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Mines of Knowledge

Mines of Knowledge

This is my general response to those that have asked me to explain what I mean by “Mines of Knowledge” as posted on my feed. This is a fast feedback which could not be posted on comment section because of space limitation.


Thanks for the kind comments. Mines of Knowledge is not really that complicated. The construct is that we can invest in education and seed deep knowledge base which can be mined for human progress. The latent creativity and ingenuity of our people remains the best mines, across Africa, over the ones of platinum, gold and crude oil.

Mines of Knowledge could show through top class universities, excellent primary/secondary schools, good technology ecosystems and making sure that Africa’s finest minds stay home. The world competes on Knowledge and anyone that figures the best way to create knowledge dominates.

During the golden era of Egypt when Pharaohs controlled some of the best thinkers, Egypt ruled the world. In short, when Moses appeared before the Israelites, according to Bible and Torah, they marveled that he had studied under the Pharaohs. Recall Joseph, son of Jacob, who interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh. He saved the world from famines as Egypt was the only country that stored grains, during abundance, for the famine period. The best thinkers, then, lived in Egypt.

The best moment of Greece was the era of unprecedented knowledge generation. The finest philosophers like Socrates, Aristotle lived therein. They had their moments. Greece blossomed and the world was on the feet of the Greeks. Take a big example: When the world was debating the material component of the universe, it was like a family affair in Greece; Thales said water, Heraclitus said fire, Pythagoras said numbers, etc. The world just watched them because the best ideas were emanating from Greece. Hipparchus had perfected Trigonometry in Greece and Euclid of Alexandria, a Greek mathematician, had invented Geometry. They owned knowledge and helped to shape the designs of some of the best ports off the coast of the Mediterranean.

When General Titus and Vespasian destroyed Jerusalem circa AD 67 – 70, the Romans were the best fighters. They had the best knowledge and the best technologies. They destroyed the  rebuilt Temple of circa 408 BC and made Jerusalem desolate (the temple was originally built by Solomon in 10th century BC),. They dominated the world and imposed their vision of the world, just as America is doing today. No one could challenge Rome because Rome is power. From Apostle James, the brother of Jesus and the first Bishop of Jerusalem (who was martyred in AD 69) to Bishop Polycarp, through Apostle Peter, Rome controlled some of the best thought-leaders. By the time Apostle Peter was crucified upside down, the finest lawyers, philosophers were under the control of Rome. Subsequently, Catholicism was formed, and Vatican was consecrated as the Holiest spot on earth and existed undisputed before the birth of Prophet Mohammed (born 570 AD), the Father of Islam.

From the Babylonian Empire to the American empire of today, when you win on Knowledge you win on economy and human development. Babylon (today’s Iraq) used to be an intellectual domain. When Islam was founded in the 7th century, there were many intellectuals that actually helped. Abu Ja’far al-Khwarizmi, the Father of Algebra, lived in Baghdad and was known to travel to Mecca to help fix mathematical puzzles. He postulated and built the foundations of modern Algebra. There was relative prosperity as Islam had thinkers and they actually made enormous progress. The first University in the world, created in Morocco, was renowned for its ability to create knowledge creators and thinkers. Some men went to Mecca just to meet Khwarizmi solve their business problems disguised as mathematics. He was a pioneer in the beautiful science of numbers we have come to admire and he made many merchants better through application of numbers in their businesses.

The Great Britain ran great ideas during the Industrial Revolution and they ruled the world. They built mines of knowledge in science. In such, then, the rulers of Britain were inspired by science and technology. Michael Faraday was an icon, and in the Houses (Lords and Commons), doctors, engineers, pharmacists were everywhere. Britain later chose Law, Logic and Philosophy, over sciences, and they crumbled in sustaining knowledge.  They lost the steam of the Industrial Revolution.

The beauty of America today is not the Mother of All Bombs but the finest mines where they create knowledge. If the top 10 universities in US close, within two decades, America will lag in military, economic development and political power. The monies some American universities control eclipse the GDPs of most countries. They invest in knowledge creation and dissemination.

Hard Evidence on How Knowledge Builds Nations

There is hard evidence that when nations build mines of knowledge, they prosper. Over the last 500 years, productivity increase has driven GDP (gross domestic product) growths across nations. When nations improve their productivity capabilities, they always experience expansion in GDPs. And when GDPs expand, the results have correlated with higher standard of living. Higher standard of living is better living welfare for citizens.

Technology penetration or diffusion has been a catalyst to this global economic redesign. Technology anchors innovation which typically drives productivity gain.

For more than 15 centuries, neither China nor USA improved productivity. Consequently, the GDPs were on stasis.

As shown in the plot above, using the two most dominant economies today, the gross world product (GWP) started expanding around 1700. Around that time, many efforts were made around the world on Intellectual Property Rights. They created a system to enable nations build mines of knowledge and own rights to some ideas that emanate from them. U.S. awarded the first patent to Samuel Hopkins on July 31, 1790. The impact was huge because men could now take risks on ideas, commercialize them and own the exclusivity to the monetization processes. That triggered a virtuoso circle that pushed capitalism to pursue lofty goals where Pfizer can invest billions of dollars to find cures to diseases knowing that if it succeeds, it will have time to recoup the invested money. Without that structure, they would not take that risk. This also explains that making knowledge to work requires strong legal systems.


My vision of Africa is that we can build Mines of Knowledge where young people can have their minds liberated from norms and dogmas. And the ones that will help find solutions to our problems in our own ways. I am so pained that after decades, Nigeria does not have regular electricity. There is nothing that says it must be imported or provided by GE technologies. The problem is that we have been nurturing the wrong mines of crude oil which has made it impossible to develop one that can help Nigerians to build the one that will give us light.

I have worked in America and Nigeria – the reality is that everyone is smart. The difference is preparation. Before I made it to U.S., I did not know how to wire a simple diode. But after going through the knowledge creation system of America, I filed a patent on making microchip that controls surgical robots. I have my circuits in the iPhone as I helped to design a critical interface for the MEMS accelerometer (in Analog Devices Corp) which was shipped to Apple. It is not that I am now brighter. Rather, it is just that I have found myself in a system that supports anyone that makes efforts to flourish on knowledge creation – they have these companies that create campuses which focus on innovation over mere invention. The progress of my team on Zenvus tells me that companies like Apple, Google and Facebook could be African if we begin to build mines of Knowledge, at scale.

Across history, from the Babylonians during Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC to the Roman Empire, to the British, and the present America, knowledge has always ruled humans. Anyone that builds the best knowledge mine wins. The cure to cancer and AIDs will not come through political rallies, but through support those rallies give to technical minds to find miracles. Creating Mines of Knowledge remains the most competitive weapon available for defining the wealth of nations.

If I lay hands on the videos, I will share but this is a big summary of what I mean by Mines of Knowledge.


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13 THOUGHTS ON Mines of Knowledge

  1. Thanks, Prof for the sharing of your mine of knowledge.
    Our major challenge is that we (real Nigerians) have been invaded by those who, deliberately, block the path to the ‘mines’ in the guise of politics, religion, leadership, administration, etc. The shame and evil of ‘authority’ is its natural tendency into various forms of ‘rupture.’ We call some of this ‘ co-ruption or corruption,’ and some ‘betrayal of trust.’
    Nigeria, until the ’70s could boast of some of the most excellent faculties in tertiary institutions in the World. Our products joined reputed institutions such a the NASA, direct from Nigeria or with a further upgrade of knowledge. While we still have a handful stepping forward, the picture is generally gloomy. We deliver educational budgets at less than 10%. The budgets themselves are not more than 5% of nation allocations. We operate less than 0.5% of our national endowment on the exploration and exploitation of our domestic knowledge mines. I have stopped blaming the ‘Andrews’ who are checking out in numbers, even if into oblivion.
    How do you interpret the citizenry of those who vow to destroy education in Nigeria and set up war machinery against schools, kidnap school-children and generate fear and unrest nationwide? Could they still be addressed as real Nigerians or Nigerians at all? A proper investigation may reveal their exact origin – far from our shores.
    Prof., my concern is the establishment of the antidote to the current national ailment, the righting of the moment turning us off the knowledge development track. While men have the capacity for change (from evil to good), it takes the Spirit to effect the change. We must not spend too much time awaiting their ‘conversion.’ Secondly, only a few infected tomatoes spoil the rest in the basket. These evil men and women are few. When identified, the rotten tomatoes are ‘hand-picked’ and thrown ‘away.’ The prudent way to deal with them is to return them to the field for their incorruptible seeds to grow new ones. BUT they must be selected and separated. In the cases where they outnumber the right tomatoes, we choose the good ones and discard (appropriately) the rest. Those troubling the nation are not so many (in the population of 200,000,000 people). The identification and selection are needed. In some quarters of the country, the ‘troublers’ outnumber the sane, sure, supportive and serious-minded Nigerians. These few need rescue from those with ‘dripping jaws.’
    In concluding, I recall that they say, ‘He who pays the piper, dictates the tune.’ The payers of the troublers must equally be identified, selected and discarded or deserted. Then would our knowledge blossom once more.

  2. Dear Prof. Ekekwe, thank you very much for this rich piece. It is a good thing that you have been invited by the VC of FUTO (my Alma mata too) for collaboration on knowledge development. Africa has lots of smart people and we can also rule the World someday when the systems is designed to work. Well done Prof.

  3. Dear Prof. Your article on mines of knowledge is motivating for the younger generation to invest more of their time in acquiring knowledge which is the needed for greater achievement. Kudos to you sir!

  4. Thanks Prof. for this enlightening summary.

    We need to be intentional in working towards this happening here in Africa. I have noted that those nations (from the ancient Egyptians to the Americans and everyone in between)that succeeded in harnessing this to fruition also had a strong national culture. Look at the Germans. They have almost perfected their “German engineering” and the entire world agrees to this. Let’s harness our knowledge and theirs to find an African solution to African problems / to Africanize the solutions to African problems.

  5. To receive the rewards of higher standard of living for the citizens and great wealth for the nation, building mines of knowledge is the required process. By this post, you’ve refocused our minds to what is necessary.

    Thank you!

  6. Greatly insightful & educative! It’s not only Nigeria, but, Africa as a whole counts on your remarkable gifts which you share oftentimes. Well done Prof.

  7. It used to be ‘Knowledge is power’, but our misguided generation has turned it into ‘Money is power’, and as values disintegrate, miseries scale.

    In times of hopelessness and chaos, nobody goes to the rich for counsel, rather we search for the wise and knowledgeable, for guidance and leadership. Livable societies are built by the wise and knowledgeable, rich fools have never built any decent society, in the history of mankind.

    We can easily know which billionaire has more money than the other, but we still don’t know if anyone presently is better than Aristotle or Einstein, because the impact of the latter group traversed generations and built enduring societies, who continue to draw from it.

    Being wise and knowledgeable is more fulfilling than any material acquisition, the latter is for people to talk about, while you continue to feel empty and wretched from within.

    You won’t know the value of knowledge until everyone gathers, waiting for you to say something, and you are busy melting away.

    Knowledge is power because it can get you a seat where your bank account cannot, and it’s the only thing that causes a great role reversal, where you become the teacher, while your superiors, the high and mighty, become students…

  8. Dear Prof.
    Too much knowledge in one piece. Kudos to you sir. If we can get our system right then Africa especially Nigeria can rule the world through knowledge.

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