Innovations as a Pathway to Economic Development in Ekiti

Author: Ayeni Faith Damilola

Ado-Ekiti environment

Ekiti is comparable to the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg in many ways. Apart from being a place of rocks and hills like Luxembourg, it has about the same mineral resources. Just like the Grand Duchy, Ekiti is landlocked. It has one of the lowest population among Nigerian states, and so does Luxembourg − just about 615,000 inhabitants − in the European Union. A sharp contrast, however, exists in the economies of these two places.

Luxembourg, with a GDP per capita of 109,000.00 USD, is the richest country in Europe and, in fact, second in the whole world. According to Forbes, "It has...over $4.5 trillion of assets under management," putting it at the very heart of asset management in the whole of  Europe. But Ekiti ranks among the poorest states in Nigeria.

One is tempted to think of this tiny country's economic conquest as a miracle, considering that its mineral resources are of little significance in the world of oil, but it isn't. Luxembourg, as revealed by Beast magazine, has "innovation in its DNA". The economy is the measure of a country or region's wealth, and the wealthier a place is, the more advanced its economy is said to be, but the same economy is a "huge innovation discovery machine", quoting Nobel Laureate Paul Romer. Innovation, on the other hand, is the development and application of ideas and/or technology to get a greater output from the same input. For every state or nation that has achieved significant economic development, innovations have played a notable role. California, US, for instance; China; Japan; Israel; etc., owe their economic wins to technological and agricultural innovations. Likewise, a complete turnaround in the economy of Ekiti is not impossible; it just can't be willed into existence. There's the need for innovation in every sector of the state's economic activities, especially agriculture, where it has a comparative advantage. With a rich soil, and capacity to support numerous agricultural products, including rice on which importation Nigeria spends 0.59 trillion naira every year, Ekiti could become the nation's food basket, and get its purse filled in the process.

A cutting-edge agricultural productivity requires more than a good soil, however. Only innovations can beat the challenges of a changing climate, inadequate storage facility, land insufficiency, high cost of production, diseases, pests, etc., battling large-scale agriculture in Ekiti state. To give an idea, an Israeli company named Biobee developed a technology that raises breeds of spiders, flies, and bees that eat up insect pests of grains, in other to eliminate the use of pesticides. This innovation now helps 50 countries grow grains without applying chemicals. Similar innovations can proffer solutions like the production of resistant crop varieties to indigenous diseases battling crops in Ekiti state. Biotechnological innovations will surely amplify the per hectare yield of crops and, in fact, reduce their gestation time, thereby cause a jump in the state's agricultural output which will result in poverty reduction and overall economic growth.

New agricultural best practices also spring up everyday across the world. For example, precision farming lets farmers make ultra-efficient use of resources like water, fertilizers, and pesticides. Minimum quantity of resources required is applied on target areas of a field or plants to bring about lower cost of production, higher productivity, and overall reduction in market price of crops.

But for mostly-uneducated Ekiti farmers, keeping up with these global trends as well as adopting basic agricultural technologies requires innovative ways of disseminating information.

Tourism is another big driver of economic development in different places. It has been a good source of foreign exchange for countries like the US, Japan, and the UK. In France, the tourism sector accounts for 7% GDP, and over 2 million jobs. Ekiti state, no doubt, has enough natural and cultural heritages − even more than the big earners − to attract tourists from across the world. One is Ikogosi warm spring, a geological spectacle said to be the only one of its kind in the whole world; Olosunta hill; Ipole-Iloro water fall; historical traditional festivals; etc. But it takes more than the beauties of nature to become a tourist magnet in the latest world.

Tourists favour places that can provide unforgettable experiences at a low cost, and this is the basis of touristic innovations across the world. Ekiti will earn so much from this sector with innovative promotion, reception, hospitality, and entertainment strategies.

This could mean, among others, new varieties of food, construction of state-of-the-art lodges from local resources, and classic entertainment events capable of bringing foreigners in touch with the culture, history, and traditions of Africa, Nigeria, and Ekiti especially.

Innovative separation of religion elements from traditional festivals will also keep loads of tourists coming, bringing with them a boost in the state's economic activities during such events.

Furthermore, education is globally regarded as one of the variables of economic growth. Ekiti people, though perceived as highly educated, have not translated their knowledge into economic prosperity so far. This is partly a result of the rigid nature of curriculums in use across Nigerian states. World economies are changing rapidly these days, and education must evolve to meet up with these changes. Quality education in the latest world is one that nurtures the entrepreneurship spirit and attracts money. Employers lay more emphasis now on the skills, talents, and exposure of individuals; and modern education systems respond to these demands with up-to-the-minute curriculums and the integration of exciting technological innovations into the educational activities of teachers, students, and parents. Computers, mobile phones, and other preloading digital devices are being associated with classroom activities for better outcomes. Australian students, for instance, can access over 26,000 educative documentaries on science and social studies with the help of an innovative online streaming service called Kanopy, while Finland uses an entirely different, yet so successful education model that lets students flourish under zero academic pressure. Educational Innovations from school administrators, teachers, and policy makers will further prepare Ekiti students for life out of school, and thus facilitate economic development for the state.

Modern technological items, however, require reliable power supply to serve their purposes in the education sector and elsewhere. This is the entry point of power/energy Innovation. At the macro scale, most Nigerians across the 36 states have no access to electricity, and this has been a major setback for economic growth in Ekiti as productivity is retarded across all sectors.

Power is required to provide optimum storage conditions for agricultural produce, for instance. Tourists cannot also enjoy maximum comfort without it. Citizens work for longer hours in a well lit environment, and students study even late into the night. Researches needed for scientific innovations can't also be carried out without adequate power supply. But then, frugal innovations are popping out across the world to help developing economies, at least, beat down the risks associated with inadequate power. The generation of power from renewable energy, and the development of non-electric technological products from local resources are filling the gap.

Cities like Burlington, US; Auckland, New Zealand; and Nairobi, Kenya; etc., are now almost entirely powered from renewable energy, and their local economies have got a boost as a result.


Large-scale adoption of these innovative technologies, coupled with indigenous power innovations would ensure power stability, stretch entrepreneurs to the limit and, in the process, birth new businesses that will translate into higher tax income and overall economic development for Ekiti state.

Pharmaceutical, tradomedical, and medical innovations are also areas of interest in the discussion of economic development in Ekiti, considering the state's rich biodiversity and the place of citizens' good health in the pursuit of economic prosperity. The list could go on and on,  but the alarming poverty level in the state demands that innovative financing by government and financial institutions becomes a priority. Much can be achieved if the little resources available go to the right places. This will definitely strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem and encourage creativity.

Finally, innovation doesn't always require a university degree, neither does it always rely on much money. It could be as simple as combining a tasty recipe with the regular 'boli' combo on the street. It could also mean face-lifting common roasted corn with a bit of packaging. Groundnut with fries or well-sauced beef could also make an innovative business for someone. Even common garri could be made to look so unique, or made to taste better than other ones in the market. Now is a good time for rapid economic development in Ekiti, but, first, now is the time for innovation revolution.

©Ayeni Faith Damilola

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