.org?
Our major objective is to help African nations, especially Nigeria, to transfer and diffuse cutting edge technologies like microelectronics and nanotechnology. We believe so much that the hope of Africa will be by creating knowledge and training armies of knowledge workers towards diversifying our mineral- or hydrocarbon-based economies. Based on this motivation, we work to create awareness on the need to focus on these technologies and not just information technology (IT). Many African governments have IT policy and no technology policy; in short across African many people think that IT is synonymous with technology. For us, we want to push the notion that IT, though a great technology, is not the only technology. Without microelectronics, there will be no IT as the computers must be designed before we can experience the IT. Fortunately, the wealth comes from microelectronics and IT design and not the consumption as we presently have in Nigeria. We consume IT as we do not create it. By consuming IT, we waste lots of resources that would have been saved if we can develop some of the IT infrastructures. Microelectronics is the bedrock to making routers, switches, computers , etc as it is the engine of modern commerce that continues to revolutionize all aspects of our lives. We have developed what we call Afrit-model to diffuse microelectronics in Africa.

To realize these goals, we focus on three constituents: governments, schools and small and medium enterprises (SME). We help schools improve their programs. For governments, we provide experience to help them develop policies on technology transfer for these technologies. For SME, we help them identify areas where they can contribute towards facilitating the diffusion of microelectronics. For instance, we note that the computer business center model was very successful in advancing IT in Nigeria. We can create a program that can help graduates to start programming microprocessors and FPGA instead of wasting time on computers composing 419 emails.

As we do these, we connect Nigerian students to scholarship opportunities; give our schools information on grants, provide collaboration linkages with foreign schools.

What are Afrit challenges and success?
Our major challenge is simply reaching our audience: schools, small and medium enterprises, and governments. For the schools, we have made attempts in the past to send CDs containing the CAD tools, but without our presence, we noticed that some of the schools were unable to properly use them. The challenge is having the time to train at least the teachers on the software as they apply to IC or chip design. For governments, Afrit is truly committed to assist them develop infrastructures like semiconductor institutes that will become the bedrock to diffuse this technology. Also, being students, it is natural that we do not have enough funding for travel we make. However, since our organization does not distribute hardware, rather, ideas, we try to cope. When we ask a firm to send us their tools to help schools educate, it does not cost us anything, except time. One area we would have made more impacts if we have money is buying development boards and donating to schools. Some of these boards cost less than $20 in US and can add values to education. The same goes with biomorphic robots, which go for $36 and can help students understand how to design systems that mimic nature and push human towards immortality.

We have had successes across the continent. We are working on projects with African Union, World Bank, Nigerian universities, and other African schools. I hold visiting appointments in some of these schools. We have attended conferences in Hungary, Canada, many cities in the US and have CAD licenses to train with. I will be going to one in Kenya next month organized by African Union. Our publication is also extensive. We are working on two books right now. One is focusing on how technology will be used to turn brain drain into brain gain. In other words, I do not need to live in Nigeria to make contributions in Nigeria. While in the US, I can continue to advance my skills and using the right mix of technology, can help my nation. Afrit is also working on a project that will offer the blueprint on how Telepresence can be deployed in Africa. Yes, having the capacity to teach at Bayero University from my house in the United States. We want to see that schools have these facilities for collaborations. We have helped universities in Nigeria prepared international grants to foreign agencies to meet the best standards. While it may not be wise to give names of schools, we have developed microelectronics curricula for many universities across Africa.

How do you intend to overcome those challenges?
Simply, by reaching schools, small businesses and governments and telling them what we can offer to them. That is why we appreciate this exposure Triumph newspaper is giving us. Thank you very much. We want to see relationships from schools in the Northern part of Nigeria. We are yet to have a project from this region. We missed an opportunity to work with one of the schools in the North few years ago. The period we planned to arrive, lecturers started strike and it was cancelled.

source: http://www.triumphnewspapers.com/ho1122009.html                                

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22 responses

  1. this is amazing. impressive guy. naija has been blessed, when will these smart guys be giving chance to help our country. kudos brosme…frank

  2. those guys from FUTO are wonderful. ndubuisi ekekwe sounds optimistic and down natural. africa on the move

  3. here we go africa…guys on mission. good one.
    checked his school site and he is a real techie

  4. This guy is definitely genuine. But I am disappointed to know that he got a DBA degree from Clemen’s University. That is unacceptable. It cast a cloud of doubt over his achievements. I think he needs to get rid of that from his resume. That is no school, it is a virtual “degree mill”. However, I have researched this guy and I think I may be contacting him to collaborate with him on some of my high-tech interests in Africa.

  5. i visited the site and checked up the seminar/workshop. truly, it is free. i contacted him and he clarified that yes it is free, but the school must provide two things: electricity and a projector throughout the duration of the workshop. sounds simple to me and bright when i called his lab on his school site. this is what we need in africa..

  6. I didn’t know this guy was a Nigerian –
    We hear very much about him here in the US and thought he was from the Caribbean.

    Good luck guys, nice to know that your people are doing great 🙂

  7. Moshood Akintayo

    Ndubuisi is a versatile engineer of many purposes,should Nigerian government ready, the young phd holder can be used in many different platforms to achieve the vision 2020. His lecture at NigComSat today completely transformed the youths to a challengers in their respective fields.

  8. 07/05/2009
    I was previledged to attend his 3-day workshop(which ends today),at usman danfodiyo university sokoto and I found him inspiring and futuristic in his academic/industrial pursuit for excellence. I am happy that we have patriotic Nigerians who, despite their achievements and comfortable lives in the western world, still habour the zeal to contribute to the development of their dear country and people.
    May almighty Allah(swa) bless our nation and deliver us bad leadership. Amen

  9. It is amazing and unbelievable for me to have met a humble man like Dr Ndubisi within my Company’s CAFE Department (KAY-NETLOGIC NIGERIA) where he was making research and contact without inviting me. But the Gift of MAN shall bring him out anywhere. I thank God for him and making himself to be used on the positive utilisation of INTERNET AND TECHNOLOGIES accross the globe. Your visit with zeal to universities across d world will really assist in revolutionalising an average undergraduates minds.My company supports your indispensable initiative.

    AKINYOOLA JAMES OLAOYE
    Business Dev.Manager
    Kay-Netlogic Nig. Limited
    akinyoolajames@gmail.com

  10. he gave the FUTO 22nd Public lecture titled, neurmorphs and bioacquisition system. that is the best lecture i have attended in my life. humble, passionate, bright and true Nigerian. this guy raised a new generation when he came to our university. God bless this young man

  11. From Champion Newspaper, June 4, 2009

    Nigeria not yet ripe for robotics engineering — Ekekwe

    Dr. Ndubuisi Ekekwe, a robotics engineer based in the United States of America is currently the President of African Institute of Technology which is in the forefront of advancing microelectronics and robotics technology in Africa. He was in Abuja recently where he entertained questions from journalists. ADELANI ASHAMU was there.

    You already have two patents in robotics. Do you think Nigeria has the capacity to develop this branch of engineering?

    Currently I have two pending patents, that I have already filed for, but so far they are still going through the normal rigorous process of patents consideration but we are very optimistic that these patents will come through. I think the question is not necessarily whether Nigeria has the potential, in all fields of endeavour, we have proved that we are smart, energetic, brilliant and there is no field of endeavour you would not see Nigerians doing very well. So for me I would not say it is an isolated case as there are many people that have come before me and even doing better than l am doing but as an individual, I have this keen curiosity that until you solve a problem, you can not really celebrate success. As an engineer I believe I can push the limit of science and that was the reason I continually try to re-define how we see scientific discoveries, shaping the future of humanity.

    There are two levels to explain that context. You have individual issues and another that I would call a national issue. Unfortunately right now in this country, no one can readily operate or do anything in robotics engineering because our nation is not an industrialised economy. Robotics can not necessarily flourish here. In other words, at the individual level what usually drives people going into certain careers has to do with the propensity that when they graduate they can find a job. If you graduate from robotics anywhere and you come back to Nigeria to practice you may be surprised that you would not have a lot of career opportunities; but for me it is a little different. As a little boy, I had this imagination that man should be in a level where machines should serve us because I believe that God has given us the intellect. I wish we have more time or freedom and allow our brains to create engines and machines that would serve us.

    You mean Nigeria as a country is not prepared for robotics?

    We have not moved to the level where we can actually deploy these technologies because there are some fundamental things that must happen. You can not talk of robotics engineering when you don’t have good electricity just like you can’t talk of robotics engineering when your graduates are not necessarily knowledge workers. It is actually very insulting in that when someone graduates in this country, he begins a job as a training engineer so what has he gone to do in the University for five years if he comes into your company and become a training engineer. It is just to show you that our educational system has not advanced to the level that is required. In that case we have a long way to go and I don’t see robotics engineering taking root in this country in the next ten years. I am here just to create awareness in the universities through seminars and workshops as well as running other courses. Hopefully we would begin that process of recreating bottom top technology institutions that would bring universities across the world to have interest in Nigerian universities and create this kind of technology.

    What is your view to the notion that robots are here to take the place of humans?

    Some of those arguments are not necessarily very valid. One thing we have come to understand through the course of humanity is that technology comes to destroy the way we live. We should also not forget the fact that technology also creates problems in order to manage the way we live. During the great days of industrial revolution in the British Empire technology came to solve problems but it also created a need. When the internet came a lot of people said ok, a lot of jobs were going to be eliminated but it created a new class of workers, people that made money through internet. So, though robotic systems may be advanced and we have robots to compete with us, they would also create a niche that we have to service them and you will never see a displacement of the human species because man remains the most intelligent, most organized engine that can never be displaced by any kind of human collision, and so we should not worry about that.

    How do you think Nigeria can re-invent its energy sector?

    There are two things. I believe.Firstly we need to go back to basics. Every national policy in any nation must carry the university system along. The University is the organic engine that drives any national vision. In other words, students of today will become the future leaders of tomorrow and if the students of today are not well prepared to actually manage the leadership challenges in the next generation then the country does not have a future. If you go through history you discover that the prosperity of every nation is always dependent on the vibrancy of the educational system. When you go through industrial revolution, Cambridge and Oxford were the best universities in the world and Britain was very successful. Now America is considered a very great super power not because of its military arsenal but because they have the best universities in the world. So how can our nation get to that level? We have to go back to restructuring and modernisng our educational system. It is only when we have done that,that we would begin to see students who will actually graduate to become entrepreneurs, creating a level of competition and create an economy that would flourish to enable these brains advance. Educational system advances our energy system; advances our policies in all areas of national life.

    What solution can government adopt for the educational system since it holds the ace to national development?

    In the educational system, a massive kind of investment is required and restructuring of the way we see the education sector. Sometimes, I have proposed that the government should have a national science foundation where basically government would map out certain amount of funds for university professors and lecturers and polytechnics or colleges of education so that they can go into research. There is no problem in this country that someone has never dreamt of how to solve it, whether it is energy, transportation or economic problem. But the greatest challenge we have is that these people sleep with these ideas. No one gives them the resources to try to solve those problems. I want to challenge the government to fund the education system adequately.

  12. who says africans arent bright,with people like Dr ekwekwe i believe there is still hope for africa in terms of technological advancement.Continue the good work sir course am always inspired by you.

  13. Chioma Uchenna

    very smart guy; brilliant. i watched him on NTA AM Express few weeks ago. He was fun to watch speech. as usual, the very good ones make tents outside naija. something is wrong in this country. all the best students and all the good ones find joy to live outside naiaj. govt no dey see at all. ndubuisi, you are my hero. your interview on leadership newspaper is one of the bests i have read in a long time. u have it and keep it up….

  14. You are an African and you are my hero. Can you come and stay in Nigeria? Your letter in ABU Zaria is sound,from a leader

  15. may i say congrats to one of nigeria’s brightest stars for winning the TED fellowship. http://www.ted.com/fellows. you have shown that in our nation, genius could emerge. you are my hero and i am proud of being a futo graduate where you got your undergrad. blessings ahead, my broda

  16. mike c. okereke

    This is good news.

  17. KANU OSCAR ONYEBUCHI

    My brother, am proud of you. Great Ovim!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. You have always been my role model. Keep up the good work.

  18. Congrats for appearing on Businessweek and showing a positive image of Nigeria. u are a treasure.
    http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/next/archives/2010/02/introducing_ted_22.html

    http://www.ted.com/profiles/view/id/373125

    your class mate, chima

  19. Dr Mike Ndinechi

    I am very proud of this guy Ekekwe. Happy to note that my former student at FUTO is doing very well and representing me very fine. Some good other guys like Wilson, Fragene, Eke-Okoro are also doing very well out there in North America. You can link them up for better deals.

  20. This is an amazing mam. Now check this very amazing young man doing great things via his business talent around the globe. He is even on the encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ebube_Chukwurah

  21. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your
    sites really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back in the future.
    Many thanks

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