With 40 days left, the stage appears set for the over 90 million Nigerian eligible voters to determine the candidate that will steer the ship of the most populous black nation in the world for the next four years.
Come Saturday, February 25, 2023, eligible voters will storm their designated polling booths to vote for their most preferred presidential candidate.
For this coming election the country’s electoral organizing body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC ) has cleared 18 candidates for the most exalted seat.
As the presidential election approaches, it is expedient for the electorate to be mindful of the policies of these candidates as outlined in their various manifestos.
As mentioned earlier, INEC has cleared 18 candidates, however, this article will explore the manifestos of the 4 most popular presidential candidates going to the 2023 polls which are Peter Obi (LP), Bola Ahmed Tinubu (APC), Atiku Abubakar (PDP) and Rabiu Kwankaso (NNPP).
The Nigerian electorate comprises people with diverse backgrounds and orientations, thus this article will only explore the policies around technology from the various manifestos of these presidential candidates.
What do these 4 presidential candidates have for the Nigerian tech community? Side by side, this article will highlight the key proposals and explore their possibilities for the tech community.
The major challenges of Nigeria’s tech community
To get a glimpse of their tech proposal, we must highlight the major issues plaguing the Nigerian tech community which include infrastructure, skill gap, policies, and fundraising.
Infrastructure for the tech community is about broadband penetration that will lead to improved internet speed and lower costs.
The skill gap is also a major challenge to Nigeria’s tech community. There is no doubt that STEM education ought to be introduced right from primary school, while compulsory digital skills’ acquisition from secondary to higher institutions and in addition, there has to be a government-backed intervention to solve the reskilling problem for graduates eyeing the tech space.
Policies in the past and present have stifled Nigeria’s tech ecosystem. Today the government will come with an open hand, tomorrow you see them introduce regulations that appear to strangle innovation by its neck. The NITDA’s bill is one, we can’t forget.
Besides, do these presidential candidates have plans for homegrown capital to support fundraising locally?
Through this breakdown, we hope to offer a big picture of the candidates’ sense of priority for the tech community and help them make informed decisions.
Peter Obi (Labour Party)
The 72-page presidential manifesto, titled “It’s POssible: Our Pact with Nigerians.” of the Labour Party stated its commitment to offer honest and competent leadership to deliver two of its 7 governance and development priorities which include:
“Shift emphasis from consumption to production by running a production-centered economy that is driven by an agrarian revolution and export-oriented industrialization.”
“Leapfrog Nigeria into the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR), through the application of scientific and technological innovations to create a digital economy.”
According to the manifesto, the action plan for the tech-related priority is:
“Move Nigeria from consumption to production.”
“Prioritize Human Capital Development through robust investments in STEM education, health, and infrastructural development, with emphasis on wealth creation, distribution, and sustainable development.”
A quick look at his proposition
The manifesto states, “Strengthen some of the existing tertiary schools of science and engineering to train the next generation of experts in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field; and create a venture capital-like fund for young entrepreneurs.”
Should STEM education start from higher institutions of learning, or rather shouldn’t the training and exposure commence from primary schools?
As for the venture capital-like fund, from indications it appears there would be available funding for young skilled graduates building innovative solutions, however, we do not know what the VC funding entails.
The former Anambra State governor also plans to leverage disruptive digital technologies around the fourth industrial revolution but has no clear plans on how to achieve them.
Continuing, “We will prioritize a structured approach to developing the digital skills of our young population to give them the competitive advantage to receive offshore jobs in the new gig economy.”
There are many young Nigerians who are already in the gig economy, however, there are also many looking into joining the gig economy.
Competitiveness in the global gig economy means obtaining the most relevant digital skill sets. What “structured approach” can make this effective for the teeming Nigerian youth population?
“Our government will pursue a combination of state-led and public-private initiatives to drive the penetration of broadband infrastructure and information superhighway necessary to empower smart industrialization.”
Nigeria’s National Broadband Plan seeks to cover 90% of the country’s population by 2025, however, since its launch in 2020, the country has only achieved 45.55% penetration as mentioned earlier.
Can Obi achieve the 90% penetration or even surpass it if elected? For this rate, 1 gigabyte of data must not be more than N390 (That’s 1% of minimum wage)
“We will ensure that the federal government offers meaningful incentives to corporate entities and industries that make discernible efforts to transit to clean and alternative energy, not only for local consumption but also for export.”
This may be a boost for Nigeria’s clean tech ecosystem, however, will the “meaningful incentives” actually propel them?
“We will prioritize the development of MSMEs through a boutique of incentives which include new structures, new capital access, new legislation to support small business growth and strategic centres of excellence for small businesses such as Enterprise Hubs, Business Incubators, and MSME Industrial clusters across all the geopolitical zones.”
Well, new structures and capital might be possible, however, we should consider that the Labour Party may not pull much weight in the country’s legislative arm, thus stalling these parts of the incentive.
“We will drive the expansion of Nigerian content initiative with an emphasis on the promotion of made-in-Nigeria goods and services as a pillar of our administration. This will be accomplished by expanding the success of Nigeria Content legislation implemented in Nigeria’s Oil and Gas sector, to other sectors of the economy.”
Eastern Nigeria has been championing Nigeria’s hardware tech ecosystem in the past years, we can’t overemphasize enough what the likes of CIC and Hardware Garage are doing in promoting indigenous technology to drive the country’s hardware tech ecosystem.
The state government hasn’t done enough to support this ecosystem, what will Obi do differently if elected?
“Our tertiary institutions will be remodeled to serve as hubs or centres for research, development, and commercialization of ideas for the quick industrialization of Nigeria.”
Will the existing structures in all Nigerian institutions of higher learning, make this flexible?
“Our government will enter into strategic partnerships with state governments, private-led groups and international partners to establish incubators that will train young Nigerians in the latest digital and technological skills, provide workspaces, access to seed funding and mentorship by industry experts”
Is this new? Nigeria is already home to many hubs serving as incubators, the ISN is playing its role in driving support for Nigerian hubs, what is needed more is government support.
Furthermore, Obi’s manifesto mentioned compulsory digital skills from the primary to the secondary level. This means all primary and secondary schools in Nigeria, and he should be reminded that you can’t effectively teach digital skills without computers.
Lastly, Obi promised incentive regimes for technology-oriented industries and integrate existing master plans for infrastructure such as telecommunications (broadband).
Bola Tinubu (APC)
Titled, “Renewed Hope”, the 80-page manifesto proposes to stand on the foundation put in place by the current administration to fulfill 10 mandates which include this:
“Embolden and support our young people and women by harnessing emerging sectors such as the digital economy, entertainment and culture, tourism and others to build the Nigeria of tomorrow, today.”
A quick look at his proposition
National Industrial Plan
“Our government will make it a priority to encourage industries vital to national development. This me growing our industrial base to provide jobs to an expanding urban population”
To fulfill this, Tinubu will introduce incentives which will include lower import tariffs on semi-manufactured goods production lines such as the automotive and IT industries.
According to the NBS, the ICT Sector contributed 18.44% to Nigeria’s GDP in Q2, 2022 and at a point, the discussion was that the ICT/IT sector may overtake the oil sector for the country’s GDP. Shouldn’t the former Lagos State governor look beyond lowering import tariffs?
In addition, he wants to promote IT to boost industrial creativity while spurring the financial inclusion of larger segments of the population by encouraging greater use of innovative new technologies.
It is no doubt that many rural dwellers are not yet included financially, so how will Tinubu encourage greater use of innovative new technologies?
“Our government will reduce import levies on manufacturing inputs and provide other forms of support so that domestic manufacturers are able to compete and meet the demand for meters and provide targeted and efficient tax incentives for local manufacturing companies making meters.”
The APC government has spent 8 years, why hasn’t anyone thought of this to help our indigenous manufacturers? How are we sure this isn’t another rhetoric?
“We will encourage universities and polytechnics to become centres of research, devising new and innovative ways to bring more power to rural areas.”
This is very easy to say, nothing new about this. How do you drive Nigerian institutions of higher learning to become centre of research even in this ASUU ups and down?
“We will reform technical and vocational learning institutions to stimulate Nigeria’s natural entrepreneurial spirit and empower more individuals toward self-reliance. Centres of excellence will focus on training students in 21st Century growth industries such as information technology, software development, artificial intelligence, and robotics.”
There are 123 technical institutions listed on Nigeria’s board for technical education website, and 66 approved vocational schools, in addition, there are 6 Universities offering vocational and technical courses as well. How will the aforementioned courses be easily integrated into these institutions?
The APC manifesto identified 6 important digital products and services which include, ICT-enabled outsourcing, e-commerce, tech manufacturing, Government digital services, broadband by 2025 and blockchain.
Found on pages 50-51 of the manifesto, all these were well stated, but no clear indication of how they will be delivered.
Atiku Abubakar (PDP)
The 74-page manifesto titled, “My covenant with Nigerians” opened with a shot at the current administration, as it highlighted the current woes of the APC-led government.
However, our focus remains on what the former Vice-President has got in store for Nigeria’s tech community, and let’s see if he has a clear roadmap of his propositions.
In his 5-point development agenda, one of them is relatable to the tech community, which reads:
“Improve and strengthen the education on a system to equip its recipients with the education and skills required to be competitive in the new global order which is driven by innovation, science, and technology and to lead healthy, productive, meaningful lives”.
A quick look at his proposition
“Our economic agenda will seek to alter the current trajectory of the Nigerian economy by a knowledge-based economy in which a highly developed ICT sector, with wide application in commerce, education, health, and other areas of human endeavour, plays a significant role.”
First, what is a knowledge-based economy? OECD Statistics defines it as an expression coined to describe trends in advanced economies towards greater dependence on knowledge, information and high skill levels, and the increasing need for ready access to all of these by the business and public sectors.
Is Nigeria yet an advanced economy? Looking at the dynamics of the country, are we ready for a greater dependence on knowledge? How will Atiku ensure “a highly developed ICT sector”?
Agriculture & MSMEs
“We envision a new Nigeria without crude oil in which agriculture, manufacturing and MSMEs shall be the growth drivers, specifically, a knowledge-based economy with wide application of ICT in health, education, commerce, agriculture, and industry.”
This is the second time, the former vice-president is referring to a “knowledge-based economy”.
Human Capital Development
“Promoting research in science and technology through the establishment of a National Research and Innovation Fund”. Will this cut across all institutions of higher learning? If established, how will the fund be disbursed? Don’t forget that Nigeria is still well divided across geopolitical lines.
“Rigorous promotion of Science and Technical Education to create skills for the new economy”. This looks more like a repetition of what he has emphasized earlier.
Atiku also wants to reposition Nigeria’s technical and vocational skill acquisition centres for innovation and the creation and ideas and products. If these were to be the concept for startup creation, turning ideas into innovation is beyond attending these centres.
The rest of his proposition concerning the tech community is on pages 33-34.
Rabiu Kwankaso (NNPP)
In his 160-page manifesto titled, “My pledges to you. The RMK2023 Blueprint”, the former Kano Governor projected Nigeria as the next industrial hub on the continent by creating the right environment for businesses and investments to flourish.
A quick look at his proposition
“NNPP administration shall pursue a healthcare delivery system that is driven by ICT.”, according to him, the country’s healthcare system will be centered around a “credible and efficient information management system”.
Keeping reliable records has been a bane to the Nigerian public healthcare sector, however, some digital health startups have been able to deploy technology to salvage this situation, we hope if he is elected, NNPP can work with health tech startups to facilitate this.
“Basic techniques and simple technologies will be introduced to farmers with a view to helping them to optimize yield and improve their income level.”
From his manifesto, the only relatable “Basic techniques and simple technologies” is the deployment of satellite technology to aid Nigerian farmers in predicting of weather and marketing information for products, both locally and internationally.
Nigeria already has agtech startups that have successfully harnessed the power of technology to solve various farm processes. Why does it appear, he isn’t looking in this direction?
“We will promote a national carrier that would provide backbone transmission infrastructure from which operators can subscribe for both national and international services provision.” This appears to be more like rhetoric.
“RMK shall strive to enhance the bandwidth of the Nigerian communication system”. Clearly, there will be an attempt, but the how isn’t clear
“Domestic production of telecommunications hardware and software is desirable for national development. Our administration shall strive to achieve this through our industrialization revolution.”
Once again, there is another attempt here, through an industrial revolution, however, he didn’t even mention how the Eastern part of the country has been driving Nigeria’s hardware ecosystem. How do you even start an industrial revolution if you don’t consider Nigeria’s industrial hub?
Science and technology
“We will, through the relevant government agencies, work to deliberately put in place a talent hunting mechanism to identify young, creative, and innovative Nigerians, with a view to honing their potentials, supporting them with the necessary funding, and promoting their innovative creation for the benefit of our larger society.”
If this deliberate attempt will work, what level of funding will be put in place to support them?
Following a check through the manifesto proposals of the four parties, all four major presidential candidates have drawn out plans for Nigeria’s tech community.
In the introductory part of this article, we highlighted 4 major challenges of Nigeria’s tech community, and the four presidential candidates touched on at least 3 if not all.
However, it must be stated that this article in no way endorses any presidential candidate, as we have carefully criticized their plans with respect to how they claim they will be achieved.
Anybody can write out a fascinating manifesto, however, does the current reality of the country make some of the propositions achievable? Nevertheless, the choice of the emerging candidate still depends on the electorate’s values and priorities.
It is essential that the electorate should diligently review the manifesto beyond the tech proposals to determine which of the 4 major presidential candidates falls in line with what they believe is Nigeria’s goal.
Irrespective of who emerges, whatever he does or fail to execute, will ultimately affect the citizens including the tech community, it is therefore pertinent that people should vote wisely. May the people’s choice emerge.