How an inventor from Aba is changing the face of Hardware
Aba, the city of enterprise with a can do spirit fondly referred to as the Japan of Africa is famous for it’s leather and garment, footwear and metal industries. It’s products popularly known as Aba made have earned it fame across Nigeria and the African continent. But Aba is the most unlikely place where software development would be mentioned in the technology space in Nigeria. Tochukwu Clinton of Clintonel is trying to change that narrative.
While an undergraduate of the University of Nigeria Nsukka Electrical and Electronic Engineering Department you once asked your lecturer about real life application of a constant while he replied you in the negative. Was that what fired your appetite to solve real life problems by innovation?
I’ve always longed to be an inventor, even as a little child.
I’ve grown up with this innate passion for technology and innovation.
This particular experience with the lecturer further exposed the fact that our educational system was not structured to build relevant skills in the students.
You filed three patents and in the process of developing one of your products discovered that hardware is hard in Nigeria. Why is this so?
There are several reasons for this:
I do not wish to believe that hardware is hard – beliefs could be restrictive some times.
I do not want my mind to be crippled with fear or doubts.
In my opinion, Hardware is not Hard!
It may not be as easy as software but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily hard.
Hardware may seem to be hard particularly in Nigeria because the required resources, facilities, and support is lacking.
To develop and thrive in hardware, certain things are vital such as:
- Visionary and resilient inventors/innovators
- Willing investors
- Adequate training/ skills
- Technology ecosystems
- Political support
Each of the above listed is either missing or grossly inadequate in Nigeria.
Those are the reasons hardware seems very hard in Nigeria.
Clintonel Technology and Clintonel Innovation Centre are your recent two projects. How will they both contribute to the development of Aba which is predominantly known for it’s leather, garments and metal works industries?
Clintonel Innovation Centre (CIC), a solar powered skill acquisition centre, develops in Aba youth the skills required for technology development. In addition to these skills, CIC also provides the facilities, support and conducive environment for technology development.
Clintonel Technology on the other hand commercialises indigenous innovations.
So, the two companies complement each other and support technology innovations from ideation to completion and eventual commercialisation.
These will transform Aba into a technology centre in Africa.
You created an Automatic Spooling Machine and Filament Extrusion Machine which will aid the Additive Manufacturing Projects from your hub. How will 3D Printing revolutionize how manufacturing is done in Aba where most of the industrialists are not skilled with up to date production technologies?
3D printing will accelerate innovation in manufacturing as new products will quickly transit from ideas to designs and products.
Local manufacturers will be able to compete with their international counterparts, especially China, since they are now able to iterate quickly in product development with the help of 3D printing.
Aba made products are often looked down upon as of inferior quality. How will you ensure that your products will be proudly local with global standards?
Our products are designed and built to be Simple, Innovative and Reliable (SIR).
These three qualities are the identity of every product we create.
We ensure we keep these standards over time such that they become our brand reputation.
Consumers will always attribute SIR to CLINTONEL products and identify CLINTONEL as a Premium Brand.
Why is the State government not supporting technology hubs like yours which have the potential to create jobs through future skills development?
Well, I will leave that question for the state government to answer as they are in the best position for that.
What plans do you have to create an ecosystem through your Innovation Centre that will change the Aba narrative and make it a hub for technology and innovation in Nigeria and Africa?
The first step is to provide a physical environment for that which we have done through CIC.
The second step is to provide the required facilities, which CIC has done and is still doing (we are procuring more advanced manufacturing equipment)
Then we provide training at CIC to develop technology skills in the region.
We provide inspiration and support to makers helping them to develop high demand technology solutions.
We build partnerships with relevant stakeholders in the technology ecosystem, including investors, manufacturers and the government.
Collectively, we shall transform Aba and eventually Nigeria into the technology heart of Africa, building and exporting technologies to the rest of the world.