A young, passionate Nigerian, Toyosi Craig, was recently honoured with the Young Researcher of the Year Award 2016 in South Africa. The award, which is dubbed: Renewable Energy Research Excellence Award, is jointly organised by Renewable Energy Centre of Research and Development and South African National Energy Association. According to the organisers, the award “recognises the contribution of young upcoming researchers to renewable energy in South Africa” and it is given on the basis of merit, innovation, novelty and applicability. Elevated Sight Magazine caught up with Toyosi Craig, who opened up on a number of issues bothering on his experiences in South Africa and some of the challenges young people are confronted with in Nigeria. Excerpts:
Can we meet you?
My name is Toyosi Craig. I am a Nigerian. I am an engineer. I do innovation management and systems analysis. I am currently doing a PhD in engineering management with a special focus on solar energy, in Stellenbosch University, South Africa. I am more of an advocate for good governance and good citizenship and helping others help themselves.
Why South Africa?
Like a friend would say, I left Nigeria without combing my hair. I initially came here for a Master’s degree in Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering in 2014 and I have been around since then. I have led a lot of inventions and innovations in Nigeria, for which I couldn’t find any support or funding. I initiated a lot of Startups. Some of them include: a pounded yam making machine that pounds two man-size meal in 20 seconds; conversion of Jatropha seed oil to make diesels; making of tiles from sawdust and used pure water sachets, among many others. But as you know, no one was ready to support. Nigerian society and multinationals only fund upcoming dancers, musicians, models and the likes.
Tell us about your experiences so far in South Africa
The truth is I never expected what I met in SA. I initially wanted to go to Canada or UK, which my parents couldn’t afford. But I really thank God I am here. Getting to know that some of the schools here are world class; I am fully funded, my research group for example invented some solar heliostat ahead of Google engineers. We have jet fighters that we work on. There are innumerable drones, a micro satellite in the space, what else do you want as an engineer. The computers available are almost 80% of the student population in number, just to mention a few.
Tell us about the recent award you received
To God be the glory, I was honoured as the young researcher of the year in the energy sector of South Africa. My Master’s degree project was an innovation, which was widely appraised around the world. It is a parabolic solar cooker that tracks the sun and can cook at night or when there is no sun because it saves heat. The system was adapted for African conditions and can be used to set up small heat based factories in rural areas. Also, it eliminates the solar cooker users’ exposure to sun as the cooking section is separated from the heat receiver.
What would you consider as significant difference in studying in South Africa as against Nigeria?
SA takes education as a priority and their educational system is highly funded and all research have focus and applications, either industry based, public sector based or for the societal good. They have structures and great research policies. The truth is SA is far ahead when it comes to Research, because the government, the industries and the universities are on top of their games and working together. I promise you, we have the population who are willing to go to school in Nigeria but there is very little support. The reverse is the case in SA.
Are you looking forward to contributing to the development of Nigeria and in what area?
Contributing to Nigeria and Africa as a whole is not just my dream but my destiny. I believe my calling is to wipe out hunger from Africa, which can be achieved through several approaches. The first thing I am passionate about is giving identity to all Nigerians. It has failed many times, but without it we cannot plan. I have the model and I hope I can implement it someday, so that we can know each Nigerian and each person’s life can be valuable. The second is electricity; we have made a lot of headway in Solar Energy and other renewable energies in South Africa. I am looking forward to helping in that area back home. I have actually sent a lot of documents home. Lastly, some of our citizens are losing focus and are really depressed; you may not know but it is the truth. I hope I can inspire many to rediscover themselves. I was also frustrated sometimes ago, but I didn’t give up. We just need an enabling environment and we can be all we are meant to be. I believe Nigerians are the smartest people God made.
What do you think we can do to improve our educational system?
First thing, government should start giving university scholarships to as many students as possible to study at hime. We don’t have an education sector goal. As you can see, companies don’t trust our graduates because most lack required skills. It is fundamentally wrong for a high school graduate willing to study more, to not be able to, because there are no enough spaces in schools or because he/she cannot afford private schools. We are yet to get it right yet. It’s not supposed to be difficult for a high school student to graduate and proceed to higher institution for his/her primary discipline of interest. In SA, if you do well in your matric (equivalent to our WAEC and NECO), you will not only study your dream course, you will also be funded 100 per cent. Education is expensive no doubt, but we have to decide whether or not we want the best for our people. We need proper structures that would encourage research. There is a lot to do. And we haven’t started yet.
What are your plans for the future?
My plan is simple; wipe hunger out of Africa. This has to start with Nigeria. We have the largest population, abundant natural resources, an amazing weather, and fertile soil. Whatever would help reposition Nigeria, and for Nigerians to achieve their maximum potentials, that I am committed to doing to the best of my ability and capacity.