One of the major challenges to growing Nigeria’s ICT sector has been apathy towards patronizing indigenous products and services. This challenge has bedevilled the business of local Information Technology (IT) players in the country, from hardware to software and to services.
Seeing the impact of this on technological development, the Federal Government introduced the Local Content policy intended to achieve the development of local skills, technology transfer, use of local manpower and manufacturing. It is the amount of incremental value added or created in Nigeria through the utilization of Nigerian human and material resources for the provision of goods and services in the ICT industry within acceptable quality and standards in order to stimulate the development of indigenous capabilities.
Addressing stakeholders at a one-day compliance workshop on procurement of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) products under the local content guidelines and the first council of heads in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) meeting for 2016 organised by the Office for Nigerian Content Development in ICT, a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) unit of the National Information Technology and Development Agency (NITDA) in Abuja, the Minister of Communications, Barr. Adebayo Shittu, lamented that Nigeria is ceding about 70 percent of the country’s technology market to foreign brands due to apathy for locally made products.
The minister said reports reaching him showed the country was losing about $2.8billion yearly to continued importation of ICT hardware and services, stressing that Nigeria would not be a dumping ground for all forms of technologies under his watch. He said government is presently taking decisive step to provide a conducive environment and ensure a level playing ground for growth of local original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
He said: “Statistics show that foreign brands have continued to make huge money from Nigeria. The likes of Samsung, Acer; HP; Dell; Asus; Toshiba and Lenovo among others currently account for 70 percent of the sales in the market without clear-cut backward integration plans. However a handful of indigenous brands including Zinox Computers; Omatek Computers; Brian Integrated Systems, make up the remaining 30 percent. This is unacceptable. We cannot continue with this trend.
“Under my watch, Nigeria will not be a dumping ground for all forms of technologies. Nigerians are good intellectually, we can also export our inventions and innovations abroad.
“We would like to see international brands establish factories in Nigeria or partner with our local operators. Alternatively, they can buy components of their systems that are produced by local manufacturers as well as maintain in-country research and development departments for the purpose of product conceptualization, capacity building, innovation, adaptation and design and prototype development.”
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He explained that government was not shying away from championing this cause, saying it had put in place policies and implementation that would bring recognition to indigenous creativity and protect intellectual property.
“Given the change mantra of this present administration, I want to assure you that the Local Content Policy and guideline will be enforced to the letter. The Local Content Development Policy would be implemented to protect indigenous players in the industry and the ministry would galvanise right policies that would see to the need of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs). Let me emphasize here very strongly that government’s role is to provide an enabling environment within a free market economy.
“We will continue to pursue this goal while the value of Nigerian ICT hardware and services was estimated to at $39.7 billion in 2014, and forecast to grow to $144 billion by 2020,” he stated.
The acting director-general, NITDA, Dr Vincent Olatunji, said the workshop was aimed at creating awareness for MDAs to be aware of government policies as related to local content.
“This workshop is also a major platform of consolidating our views and actions towards encouraging ICT local content which is a major component of the ICT sector road map. Our deliberations and sessions today are therefore vital, because they afford us the opportunity to implement and set the right foundations and precedents that ensure we begin to reap the positive economic benefits of our ICT potentials in the country. This certainly comes from meaningful indigenous participation in the production, acquisition and utilization of ICT products and services,” he stated.
Olatunji said that henceforth any MDA that defaulted in patronising local content in ICT would be committing a crime, adding “NITDA will no longer tolerate any breach of this regulation and will ensure breaches no longer go unpunished.
“NITDA as the clearing house for IT projects for the government has developed guidelines for IT projects for MDAs, henceforth MDAs shall be required to clear the IT projects with NITDA.
“This is important in order to avoid sub-standard equipment, duplication of projects and to ensure that financial value for such services is retained in the country as part of the local content initiative,” he added.
He said that NITDA, through the Ministry of Communication would send a memo the Federal Executive Council to re-validate government’s directive on patronage of made in Nigeria ICT products and services.
He advised OEMs to upscale the quality of their products and establish after sales support services to guarantee timely intervention in case of challenges with their products and services.
Listing objectives of the workshop, the national coordinator of the Office for Nigerian Content Development in ICT, Mr Inye Kemabonta described the Nigerian Content Program as beyond patriotism.
He highlighted the need to focus the Local Content question so as to achieve sustainability, urging for attention on issues of human capital, quality of product and process and infrastructure, harping on need for OEMs to upscale quality control and after sales support services.
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