Remarks by Under Secretary Lago - August 14

Lagos, Nigeria
August 14, 2023

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Mr. Uzomah, for the kind introduction. I am honored to join you, your team and this distinguished group of industry stakeholders to kick off this brainstorming session for Microsoft’s Electric Vehicle Hackathon. This topic is of particular interest as I am proudly part of the Biden-Harris Administration, which is committed to combatting the climate crisis and views EVs as critical technologies to facilitate the clean energy transition, creating new economy jobs in the process.

I am also especially pleased to be in Lagos. While it is my second time in Nigeria, it is my first time in Lagos. As a native and resident of NYC, I am loving Lagos’ electric pace! 

The innovative energy in Lagos, and especially here at the Microsoft Garage, is palpable. And the results that flow from this energy won’t benefit just Nigeria, as ideas originated here inevitably grow beyond the Garage’s walls and Nigeria’s borders. You will be an impact on the world!

Your well deserved reputation as innovators is the primary reasons that I am in Nigeria, leading a Trade Mission comprised of minority- and veteran-owned businesses. These cutting-edge U.S. companies that are eager to find opportunities to expand business relationships with Nigerian counterparts. And, with four ICT companies on this trade mission, you may well find that one of them can be a key partner to help achieve your goals.

To state the obvious, the transition to EVs present a tremendous opportunity to drive innovation in the automotive sector and provide good paying jobs for Nigerians, while simultaneously addressing climate change and reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Now that is a virtuous cycle.
The reality, though, is that, to fully realize this potential, we must identify and overcome the barriers that are standing in our way. Today’s discussion and the work undertaken throughout the hackathon will illuminate the challenges and generate novel solutions. Of one thing I am certain, the full design and implementation of your solutions will require close collaboration among public and private sector stakeholders and the research community. 

Our assembled experts will elaborate on the important technical considerations – which I am certain will go way over my head, even though I trained as a physicist…50 years ago. But to frame the discussion, I would like to toss out a few underlying themes that I believe are central and that reflect the feedback that I have heard from companies and stakeholders committed to achieving widespread EV adoption.

First, supportive infrastructure is crucial for widespread adoption of EVs. The availability of charging stations is a fundamental aspect of the enabling environment for an EV industry to thrive. But, there is a chicken-and-egg conundrum since companies are not likely to invest in charging infrastructure until there’s a critical mass of EV drivers. Equally individuals will be reluctant to buy EVs until there is a reasonable recharging infrastructure.

Second, the cost of EVs, which are still relatively high compared to conventional vehicles, remains another significant barrier. Can these costs be reduced through local manufacturing, targeted investment in R&D, or collaborations with industry leaders from around the world to achieve economies of scale?

Third, to attract both domestic and foreign players in the sector, it will be critical to have a supportive regulatory framework of consistent policies, standards and regulations that are aligned with international best practices that encourage investment and innovation.

Fourth, in addition to advancing EV technology, we must equip the workforce with the education and skills necessary to support the growth of the industry. A skilled workforce can fill the employment opportunities generated by the growth of the sector, positioning Nigeria as a regional hub for manufacturing, maintenance and technology development.

Thank you all again for inviting me to be a part of the kickoff of this exciting event. I will now hand things over to Nkem and Soromfe.