By Doris Minimah
Nigeria’s Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami has tasked stakeholders on leveraging opportunities offered by African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) even as he urged in-shore enterprises to tap into the Nigeria Local Content Policy.
Pantami while speaking this week in Abuja at the 3rd Local Content Roundtable and Technology Fair said government is strongly committed to promoting local content in four areas of ICT specifically services, software, human capital development and hardware.
He said the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy instituted the Local Content in ICT Policy by developing and launching the Guidelines for Nigeria Content Development in ICT on December 2013 as a template to measure the depth at which the policy is being implemented and adhered to.
This informed why the Office for Nigeria Content Development in ICT (ONC) was strategically created to drive the Policy under the supervision of National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) as part of the policy drive to ensure nationwide adherence.
‘‘During my tenure as the Director General and Chief Executive at NITDA, we revisited an existing government circular which directed all Federal Public Institutions to obtain clearance from NITDA before embarking on any IT project. We subsequent” issued the “Guideline on IT project Clearance” to assist in the hamonization of IT projects being implemented by federal public institutions, with a view to achieving cost reduction in IT projects executions, eliminating duplication and ensuring development of the local IT market through increased patronage by government,” said Pantami while giving further assurance that as minister, he would ensure that all agencies under his ministry adhere to the local content policy.
The ministry believes an ICT sector devoid of local content in the four focused areas would do the economy no good, the minister said. He was represented by Mr. Tope Fashedemi, Director, eGovernment Department of the ministry.
Exploring the opportunities in AfCFTA would allow local technology enterprises to grow and deepen their contribution to the country’s GDP, said Pantami. This could positively impact on the creation of “more jobs, wealth and improved standard of living for majority of our people,” he added.
The Local Content Roundtable and Technology Fair is an annual platform to promote products and services of local ICT companies. It is put together by Lagos based tech company: FinTrak Software. This year’s theme centred on: ‘Patronage of Nigerian Software in the Context of AfCFTA and the Local Content Policy.’
Pantami assured that government signed into AfCFTA with the conviction that it would open new markets and provide more opportunities to Nigerian ICT companies many of which were already making their mark across the continent, particularly the software companies.
‘‘I challenge all stakeholders in the Nigerian ICT sector to transform their businesses by embracing new technologies and leveraging opportunities offered by African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Nigeria will do its best to speedily ratify the Agreement in order to fully operationalize it,” said the minister.
‘‘While there have been discussions on the pros and cons of this agreement on the Nigerian economy, we firmly believe that the impact will be largely positive for the software sub-sector of the Nigerian ICT industry. It is on record that several Nigerian software products are already being exported and used in other African countries, so AfCFTA is bound to open new markets and provide more opportunities to the Nigerian software companies.
‘‘This will inevitably result in the scaling up of these companies, which will result in more job opportunities and inevitably contribute to increasing the ICT sector contribution to the national GDP,’’ he added.
Group Managing Director, FinTrak, Mr. Bimbo Abioye said the event was focused on exposing the solutions already tested in the private sector of the economy to the public sector and “ensure that we begin to patronize solutions that were developed in Nigeria to strengthen our capacity, stem the tide of foreign exchange outflow and provide employment for teeming Nigerians.”
“The focus of this roundtable discussion is to bring to light the solutions that have been tested in both private and public sectors of the economy and to ensure that we begin to patronise solutions that are developed in Nigeria to strengthen our capacity, stem the tide of foreign exchange outflows and provide employment for our teaming youths,” he added.
Abioye said there was an urgent need to halt the insatiable quest for foreign software by both private and public sectors over the years resulting into loss of billion of naira annually that could have been used to build the economy and further create jobs and even enhance the skills of millions of young Nigerians in ICT.
He expressed confidence that things would turn around positively with the level of commitment demonstrated by the government through the NITDA at promoting local content, particularly when the minister was then the director general of the IT agency.
The Lead Facilitator of the event, Mr. Inye Kemanbonta, a consultant with NITDA, highlighted the role of government policies in promoting the indigenous ICT companies and building capacity of public servants, policy makers and entrepreneurs in local content issues.
He however advocated for the removal of grey areas and public misconceptions about the Local Content Policy of Government, while urging government to spend public funds to purchase domestic products for its own use and to develop an indigenous industry.
“We use this opportunity to remind government that the success of its policies is highly dependent on its action and inaction,” said President of Certified Computer Manufacturers of Nigeria (CCMON), Mrs. Adenike Abudu, while urging government to strengthen its implementation of the Local Content policy.