Matters eRising with Olusegun Oruame
Two recent national policy thrusts: “Executive Order 3 On Support of Local Content Procurement and the “Presidential Executive Order 5 for Planning and Execution of Projects, Promotion of Nigerian Content In Contracts and Science, Engineering and Technology” have set a new benchmark in the promotion of local industries and indigenous skill sets.
By these orders, the presidency has further affirmed that the promotion and sustainability of local content is an article of faith for building a virile Nigerian-state. Government hopes to build a financial culture that is inwardly looking; a system that recognises that patronage of local industrial efforts not only conserve FOREX but also foster growth and boost an economy driven by indigenous efforts.
“Government’s only business in business is to provide support infrastructure; create endearing policies for industry and market; and be among the biggest customers of indigenous enterprises.”
While there have been efforts in the past decades to promote local entrepreneurship and make government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) make local companies and products/services the first point of preference in public procurement, an insatiable lust for foreign products mixed with an enterprise of corruption had ensured that such efforts fail to fly.
The results are profoundly weighty on the finance of the country as well as its ability to build and sustain a viable economy. It is significant that more than USD30 billion have been sunk into public procurement of ICT related services and products in the last five years alone. The sadder part is that much of this fund ended up in private pockets. As is now the glaring fact: ICT projects foisted around several foreign companies have been mere conduits to savagely rape the economy and rob the Nigerian tax payers.
Presidential Executive Orders that insist that patronage of local skills and services/products are given premium priority by MDAs will not only boost indigenous enterprises but prepare the grounds to make such enterprises global players.
“While the NITDA may seek to enforce the orders, the NITDA cannot force low quality products and services on a market that is defined by global choices and competition.”
Government’s only business in business is to provide support infrastructure; create endearing policies for industry and market; and be among the biggest customers of indigenous enterprises. Also, upon all these, it is government’s business to defend and encourage its local enterprises to explore the global market. A government that discards its own, patronize foreign enterprises at the expense of its own local players, is only setting itself for the day of doom.
As the success of Remita, the payment solution by Systemspecs has demonstrated, Nigeria can promote its own by using its own.
Within the confine of extant policies and laws on local content, what “Executive Order 3 On Support of Local Content Procurement and the “Presidential Executive Order 5 for Planning and Execution of Projects, Promotion of Nigerian Content In Contracts and Science, Engineering and Technology” have sought to do is to hold MDAs accountable for failing to patronize indigenous companies.
The orders give a stronger vim to the existing laws on local content and make it a punishable offence not to patronize local content or skill. They also provide the necessary ammunitions for regulatory agencies such as the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to enforce the local content policy and make erring MDAs face the penalty.
More importantly, the new orders pose a challenge to local entrepreneurs to put their house in order. While the NITDA may seek to enforce the orders, the NITDA cannot force low quality products and services on a market that is defined by global choices and competition. Markets will always have options.
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In the software and computer hardware sub-sector for instance, local companies must up their game or lose the momentum to their foreign counterparts. In terms of product quality and response time to customers’ complaints, many of the local companies are still irritatingly miles behind. Huge orders from MDAs may ultimately help the local companies to invest in superior product offerings and better after sales support to grow a culture that is pro-customer. But be that as it may, no market lives by the maxim that quality comes after patronage. Indeed, quality drives and sustain patronage – most local companies are yet to adopt this maxim.
However, the future belongs to countries that invest in their local companies. Every market must accept the errors of its indigenous companies as the initial baby steps to growth.
If Nigeria will have a future, it hinges on the level to which the local content policy and executive orders are executed. There should be no compromise on an aggressive implementation of these orders.